In Acts 16 we read about the story of Paul and Silas in prison.
How and why could Paul and Silas praise and pray in the middle of their situation, in the middle of their personal Blitz? They had a feast of praise and worship! They were able to enjoy the presence of God. How and why?
Read through Acts 16:16-30 (NLT)
16 One day as we were going down to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit that enabled her to tell the future. She earned a lot of money for her masters by telling fortunes. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.” 18 This went on day after day until Paul got so exasperated that he turned and said to the demon within her, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And instantly it left her. 19 Her masters’ hopes of wealth were now shattered, so they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities at the marketplace. 20 “The whole city is in an uproar because of these Jews!” they shouted to the city officials.21 “They are teaching customs that are illegal for us Romans to practice.” 22 A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. 23 They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. 24 So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks. 25 Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. 26 Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! 27 The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. 28 But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!” 29 The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
The situation is this – Paul and Silas are on a missionary (Paul’s second) journey together. One day they are going to pray and come across a demon possessed slave girl, a fortune teller who earns lots of money for her masters. The girl shouts out ‘these men have come to tell you how to be saved’. What this girl is actually speaking out is truth – but in a way that seeks to discredit Paul and Silas and after days of this happening and seeing the purpose of Satan – Paul gets fed up and commands the demon to leave her in the name of Jesus, and it does. The slave masters are not happy, why, they have now lost their money maker, the girl can not tell the future any more. Paul and Silas are grabbed and dragged before the authorities, they are accused of going against Roman custom, a mob forms against them, they are stripped and severely beaten with wooden rods. They were then thrown into prison, but not only that they were thrown into the inner prison – and their feet are clamped into stocks. Roman stocks were not only made to keep one from escaping, they were made with holes wide enough apart so as to stretch the legs and bruise the feet so as to cause great pain and injury.
Whoever said the Christian walk was easy! Very often your day can be going well, but then you step out in faith, you do something out of the ordinary, you witness to someone about the Lord, you stand up for your beliefs, you go against the status quo, you pray with someone for healing and guess what – the devil does not like it. The devil hates you, how dare you spread the message of Jesus… and then your world starts to crumble:
- You get accused
- You feel humiliated
- You are severely beaten up
- Your world starts to collapse
- The bombings start
- It feels like a blitz – can anything get any worse – yes it can!
The devil tries to lock you up, so you cant escape:
- He traps you in an inner prison, with no light
- He casts shadows all around you
- He creates that atmosphere of doubt, no hope and fear
- He disables your feet to stop you walking in the light and spreading the message of Life.
All of a sudden there is a:
- Battle of the Body – literal physical pain, illness.
- There is a Battle of the Mind – doubts, fears, questions.
- There is a Battle for your Soul – you question your faith, you even question God.
At the time of writing we are in the middle of the COVID 19 pandemic and I wonder how people are feeling right now in the middle of this virus? Can you relate to Paul and Silas?
The devil is a schemer, a strategist. Top Tip! It’s good to know the strategy of the enemy. He wants to humiliate you and strip you of everything you have. He wants to put your feet in stocks because he knows that you have beautiful feet!
Isaiah 52:7 says:
‘How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news that our God reigns…’
He wants to put your hands in shackles – to stop you clapping and praising God, lifting holy hands, reaching out to the lost, poor and needy. He wants to put darkness around you so you cannot see with your eyes. He wants you to lose your vision and ultimately your hope. He wants to put you in an inner prison so you can not hear the cries of the lost; He locks you away so people can not hear the passionate words of praise that come out of your mouth. The devil knows that God’s word in my mouth is powerful. The fact is our bodies might be in pain, our human selves want to disappear, blame God, lose the will to live, but as a Spirit filled Christian there is one thing that the devil can not destroy… and that is your unshakeable faith. Your body may be hurting, but your spirit man can be singing.
At the time of writing the whole country has shut down, just like Paul and Silas – we are in ‘lockdown’. The church is in ‘lockdown’ but at the same time the church is not closed. I would suggest the church is thriving all over this country, all over the world churches are suddenly adapting to the use of social media, the internet and other mediums of communicating the Good News of Jesus Christ; churches everywhere are showing that we can worship, we can magnify the King. The enemy tries to kill, steal, destroy, shut up, but he can do none of that. The Church is thriving, attendance is growing and God is moving throughout this country. The Church instead of shrinking back, is stepping up to the challenge, the church is needed now more than ever!
At midnight – the deepest, darkest, loneliest, time of the night – when Paul and Silas’s personal Blitz should have been at its highest, they erupt into praise and prayer.
Food for thought…
What do you do in your darkest hour? How do you react in your darkest hour?
How and why can they do this??? Just like Mr British Milkman who knows he is British, Paul and Silas knew who they were in Christ. They knew that their identity was in Christ and as a result the devil could throw anything at them but it would not shake their faith, it would not stop their worship. Mr British Milkman knows who he is – he knows what his job is, he knows where he comes from, he knows his orders and he is going to fulfil them, despite the chaos around him, despite the fires burning, he is going to whistle as he delivers his milk because he is British and that is what British people do.
Check out 2 Corinthians 4:8-16 (NLT)
8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. 13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.”[a] 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus,[b] will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. 16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are[c]being renewed every day.
I love the programme ‘Who do you think you are’, It is all about identity.
Dr Neil T Anderson says this:
Understanding your identity in Christ is absolutely essential to your success at living the Christian life. No person can consistently behave in a way that’s inconsistent with the way he perceives himself. If you think you’re a nobody, you’ll probably live like a nobody. But if you see yourself as a child of God who is spiritually alive in Christ, you’ll begin to live in victory and freedom as He lived. Next to a knowledge of God, a knowledge of who you are is by far the most important truth you can possess.
So who do you think you are? Once you understand this in your heart and your head – victory and breakthrough are on the way.
Let me give you a clue, the following are all bible based:
- I am a child of God
- I am chosen and appointed by Christ to bear His fruit
- I am a joint heir with Christ
- I am a temple
- I am a member of Christ’s body
- I am a new creation
- I am God’s workmanship
- I am a citizen of heaven
- I am a son of light and not of darkness
- I am a living stone
- I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me!
A believer who knows who they are in Christ can echo the following statements:
- I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me
- My God shall supply all my needs according to his riches in glory
- God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind
- The Lord is the strength of my life
- Where the spirit of the Lord is there is liberty
- Christ has redeemed me from the curse of the law that I might receive his Spirit
- God is for me – who can be against me
- I am more than a conqueror!!!
- Greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world
- When the enemy comes in like a flood, The Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him!!!
Paul and Silas understood this principle and as a result even in their darkest hour they could sing and praise. We all know what happened:
1). The other prisoners were listening.
The devil can try and stop your witness, he can lock you in an inner prison but when the praises of God are in our mouth, no walls can keep the sound in and people have got to turn their heads and listen.
2). Suddenly there was a great earthquake, the ground was shaken – because two men praise and pray.
Let me encourage you with your worship because it shakes the very foundations of hell, the devil hates your worship.
3). All the doors flew open; All chains came off!
Where there is no way God can make a way. When there is no way out, where it seems all things are impossible, God can make a way, all it takes is faith, prayer and praise. Doors you never thought would be open will open, chains and burdens, stresses and strains that you never thought would come off will come off.
4). People will see the power of God working in you!
Those giants, those enemies, those Mr Hitler’s will see the power of God at work and in conviction cry out what must I do to be saved. All because you know who you are in Christ.
5). Families will come to know the Lord.
Before you know it your blitz turns into the Ritz and your enemy will sit you down for a meal. There will be breakfast in the blitz!!!
Knowing who we are in Christ is key to seeing obstacles overcome and victories won; knowing who we are in Christ means we can defy all adversity, knowing who we are in Christ gives us boldness to preach Jesus, boldness to stand out in the crowd; knowing who we are in Christ gives us confidence and courage even if the future seems unsure, we know who holds the future. Knowing who we are in Christ enables us to see the lost saved and sick healed.
Knowing who we are in Christ enables us to do outwardly stupid things like build an ark in a dry season; knowing who we are in Christ means that we can face our giants – head on, we can scale cliffs and say perhaps God will help us to defeat the army; knowing who we are in Christ means that we can defend our barley fields against an evil army and protect those who are close to us; knowing who we are in Christ enables us to build the walls and gates of our city even with opposition; knowing who we are in Christ enables us to walk in front of Kings to speak the word of the Lord even in the face of imminent danger; knowing who we are in Christ means that we can declare ‘for I know my redeemer lives’ even when your body feels like giving up… knowing who you are in Christ means you will gladly go to the most dangerous parts of the earth to share the gospel, knowing who you are in Christ means that when you get beaten, when you get punished you can declare ‘O death where is your victory?’ ‘O grave where is your sting’?Knowing how you are in Christ enables you to sing songs in the midnight hour, knowing who you are in Christ means that there is going to be Breakfast in the middle of the Blitz.
Jon Baldwin, Associate Leader, Riviera Life Church