Acts chapter 16
The Apostle Paul and his companion Silas were dragged to the authorities of Philippi, accused of being troublemakers and causing the crowds to rise up against them. Their clothes having been torn off, they were mercilessly beaten “with many stripes” and thrown into prison under tight security. With the searing pain of the beatings throbbing through their bodies and their feet locked into stocks, “at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God…” (Acts 16:25) In that extreme situation, they chose to pray and sing. I think I can understand the part about praying. Wouldn’t we all cry out to God in such circumstances? But… I’d like to ask him something: “What were you singing, Paul?”
Suddenly an earthquake shook the prison, opening the doors of every cell, breaking every chain that was restraining each inmate, and freeing them from their stocks. In the chaos of this unprecedented event, every one of them could have escaped. It was the perfect opportunity! The chance of a lifetime! But no…they ALL stayed. No one left. Obviously, Paul and Silas’ prayers and songs were loud enough to be heard by all. What was the theme of those songs that made the cursing stop, the insults be silenced and the groaning of the inmates cease? What were they hearing that night? “What were you singing, Paul?”
Could it be that the imprisoned criminals were hearing – for the first time – words of hope, of forgiveness and a new life? Were they perhaps listening to lyrics of praise to Jesus, who came to loosen chains and set captives free?…who suffered the punishment that they deserved when He died on the cross…who transforms even the most hardened criminal? The captive audience, given the opportunity, didn’t escape. “What were you singing, Paul?”
Evaluating my life, I ask myself: “What am I singing?” When it seems like there is nothing to sing about…when I’ve been treated unfairly…when I’m in pain or locked into a hopeless situation…what am I singing? I want to learn Paul and Silas’ song! I want to sing praises to my God, my Father who has everything under control, who will never let go of my hand and gives me His strength every day. I want to lift high the name of Jesus, who died to forgive my sins and transformed my life! I want to follow the example of Paul and Silas, praying and singing with such faith and conviction that everyone around me takes notice and wants to hear more about our awesome God who is worthy of all praise!
“Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid;…the Lord is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2