22 “A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. 23 They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. 24 So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks. 25 Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. 26 Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! 27 The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. 28 But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!” 29 The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
In the midst of persecution we see two men praising God because they were prepared and now we get to see the results of their praise:
Paul didn’t stop proclaiming Jesus just because he was arrested; his sermon was the song that he sang. I have heard a lot of good preachers but the best preaching is praise in the midst of the pain. When our circumstances turn from good to bad, and the flow of God’s blessings appear to dry up how we respond is critical. What we tend to forget is that in these moments the world will surely be watching our lives. The truth is that suffering probably provides us with the greatest opportunity to demonstrate the validity of Christianity. Pain, probably more than any other medium gives us a platform to proclaim God’s plan of peace to the people around us. It’s easy to praise when things are perfect, but when the world sees us praising in the midst of the pain it causes them to stop and pay attention. Notice that the other prisoners were listening. Now let’s take this passage and get practical, when was the last time that you actually suffered for your faith? When have you been persecuted for proclaiming God’s plan? If there is one thing that we should be challenged by in this story it is that we should put away our pettiness, quit playing church and get our eyes on the goal. What if we were to stop focusing on the misery and start focusing on the mission? If we’re grateful and joyful, only when things are going good then how are we any different from the world? Anyone can whine when things go bad but to worship in the midst of suffering is supernatural. 1 Peter 2:12 says, “12 Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world” Matthew 5:14 reminds us, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” If we want to reach the world with the word of God and see people come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ then we must praise even in the pain. Are you going to focus on your suffering or on those who need salvation? It’s easy to get sidetracked in the suffering, but persecution didn’t derail or redirect Paul, he stayed true to the mission to share the power of His Savior. From a worldly point of view Paul and Silas as the prisoners should have been the ones in despair but instead it was the jailer who was beyond despair. He was ready to take his life but what saved him was the attitude of Peter and Silas during their difficult imprisonment. They sang and praised God even though they were in chains, and because of their joy the jailer and his entire household were saved. Our song in the suffering can open the door to salvation. It was the jailer who needed to be set free, he was the real prisoner not Paul and Silas. Prayerful praise doesn’t just break our chains, it changes our perspective and provides a platform to proclaim God’s plan of peace. Not only does it shake free our shackles but if frees those stuck in sin. When you are going through trials you may not feel particularly grateful, but we can thank God for His abundant promises and unfailing goodness. Henry Frost served for many years as a missionary to China. In his journal he wrote of a very difficult time in his life. He says, “I had received sad news from home, and deep shadows had covered my soul. I prayed BUT the darkness did not vanish. I summoned myself to endure, BUT the darkness only deepened. Then I went to an inland station and saw on the wall of the mission home these words: ’TRY THANKSGIVING.’ I did, and in a moment every shadow was gone, not to return.” Maybe right now you too feel like a shadow has covered your soul, maybe you’re struggling with burdens that seem unbearable. Maybe you also have prayed but there is still no relief to the problems, or you have told yourself to keep on going hoping that it would disappear only it’s gotten deeper. What if you like Frost were to engage in the purest form of prayer, praise. What if instead of telling God about our problems we like Paul told the world about His power? We have a God who turns tragedy into triumph, verse 33 says, “Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized.” Look at the incredible change in this man’s life; the one responsible for chaining them is now washing their wounds. Verse 34 goes on to say that, “He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.” When God opened up his heart he opened up his home, he went from a hard heart to one of hospitality. Real conversion results in compassion, salvation should show. Praise may have started with Paul and Silas but it quickly spread to the jailer and his family. Both praise and protesting are contagious, one effects the other infects, one ruins the other is the remedy. What about you are you effecting or infecting others, are you inviting people to join in on a pity party or a party of praise? So let me ask you, was the pain and suffering that Paul and Silas went through worth it? Satan schemes were thwarted, God was glorified and a sinner was saved, now that is winning the war. That’s what I want; I want my life to be a contagious chorus of praise regardless of the pain and problems. What about you are you going to live a life that proclaims your pain or God’s power?