Choices in Chains
As we face the COVID 19 crisis as a country and stay-at-home orders as a community, Acts 16 speaks to me. In Acts 16, Paul and Silas are flogged and imprisoned after delivering a slave-girl from demon possession. Scripture records that after a severe scourging, which would have resulted in open, bleeding back wounds, the two are put in the inner cell of a Roman jail with their feet fastened in stocks.
Paul and Silas have no control over this situation, their personal freedom, or the state of their beaten bodies in prison. Circumstantially, there is nothing they can do. Yet they have complete control over the way they respond. In that place, Paul and Silas choose to praise God. Acts 16 records that around midnight, Paul and Silas were busy praying and singing hymns to God. Soon the jail was rocking, and it wasn’t just the music! God sent a violent earthquake that broke the prisoners’ bonds, leading the Roman jailer responsible for them to despair. Through this, God allowed the missionaries to share the hope of Jesus Christ with the jailer and his family. As a result of Paul and Silas’ choice to praise God in tough circumstances, the jailer and his family believed and were baptized!
This account serves as a powerful reminder of the mysterious, miraculous ways God works. Isaiah 55:8-9 puts it best; “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Like Paul and Silas, we choose how we respond. We can move toward fear, or pray our way through hard situations understanding that God works in the mysteries of life. We can give in to hopelessness, or remind ourselves of who God is, and how faithful He has been to us in the past. We can cycle on discouragement, or we can sing songs about God’s everlasting love and abiding presence to ourselves. Like Paul and Silas, we get to choose.
The choices we make have repercussions. Some to consider include:
-Others are watching. In Acts 16, other prisoners were listening to Paul and Silas pray and sing. After the earthquake, they saw Paul and Silas assure the jailer they had not escaped, which allowed them to share the truth and hope of Jesus Christ. Our children, friends, and extended family members are watching too. What does our faith look like when we face the unexpected?
-Tough times bring Gospel opportunities. Our responses in difficult situations say more about our faith in Jesus Christ than many words. The Roman jailer opens his heart to Christ because Paul and Silas choose to stay and share truth with him. Trusting God and moving forward shows we serve a living Savior! Our responses carry seeds of evangelism.
-Faith is a muscle. Each time we exercise faith, our faith grows stronger. Paul and Silas move on from Phillipi to Thessalonica, continuing to draw others to Christ. Later in his life, Paul will write to both the Phillipians and the Thessalonians about walking out Christianity by daily choosing faith. The small daily choices we make fold into the momentum of sanctification. Our faith grows as we use it.
Jesus said, “In this world there will be many troubles, but take heart! For I have overcome this world” (John 16:33). In these hard times, I can choose to take heart, seek Christ, and trust Him through the uncertainty. That choice is under my control.