“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” (Acts 16:25, AV)
I once heard a report of a boy who was part of an evangelism team at his church. He faithfully went every week with the team. Now, this does not seem too exceptional when most people think about it. However, the facts behind the story should change our minds. You see, the boy was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He did not have much more time on this earth. Yet, throughout this ordeal, he continued faithfully in this work on the evangelism team. Many came to faith through the work of his team and he, dealing with the diagnosis, had a tremendous impact on those the team visited. This boy’s faithfulness in proclaiming the hop he had in Christ demonstrated that light will shine brightly in the darkness.
We see that in this passage of Scripture. After Paul cast out the spirit of divination from the slave girl, the girl’s owners became incensed. They saw that their hope of financial gain from her divination was gone. So, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them before the city officials. The crowd of people joined in attacking them and the officials had Paul and Silas beaten with rods. After this, they are thrown deep into a Philippian jail and shackled so they could not escape.
What would you do in their sandals? I do not know what I would do, but I hope that I would have the attitude that Paul and Silas did. They find themselves beaten and locked in this dark place at about midnight. Many might go into a state of depression and just try to sleep to forget their troubles. Many might whine and complain. Yet here we find Paul and Silas praying and singing praises to God. The Scripture tells us that all the prisoners were listening to them. The light of the gospel was shining out in the midst of darkness, both literally and figuratively. We have to believe that this had an influence on the prisoners who heard this.
The questions that come to mind are these. How did Paul and Silas find the fortitude to have such a glorious countenance in such a dark place? What thoughts went through their minds? One of the things we can see from the passage is that they prayed. Prayer is an indication of their faith. Regardless of the circumstance in which they found themselves, they were trusting God.
Perhaps they were reminded of the Psalm 139, “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there” (Psalm 139:8, AV), and realized that even in that dark prison, God was there. Perhaps they referred back to the Scriptures, “surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him” (Ecclesiastes 8:12b, AV), and had confidence that it would go well. They likely understood that whether they live or die, they would be with the Lord. Yet, as previously stated, the one unifying thing that superintended their hearts was faith. They trusted in God’s providence.
When we go through dark times, we will often waffle back and forth in our emotions. This seems natural for man. However, by God’s grace it must be possible to let the light of the gospel shine forth. When it does, it will illuminate the truth of the gospel to those around us.