ACTS 16:22-28: “Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, 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.” NKJV
OBSERVATION: Someone has wisely said – “You are the only Bible that many will ever read.” What does this statement mean? It means that the average person is not seeking God. The Philippian jailer was not engaged in a discussion with Paul and Silas about the Scriptures. He was simply doing his job and observing their behavior. It is an awesome and sobering thought to realize…
SOMEONE IS ALWAYS WATCHING US!
This may seem like an impossible call to fulfill. We have all experienced the naysayer who has criticized us for our faith and jumped on every mistake we have made saying – “Is that how a Christian should act?” This type of interaction reveals a cynical spirit. Yet, for the very few vocal objectors, countless others are silently observing our life. If we live our life of faith in Christ publicly others will observe and take note.
To live our life of faith in Christ publicly is not to set up a soapbox on the street corner and yell at people as they walk by – waving a huge Bible in the air. Rather, it is to live our life of faith honestly, transparently, and without reserve. It is to live out the fear of the Lord with a life that gives God glory in everything that we do. We never make a show of our faith to get others’ attention. Yet, we do not try to hide our faith and all the actions that are a part of it. We worship, pray, witness, and love others unashamed.
Think of the impact Paul and Silas had on the Philippian jailer. Beaten with rods, thrown into the dark inner chamber of the prison, feet, and hands locked in stocks, Paul and Silas begin to pray and sing hymns of praise. They did not whisper their prayers and worship. Nor do I think they shouted them out to be seen and heard. They simply lived out their life of faith without fear or reservation. They were not ashamed to proclaim the goodness and faithfulness of God – even in a dark, damp, and dingy prison cell.
The jailer heard their prayers and worship long before God intervened and opened the prison doors. When the doors were opened by the power of God the jailer was ready to take his own life rather than being arrested tortured to death by the Romans. Yet, when Paul and Silas called out, when they assured the jailer that no one had escaped, the jailer encountered both the power, mercy, and grace of God when he humbled himself saying,
- “…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.” Acts 16:29-31 NKJV
Salvation came to the jailer and his entire family because of the public witness of Paul and Silas. The jailer was watching them even though they were not aware of this. And, when the jailer encountered the power of God his heart was in a position to hear the Gospel.
I believe the church needs to rethink its approach to evangelism in a post-Christian culture. No longer are people turning to the Bible and the church for answers when they encounter difficulties in life. The jailer was not seeking or even engaging Paul and Silas in dialogue. Yet – he was watching. And, every day we have people watching and observing our lives too. They may not pick up a Bible, they may not go to church, but they will observe how we react to the struggles of life. Will we complain like everyone else, or will we lift our voices in prayer and praise?
When I was a young Christian, saved in the Jesus Movement, I was walking down the center quad of the college I was attending. There must have been a spring in my step and the joy of the Lord was in my life. Someone stopped me and asked me what I was on and how he could get some. I told him it was not a high from drugs – I was high on Jesus. I was able to share the Lord with him that day on the quad. I am ashamed to say that I am not asked that question much anymore. It makes me realize that I need to live my faith as boldly and authentically as I did back then. Why?
BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE STILL WATCHING!
I may not be that long-haired Jesus person of years gone by. Yet, my life can still be a testimony of God’s power and faithfulness. I have an opportunity to live my faith every time I go to the store, interact with a waitress, or talk to a neighbor. This is where evangelism must take place. The church needs to stop waiting for people to come on Sunday and go into the highways and byways and live out the Good News for everyone to see and hear. If we all do this we will see a harvest of souls come to Christ. We need to reach them for Christ before we can get them into the church. This is what the disciples did – and we need to rediscover their playbook.
Lord, I am challenged and convicted by the story of Paul and Silas. They were unafraid to share Christ – even to their own peril. And, when beaten and thrown in jail they started a prayer meeting! They lived out their lives authentically and powerfully – and it changed the world – one jailer, one man, one family at a time. Grant me and Your church the grace to live for Christ once again, boldly, unashamed, and ready to give an answer to all who call to question the hope that is within us!
- “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.” 1 Peter 3:15-16 NLT
In Jesus’ Name