By Justin Gray
The Story Before Midnight
Paul and Silas were on mission together in Thyatira (a city in modern-day Turkey). The gospel was advancing, and people were being saved and delivered from demonic oppression. Paul and Silas were kicking the devil in the face everywhere they went. However, God’s work was not without expense. Shortly after casting a demon out of a fortune-telling slave girl, they were arrested and severely beaten by the Roman authorities. The power of God through the preaching of the gospel was, in the Romans’ words, “disturbing the city.” As a result, Paul and Silas found themselves chained in a dungeon. And this is where we pick up the story:
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. (Acts 16:25-26)
If you’re like me, you’ve read or heard this story many times. And you’ve probably heard a sermon or two on it. Maybe you’ve heard that worship through song can break chains and set captives free. Maybe you’ve heard that if you praise God in the midnight hour, you can be delivered from your circumstances. And I would shout a hearty “AMEN!” to most of those points. However, I’d like to draw your attention to something that can be easily overlooked.
First, a look at the facts of their situation, Paul and Silas are:
- Being detained from their mission.
- Severely beaten and half-naked.
- In a dungeon with no clue of when they’ll be released. Not to mention, dungeons are exceedingly nasty (this ain’t the county jail).
- Uncertain of their future (maybe they’ll be killed in the morning—who knows?).
And now, they decide to pray and sing songs to God. For the average person, this would not be the time to pray and sing songs. This is the time to cut a deal with the jailer. This is the time to conspire with other inmates to escape. This is the time to beg God that your life will be spared. But Paul and Silas have learned, as we are all learning, that following God is not that easy and neither is worship.
The Story After Midnight
Paul and Silas’s collective response says something incredibly simple and yet remarkably sobering about the Christian life: worshipping God is an all-or- nothing proposition. True worship cannot be determined by a type of song, a set of circumstances, or a time of day. We must “pray and sing songs to God” because He is more worthy of our attention and devotion than any circumstance we may face. Whether happy, sad, sick, in prison, at home, at midnight or noonday, our devotion to Him should be unwavering.
Life is full of twists and turns; it is a tune that is constantly changing. And although life’s key may change, the heart devoted to God should always sing of what Jesus has done.
Spend some time thinking and writing about how you respond to life’s difficult circumstances.
Does your life sing of God’s praises when times are tough?