Acts 16:25-26 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.
The year was approximately A.D. 52, Paul was on his second missionary journey and the Holy Spirit had called him and those traveling with him to Macedonea. Their travels took them to Philippi, a Roman colony and on the Sabbath we find Paul, Luke who wrote the book of Acts, and Silas walking by the river outside of the city gates, seeking a peaceful place for prayer. A slave who was possessed and being used by her masters to make money, was following the group and yelling, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.” While her words were true, God does not need Satan to speak for Him, and a true servant of God does not revel in the flattery of attention. So Paul turned and cast out the evil spirit but her master got mad because Paul’s ministry cost him money. The Holy Spirit directed Paul to Macedonea, so he changes his travel plans and goes there in obedience to God. They come to Philippi and receive no great welcome, they are apparently ignored except by a small group of women who meet down by the river to pray. They are hounded by a demon possessed slave-girl until, led of the Holy Spirit, Paul delivers her from bondage, and for that they are stripped, beaten “with many blows”, and chained up like dangerous criminals. So how do they respond to prison and pain? Prayer and Praise! Persecution produced Praise in their life. It was Paul who wrote to the Ephesians, “…be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God, even the Father;” For Paul these were not just principles but practices. How about you how do you respond to being wronged, do you Worship or whine? Today we get bummed out over a bad hair day because for many of us our worship is held hostage by happiness. Yet for Paul he not only made a decision to praise but he also directed his praise, the bigger the problem the bolder the praise. Worship that wins involves:
Those that worship witness, Paul’s work was to preach the Word, to be a witness. Prison didn’t stop the preaching, Paul pushed through with the vehicle of worship. Often we let our circumstances govern our celebration yet we will never find hope looking at our circumstances but in looking to the One who is in charge of our circumstances. If we were put in prison would we pursue praise? So often we focus on where we are instead of whose we are, we lose perspective on what really matters. We can also be limited in our view of the purpose to praise. It goes way beyond just our provision, it’s farther-reaching than just giving us comfort and encouragement in trouble. We’re told in verse 25 that “the prisoners were listening to them”. Praise doesn’t just comfort it also confronts and convicts those who hear it. Today through technology our audience isn’t just our little group, it is global. Anything from a President’s speech to a jeans commercial can be broadcast to places we don’t even think about by a simple entry on the internet. Today the world is constantly broadcasting their problems because that’s all they have, history has shown us that they have no solutions, but are we broadcasting our praise? Praise is the antidote to the problems, will you broadcast with boldness what you believe? What will the world hear from you, worship or whining? Paul’s praise echoes through eternity not just globally but generationally. Paul’s suffering was a result of serving, today we want serving to result in a pat on the back not persecution. Often our motivation to serve is rooted in the selfish desire to be seen and to succeed. But the success for Paul was not in the results but the relationship. An Earthquake resulted but we don’t always experience the power of praise. We miss the whole thing if we think that when we are in prison an earthquake will always come. A few years later Paul was in a prison again, this time in Rome, and while he was in prison he wrote to the church where we find him still singing. He sang not because the earth was going to be moved because Christ was bigger than his circumstances. In 2 Timothy 4:5-8 he said “you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you. 6 As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. 8 And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.”
Paul’s worship was not based on the wonder or the wow factor but on the One he worshipped and witnessed about. What about you, are you going to focus on the problems or the praise, what will others witness, worship or whining?