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  • C. Kershaw

Prescriptive Pattern

“After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, ‘Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!’”

Acts 16: 23-28


Theologians tell us Acts should be studied as a descriptive account of the early Church, and how the power of the Holy Spirit propelled the message of the Gospel throughout the world. I completely agree, but the book also contains some powerful prescriptive patterns for walking out Christian life. Acts 16 outlines one of my favorites.



Paul and Silas find themselves in a Philippian prison--locks, stocks, the whole deal! Their sore, bloody bodies chafe against the rough stone walls. The stocks cut into filthy wounds on their ankles. Prison vermin remind them they are not completely alone, but have hungry company. How should they proceed? What is the plan now?


It is a simple, yet profound plan. Pray and sing. Praise God for who He is and ever will be. Remind yourself of His powerful presence in each and every moment of life. Access the peace that passes understanding, by relying on the power of the Holy Spirit when times are tough. Pray, praise, and keep on moving.


God answers their prayers with a mighty earthquake, an amazing opportunity to witness, and the conversion of an entire family! Paul and Silas had no idea how God would miraculously respond as they turned to Him. They could not have imagined the outcome. When we bring our sorrows, stressors, and situations to Christ, praising Him for who He is and asking for His help, we simply cannot imagine how things will turn out. God's almighty power achieves far more than we can ask, or even imagine, when we turn directly to Him (Ephesians 3:20).

What if Paul and Silas chose to complain instead of praise God in their situation?

What do you typically do when you face tough circumstances?

How can you follow the pattern shown in Acts 16 today?


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