“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:25
I’m reading through the Book of Acts and it’s taking me forever. Because there is so much good stuff in that thing! I’ve read it before. Listened to messages in church and on the radio about the first “church” after Jesus was crucified. But goodness gracious sakes alive, its chock full of amazing insights and every morning I read a verse and go nuts thinking about its application in my life. That’s what we miss out on when we’re only listening to other people’s perspectives and insights on the Word of God. When we read it for ourselves and ask God to show us what it means for us…He does! And it can really rock your world.
So in Acts 16:16-25 Paul and Silas are in Phillipi, not really minding their own business, but that’s beside the point. Their job is to share the good news about Jesus, so they’re just doing their job. And this demon-influenced servant girl starts stalking them, telling people who they are, and basically drawing a lot of unwanted attention to them. Paul finally gets irritated and, in the Name of Jesus, commands this demon to come out of the girl. All good, right? Not really because this demon has been feeding the servant girl information on people so she can tell their fortunes, and her owners are getting rich off of her. So now they’re mad and they take Paul and Silas to the Roman big-wigs, who strip them down and have them flogged, beaten, and shackled in jail. All for doing something kind for a servant girl.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m nice, when I do something kind for someone, I expect to be treated kindly in return. Or at the very least to get a thank you. Paul and Silas are doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and yet God doesn’t reward them with praise, thanks, or converts to The Way. He allows them to suffer pain and humiliation and loss of freedom. Not what I’d call a good day at the office!
I would definitely be complaining; whining about injustice, the power corrupt bureaucracy, and grumbling about how unfair God is! But Paul and Silas pray and sing. Maybe that’s why they’re main characters in the Bible and I’m not? They’ve just been beaten, they’ve got to be hurting. They’re shackled in a cold, damp, rat-invested, smelly, disgusting jail cell. They’re bloody messes, uncomfortable, and totally justified in feeling sorry for themselves. But they are praying and singing.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
Quite often I think about my suffering, the injustices I deal with, the pain I’m going through and I feel pretty justified in my grumblings. I can rationalize my bad attitude because who could be expected to have a good attitude with all the garbage I’ve got in my life, right?
I know that when I “pray and sing” in my pain and suffering, during injustice and attack, my attitude is changed because I put my focus not on myself, but on Jesus. The frown isn’t always turned upside down…but if I follow the lead of Paul and Silas, my happiness isn’t my focus, and my joy is the result. Ultimately I always learn, always grow, and God is glorified in my life, and that rocks my world!
Father, this is such a simple, powerful truth, yet I fight against it. I grumble and complain, feel sorry for myself, despondent at times. Please forgive me. I am incapable of this simple act of faith on my own. But with you and through you Jesus, I choose to pray and sing in my pain and trust you with it all.