the cubicle of a maximum security prison where Paul and Silas had been kept for
publicly professing their faith and stirring up the crowd in the square, were
heard songs of praise and worship to the only true God and Father, Jehovah.
They did not look at the unfavourable circumstances.
It is uncommon and unusual for someone to praise God at the height of serious challenges. But they were confident there was little they could have done for their liberation. Yet rather than sit there and lament over the incident or focus on the helpless situation, they chose to do the right thing – praise God. Magnifying God when in the throes of death or the most difficult circumstances is resorting to the Almighty to take over your case. Otherwise, when we start debating the issues or looking at the pros and cons, we devote much time glorifying the devil, spending valuable time elevating the problem over and above the solution which is in God’s hands.
Something awesome happened in that prison cell that night. The duo praise and worship service was at midnight --- a time when they should have been taken over by sleep. They decided to praise and pray. Midnight is the time when our enemies are up (whilst we are fast asleep) making incantations to their master.
Nothing however is more formidable than praise because God comes and dwells in the midst of it all. (Psalm 22:3) In what seemed like a hopeless and helpless state, they fixed their eyes on God and He came to their rescue. Each time we put God first, above our trials and difficulties, God responds. How?
All of a sudden, there was a violent earthquake that rocked the foundations of the prison’s walls. “At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose.” (Acts 16:26) There was total pandemonium in the prison. The jailer feared for the worst as he was woken up by this noise. Just as he pulled out his sword ready to commit suicide -- believing that the prisoners had escaped – (as that meant death for him), the apostle Paul intervened.
He allayed his fears and asked him not to kill himself for they had not escaped. Taken by surprise and trembling, the jailer pleaded to Paul and Silas; “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The response came promptly, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved---you and your household!” (Acts 16:31) They then shared the word of God with him and later to his family where the jailer had invited them to take care of their wounds.
The jailer and his family gave their lives to Jesus by simply accepting Him as their Lord and Saviour. Just like that, you would ask? “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10:10) First we must accept Jesus in our lives as a matter of faith.
The jailer had witnessed the outcome of what singing and praying did in the lives of the apostles Paul and Silas and he wanted that kind of experience for himself and his household. This encounter filled the heart of the jailer ‘who had come to believe in God,’ with joy.
God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform. It does not take magic for one to believe as easily as that. Yet, simple and straightforward things are much more difficult to believe because they are not just complex and we understand the process. We have a tendency to believe more intricate concepts and other magical performances because we cannot fathom how they work.
In the Book of First Kings, in the Old Testament, an army general from Syria, suffering from leprosy came to the prophet Elisah, one of the greatest prophets of his time to seek healing. The prophet’s reputation had reached his ears through the mouth of a Jewish slave girl that worked for his wife.
When he got to the prophet’s house, the prophet bid his disciple to tell the general “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” (1 Kings 5:10) from his leprosy. But the general had an axe to grind with the prophet because the latter had not come out to meet him, he only sent his servant. “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy.” (verse 11)
His second bone of contention was with the instruction he received, ‘to wash seven times in the Jordan river.’ He protested; “Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed? So he turned and went off in a rage.” (verse 12)
Who was sick? Who wanted to be healed? Naaman, the Syrian general of course! He had travelled long distance to see this renowned prophet but because of his rank and status, he was not willing to act on simple instructions given to him. He frowned on the whole process -- not until his servants spoke sense into him. “My father, if the prophet had told you to some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then when he tells you, “Wash and be cleansed!” (verse 13) See how God has endowed modest people with a lot of wisdom!
We yearn to accomplish lofty things in order to boost our image, prestige and ego, thus overlooking simple and more straightforward matters. Coming to Jesus demands that we come as we are, with no sophistication at all. Not only that, we come not expecting some magical sensational acrobatics to have an effect on us. Instead, we come with our hearts for the Bible teaches that the heart is “the wellspring of life.” Therefore we must be careful how we use it.
General Naaman because of pride would have missed out on his healing because of a wrong attitude. He thought he was above those simple things; that he was made of sterner, more precious and sophisticated stuff. Let us open our hearts to the Word of the Lord in its all its simplicity as it speaks to us. Let us ignore the wrapping which serves only as covering.
A popular adage states; ‘Do not judge a book by its cover.’ The word of God is intended for simple minds with an overwhelming need to fulfil God’s purpose for their lives.
His word is life and it brings life.