In Acts 16:25-34, we find the familiar story of Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail. It’s an important story about the power of worship. Paul and Silas have been arrested, beaten, and placed in stocks, unable to move their legs. Depending on the type of stocks that they were placed in, they were either bent over in an extremely uncomfortable position, or they were forced on their backs, causing greater pain to their already wounded backs.
Late that night, in the midst of their suffering, they are praying and singing, worshiping the Lord. An earthquake hits, destroying the prison where they are held and providing them – and everyone else in the prison – the opportunity to escape. But they choose not to, and lead the other prisoners in remaining, thus saving the jailer’s life. (Roman practice was that if a prisoner escaped, the jailer responsible for that person was put to death in exchange for the escaped prisoner’s life, whether the prisoner was re-captured or not.) Astonished at what had taken place, the jailer asks how to be saved, and he and his family place their faith in Jesus. The next morning, Paul and Silas are vindicated.
The back story to this whole sequence of events is extremely important in helping us see the big picture of what is going here. It’s far more than a simple misunderstanding that leads to Paul and Silas being unjustly arrested, and then later released.
If you read Acts 16, beginning in verse 7, you find a chain of events that lead up to Paul and Silas being imprisoned:
- Paul and Silas want to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit restrains them.
- Because of this, they bypass Mysia (where Bithynia is located) and go to Troas instead.
- Overnight in Troas, Paul has a vision of a man from Macedonia begging him to come help them.
- As a result of the vision, Paul and Silas leave for Macedonia and travel to Philippi, and leading city in that district of Macedonia.
- In Philippi, they meet an influential and wealthy woman named Lydia. She becomes a believer, and invites Paul and Silas to stay in her home. This gives them a base of operations in Philippi, and they establish a ministry there, meeting with Jews at the place of prayer and proclaiming Jesus to them.
- One day, on the way to the place of prayer, they encounter a female slave who was demonized. This slave was a gifted fortune-teller because of the demon. Her fortune-telling was very lucrative for her owners. For many days, she followed Paul and his group, disrupting their lives by shouting about who they were and what they were doing.
- Finally, one day Paul became annoyed with her constant harassment, and he commanded the demon to leave her. It did – and with its departure, her ability to tell the future left as well. This meant a serious loss of income for her owners, who, angered at this, seized Paul and Silas, brought them before the local magistrates and incited the crowd agains Paul and Silas. This resulted in the magistrates sentencing Paul and Silas to a beating, and then imprisonment.
That’s a lot of background, but here’s the bottom line – Paul and Silas responded obediently to Jesus, were having an effective ministry, encountered spiritual resistance from the enemy, won a victory against the enemy, and then were persecuted because of all of that.
In other words, Paul and Silas weren’t in a struggle against the slave owners, or the magistrates, or the jailer – they were engaged in an ongoing spiritual battle against agents of the enemy – a battle for the souls of the men and women of Philippi.
That’s how they ended up beaten and in jail.
Now here’s the key – their response was not to:
- Put together a legal defense;
- Send out a fund-raising plea to ask for help;
- Ask someone to arrange a rescue mission;
- Wallow in their pain and misery;
- Question if they had really heard Jesus correctly;
- Give up;
- Renounce their faith or fellowship; or
- Decide to leave their ministry.
Instead, they chose to worship.
They recognized that they were in a spiritual battle, and so, they chose a spiritual counter-attack – they worshiped.
Now, I am NOT a person who sees a “demon behind every bush.” I believe that bad things often happen in my life because of the fact that I’ve made poor choices, or because others have made poor choices that have affected me, or because I live in an imperfect world that has been distorted by sin, with people around me who have been distorted by sin.
But I also recognize that there is an enemy whose mission statement is to “steal, kill, and destroy.” And I, like you, am in the crosshairs of his “scope.” Especially when I am trying to follow and obey Jesus, and am focused on the mission to which Jesus has called me.
Now I know this post is getting long. “Stick to 650 words or less” – that’s what the blogging experts say, and I’m well over 800 now.
So let me briefly summarize.
When we contend for healing, when we pray for the sick – we are engaged with an important part of Jesus’ mission for us (destroying the works of the devil). So we are going to encounter resistance, and we are going to find some cases and areas that call for extended battle.
When that happens, or when our prayers aren’t answered, or when we can’t find breakthrough, sometimes worship is the very thing that will get us beyond whatever is blocking us.
Worship refocuses us onto God’s goodness. Worship changes the atmosphere. Worship changes our attitude. Worship releases the power of God in our lives, because worship calls heaven to earth.
Have you been worshiping every day like I asked you to this past Wednesday?
And what struggle are you facing today?
Perhaps you need to stop struggling, disengage from the problem, and engage with the Father.
Choose to worship Him. Get your eyes off of the problem and onto the Father.
You may be amazed at what happens.
Who knows what “earthquake” God may unleash that ends up being your deliverance – because you chose worship.
Here is our reading list for this week, as we remember the Passion and prepare our hearts for Easter Sunday. The first 3 readings are accounts of the resurrection; the last 3 readings are writings by the Apostle Paul on the transformative power of the resurrection for our lives personally:
- Monday – Matthew 28:1-15
- Tuesday – John 20:1-18
- Wednesday – Luke 24:1-12
- Thursday – Romans 8:9-18
- Friday – Colossians 3:1-15
- Saturday – Ephesians 2:1-10