"...they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, 'These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.' The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep the safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them ..." Acts 16:19b-25
Paul and Silas were in a rough spot.
They really hadn't done anything wrong. They were serving God, witnessing to people, casting out evil spirits ... Sounds to me like they were doing everything right. And what was their reward?
They were dragged before the authorities, falsely accused, stripped naked, beaten with rods, thrown into prison, and fastened in stocks. Some reward.
And yet, what did they do, there in the darkness of prison? They prayed and sang hymns to God.
Reading this passage the other day, I was reminded of how we always close our While We're Waiting Weekends for Parents. On Sunday morning, before we all head our separate ways, we spend about 30 minutes having a time of praise and worship. This is always a very moving time for me, because I know the immense cost of these parents' praise. These are folks who were just going along through their lives and were blindsided by unthinkable tragedy. They've been stripped of everything, beaten, and thrown into a "prison" of pain and heartache. And yet they lift their voices in praise. It's a beautiful thing.
But there's more. Look at the very end of verse 25 ... " and the prisoners were listening to them." When those of us who have suffered great loss lift our voices in praise, people take notice. We have an opportunity to share our faith ... in a way that most folks don't ... simply because of the fact that we've suffered. Like Paul and Silas, we just have to be prepared for these opportunities, whatever our circumstances.
"...Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have..." I Peter 3:15