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.” Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” —Acts 16:25–30
When we read of this event, we often quickly latch on to a few things: singing hymns at midnight while bound in chains, chains being loosed through the power of praise, the salvation of the Philippian jailer, and much more. This passage is packed with great sermons. But there is also a subtlety here we don’t want to miss.
The jailer had drawn his sword because death was the penalty under Roman law for a guard who allowed a prisoner to escape. But Paul stopped the man and told him, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” Here is the question I find interesting: was the earthquake God’s provision, an open door out of injustice? We might quickly assume it was, but two things come to mind. First, not all the prisoners were innocent, and second, Paul knew well the consequences for the jailer should the prisoners escape.
To me, this is a clear reminder to be careful about thinking, If God’s in it, it’ll be easy. I have seen many Christians stifled because of this one thing. When things became difficult, they quit pursuing God’s plan, assuming that anything from God will be easy. Earthquakes will open all the doors, and I’ll walk right into God’s plan and His will, they think. He will have everything ready for me every step of the way.
God will provide, to be sure, but His way is not always the easy way. Paul could have seen the earthquake as merely God’s provision for escape, but Paul was more concerned about other people’s souls than with his own safety and freedom. Paul’s simple act of staying put when he could have run led to the salvation of not only the jailer, but also, as Acts 16 says, his entire family.
Does God seem to have you in a hard place right now? Don’t look for the easy way out. Your hardship has within it many opportunities to praise at midnight and to stay put when others might run. In the end, it may lead to the question any Christian would love to hear from a lost soul, “What must I do to be saved?” Praise from a prison cell has great power!
Excerpt from “Body Builders” now available on Amazon.