In the Book of Acts, the Apostle Paul and his entourage were traveling to the “place of prayer.” While on the way, a servant girl began hounding them to the point that Paul rebuked her spirit of divination. The owners of the girl freaked out and dragged them into town. The townspeople got in on the action, and they (Paul and Silas) were severely beaten and flogged. Then, they were tossed in jail (in the dark, damp inner cell), and their ankles were shackled. All to say, this was a pretty rough day of ministry for Paul and team. Oh, there was the matter of a little earthquake too.
Yet, despite this, we see that around midnight Paul and Silas are praying and singing hymns. Isn’t this an amazing response to a bad day? Do we do this? No, we often blame and whine and complain, forgetting the Father’s availability. What hope, what confidence, and what access to the Father these two reveal! In the middle of incredible suffering and turmoil they find peace and solace in prayer and worship.
Paul and Silas were not responding to their circumstances in the traditional and expected ways. They were not formed by the cultural attitudes of their day. They relied on the Father, and they lived out the new life given to them in Jesus – and people noticed. I’m not sure secular folk notice our “bad day responses” – they’re too similar to their own.
The example of Paul and Silas had real impact. People noticed Paul and Silas. Can you imagine what the other prisoners were thinking as Paul and Silas sang hymns to God in the middle of the night. Was it, “Oh come on…shut up already!” No. I don’t think so. Much more likely, they were utterly amazed by their faith.
We know the jailer was blown away, when, one, Paul told him not to fall on his sword (as everyone under his charge was still present and there was no need for an honor suicide), and two, the jailer witnessed how they behaved during the whole process.
And so, convicted, and seeing something far greater than anything Rome had to offer, down on his knees the jailer went, trembling and asking, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? The jailer, and his whole family discover God’s Amazing Grace that day. What an end to a bad day!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!