Let's do a quick line-by-line review of Paul and Silas' imprisonment.
Acts 16:16-18. The spirit in the slave-girl knew who Paul and Silas were. The spirit knew of Jesus. Paul called on the Name of Jesus Christ to deliver the demon out of the girl. Did the spirit intentionally annoy Paul and Silas so that they would get in trouble? Let's examine the scripture a little further before we make a decision.
Acts 16:19-21. The slave-girls’ Roman masters were upset about their economic downturn and caused Paul and Silas to be arrested.
Acts 16:23. Paul and Silas are beaten and thrown in jail.
Acts 16:25. Around midnight, Paul and Silas are praying and singing hymns. I'm certain they weren’t singing a song of “Woe is me.” I would like to say that when I’m beaten up by circumstances, I automatically praise God and sing songs. Unfortunately, I don’t. Paul and Silas’ example helps remind me what I should be doing. They knew it was a reason they were beaten. They were sent to this area to encourage other Christians. They knew that the Christian life isn’t always peaches and cream. If you do a careful review of the previous chapters, you’ll see exactly what I mean. Yet, they stayed the course.
Acts 16:26. God shook some things up by providing an earthquake to help Paul and Silas.
Acts 16:27. The jailer slept through this incredible earthquake? I know it’s possible to do this since I've slept through an earthquake before. Yet this earthquake wasn't the normal type of earthquake. Verse 26 tells us the foundations of the prison house were shaken, doors were open and everyone's chains were unfastened. Yes, this isn't a typical earthquake. The jailer went to bed one way but he was going to get up another way. Little did he know that he was about to be "shook up."
Acts 16:27-30. The jailer believed the prisoners had escaped. So, he was about to commit suicide. His mind was probably racing, his heart full of fear, his pulse rate in overload and sweat pouring down his cheek. This man knew life as he knew it was over. Suicide was the only way. It was the only way. Why would he do such a thing? In those times, a Roman guard would be put to death if he let his prisoner escaped. So, he was doing what he was trained to do. He didn't have the mindset, "God doesn't want me to kill myself." He is a nonbeliever. In fact, it was his people, the Romans, that were persecuting the Jews at the time. They kept their iron heel on the necks of the Jews. Now, the one who was in power has become powerless. Just then, he heard Paul and Silas cry out to him. What could have possibly been going through his mind? He was the voice of authority to them before he laid his head down to get some sleep. Now, the sweet sound of their voice is now soothing his already overloaded heart and mind. Paul and Silas told him, in so many words, "Don't kill yourself, it's going to be alright.” The jailer had someone bring him lights. This indicates he wasn’t alone. Once the jailer saw Paul and Silas, he wanted to be saved. In a sense, he joined Paul in having a Damascus -like experience. He goes from persecutor to disciple! Aw, what a difference a day makes. If Paul and Silas had taken this opportunity to escape the cold walls of prison, one less soul would have come into the Kingdom. Did I say one? Let's look a little further
Acts 16:31. The jailer gets his answer. It's the Lord who saves.
Acts 16:32. The former prisoners are now welcomed, honored and cherished guest at the jailers home. I guess we can say, "What a difference a day makes."
Acts 16:32-34. The jailers entire household was baptized and saved.
Paul and Silas didn't get into any trouble until they pulled a demon out of a slave girl who was doing divination for profit. Divination was something God didn’t like nor approve of (Deut 18:9-14). An earthquake broke off or opened up the chains that bound Paul and Silas. We don’t know if God or the Holy Spirit told them to stay in place. What we do know is, if they had taken the unique opportunity that was presented to them to escape, lives for the Kingdom would have been lost. They showed and presented God to their oppressor!
Ok, what does any of this have to do with you? Glad you asked. Perhaps you are in the situation you are in now because you need to deliver a message from God to someone. As my wife says, “May-haps” you have a mission that you haven’t fulfilled yet. Don’t be discouraged by your present situation. May-haps God has you there for a reason. Pray to Him for guidance. If this isn’t the case, you still have the obligation to share the Gospel with the world. This week, how many people have you shared with Christ? I have that answer! You share Christ with everyone you speak to and don’t speak to. You have a dying world that looks to you, as a Christian, to show them who Christ is. Therefore, what you do and don’t do shows them who Christ is. My final question for you to ponder on is, “Are you showing them the right things about Christ or are you confirming the bad things people say about Christians? I believe St. Francis Assisi eloquently said it best,
“Preach the Gospel at all times; if necessary use words.”
My fellow brother and sister in Christ, pleas seek God for what you need to be doing. Until then, “Stay In Place Until God Says Leave.” I know you can complete your specific mission. Remember, He chose you out of everyone in the world to deliver His message.