(Recommended Reading: Acts 16:16-40)
The above referenced passage in Acts 16 has always been so interesting and inspirational to me. Any teachings that I have ever heard on it have tended to focus on the power and benefits of prayer and praise to God, no matter what your circumstances happen to be. Pray, praise, be thankful no matter what and then watch God work.
Paul and Silas had been beaten severely. My understanding from some of my studies is that the type beating they received normally left the victim with broken bones and internal bleeding. But that was not enough for those in control – they then sent them to a prison where they had their feed bound in chains, likely laying on a dirt or stone floor. Yet they were not crying and complaining, they were praying and singing – so loudly that all the other prisoners could hear them.
That positive response of Paul and Silas brought the power of God into play – a powerful shaking strong enough that all of the cell doors broke open and the chains fell from all the prisoners. Can you imagine the shock, awe and confusion of all those prisoners? I really doubt that Paul and Silas were as shocked as the others, because they already knew the power of their God. But still, there was likely some surprise even for them.
This happened around midnight and when the jailer saw the cell doors opened, he felt certain the prisoners had escaped. He knew that his life would likely be ended by those in control as a result of the loss of those prisoners, so rather than suffer at the hands of the ruthless leaders, he was going to end his own life. Acts 16:28 (TLB) says: “But Paul yelled to him, ‘Don’t do it! We are all here!’”
Now is when the miracles truly began to happen. Acts 16:29-34 (NLT) says: “The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.’ And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. 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. 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.” Apparently after their celebration, the jailer then took them back to the prison to await the morning.
Think about that. Paul and Silas could have walked away from that jail and that city when their cell door opened and their chains fell off; but, they returned to the prison to guarantee that the life of the jailer was not jeopardized. Although we are not told, I am sure that Paul and Silas must have also convinced the other prisoners to stay put as well before the jailer took them to his home – in other words, they convinced the other prisoners to do what was right.
They did not do what would have been easy – let the jailer kill himself then escape, walking away with no concern about anyone else. Because they did not take the easy way out, but did what was right, the result was that an entire family became believers. I would imagine that some of the other prisoners would have to have been inspired as well. Then you know that as other people in the city learned of this story through the testimony of the jailer and all his family members, that many others became believers also. Paul and Silas, because they were doing what was right, impacted many lives – probably even an entire city.
As we live our lives, it is doubtful that we would ever have to endure a beating like Paul and Silas, but we will always have issues of varying difficulties to endure – many times at the hands of others. We should be cognizant of the fact that how we act and react to the circumstances can make a huge difference – not only for us personally, but also for others around us. We should desire to see others inspired by our positive actions.
We need to learn that staying calm and strong in our faith is best in the long run, no matter what. Reacting in an angry or selfish manner will not normally be to our advantage, or a good example for those around us. We need to make it a matter of habit to do what is right.
Will it be the easy thing to do, to stay calm, strong and faithful to our Christian values? Not necessarily. But, doing what is right, will always produce the best results in the long run. We never know who may be observing us. We never know what sway that might have on those observing us. Who knows, we might change the life of a person, a family, even a city. It is as simple as doing the right thing.
Written by Karran Martin
August 4, 2021