The primary topic of my prayers these days is safety and protection. I pray constantly that God would watch over and protect my baby, my husband, myself, and our families. And whenever we or our loved ones are in the middle of a trial, I pray for deliverance.
This is normal. This is good. God hears these prayers, and I know I can trust Him no matter what. But I think when I focus on physical safety, I so often miss the mark of what my Almighty God might be accomplishing through the circumstances. I rarely thank Him for trials or stop to see the opportunities they bring for His glorification and the furtherance of His kingdom in people’s hearts.
I’ve been meditating on Acts 16:24-34 off and on for the past few weeks. I have no new, shocking revelation, obviously, but I’m thankful for the fresh perspective God gave me, and I hope someone else is convicted or encouraged, also. Read it with me!
“Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 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 chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.”
I’ve read this many times in my life. I cherish Paul and Silas’s faith and joy that allowed them to sing hymns even as prisoners, and I appreciate the faith and surrender of the jailer as he and his household believed on Jesus for their salvation. And it’s miraculous that Paul knew right when to call out so that the jailer didn’t kill himself! But then there’s this…
Why did they STAY in jail?
The doors were opened! Their bonds unfastened! Surely this was God’s provision for them to escape! What were they waiting for? They had a chance to run for FREEDOM! I know I would have, especially if there was a possibility I’d be executed in the morning. Seeing God shake all the doors open AND unfasten all the chains, I’d take that as a definite sign of my deliverance.
There is much I don’t know about the historical situation. I don’t know much about the jail set up or how many obstacles they would’ve had to run through if they did decide to escape. But regardless, it is significant that they stayed. Getting set free again was not their goal. I think the Holy Spirit had already specifically laid the soul of the jailer on Paul’s evangelist heart, and the prisoners took the earthquake as part of that end, not a means to escape their imprisonment.
How often do we, when in the middle of a hardship, see a way of escape but decide to stay and watch God work in the midst of it? It’s hard for me to find a real life example right now, because I have it pretty easy. But seeing my own heart and my own culture, I know we have a hard time valuing souls above our physical circumstances. Our rights, our freedom, our safety…
I want to value this:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
More than I value the pursuit of happiness.
I want to treasure salvation from the bondage of sin above my comfortable living. I want to pray that my believing family and friends live righteously and fully and fearlessly for the sake of Christ, more than I want to pray they remain comfortable and happy and safe. And I want to pray for my persecutors to be reconciled to God, more than I pray for my deliverance from their persecution.
Lord, help me take this from my mind and put it in my heart.