About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.Acts 16:25
I have been re-reading Acts of the Apostles recently, and it has been a wonderful blessing to be reminded of the early church in action, facing its challenges with faith and conviction. There is so much that we can learn as we face our own challenges, individually and as a church.
In Acts 16, we are given the story of Paul and Silas being imprisoned for freeing a slave-girl who was possessed by a demon. There is one particular detail in this story that really jumped out at me this time around: that the other “prisoners were listening to them” as Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God. Perhaps the prisoners were just bored, and this was their evening’s entertainment. But perhaps there was more to it than that. These other prisoners would have known the story of Paul and Silas, and the reason they were imprisoned. And they would have been curious to see how these “Christians” would respond to this challenge. Would they blame their God for their problems? Would they sulk and bemoan their fate? Would they give up on their mission to share the message of the gospel with others? How would they react?
When you think about it, the way in which we respond to life’s challenges proclaims what we believe far more than our words. We may not ever be imprisoned for living out our faith, but we will certainly face all sorts of other challenges in life. And when we do, those who know of our faith will be watching and listening. They will be curious to see how our faith fares in this “storm.” Will it shrink, remain steady, or grow? How will we as Christians respond to this challenge? We can share our faith all we want and proclaim to the world our love of Jesus, but the world listens most closely when they see us in trouble.
Paul and Silas were going to be set free soon enough. They didn’t know that, but as they prayed and sang their hymns, “there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened” (Acts 16:26). God heard their prayers and answered them miraculously. But this miracle was not the cause of their singing. The miracle took place after they had begun their evening’s devotions, and that is what makes it so powerful. Anyone can sing hymns in celebration, but singing them during the challenge itself? That is the music that the world stops to listen to, and the music that causes heaven to rejoice. Let us join in this song, now and always. Amen.