How would I react if faced with genuine persecution? I know how I hope I would react, but do any of us really know unless we are placed into that situation? I want to take a look at two men who experienced just that. Take a look over at Acts 16.
“The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.” (Acts 16:22-24 NASB)
Here we have Paul and Silas in ancient Philippi. They were God’s men, doing God’s work in God’s way. And the result? They are beaten with rods and shackled inside the deepest, darkest cell in the prison. What’s more, as a Roman citizen, Paul’s incarceration was illegal since he had not been tried! To add injury to insult, they were beaten with rods and received “many blows” to their bodies.

This punishment was particularly brutal. Rods were not designed to break bones, they were designed to bruise bones. From what I have heard and read, a bruised bone is excruciatingly painful and slow to heal. And with their fresh set of painful injuries, they were fastened down with metal stocks in complete darkness. So of course Paul and Silas had the reaction anyone would have in a situation like this. They began singing and praising God!

“But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them;” (Acts 16:25 NASB)
Notice what time it was. Midnight! They had not been singing for a few minutes or seconds. They had been at it for an extended time, probably hours! And their music was not just affecting them, but the other prisoners as well. At a time like that, perhaps the words of Jesus were flooding their minds, as the recalled Him saying, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11, 12 NASB) So that is exactly what they did! And look at the effect their obedience had!
“and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.”(Acts 16:26, 27 NASB)
The first jailhouse rock and roll broke out and there was a great earthquake. But the effect was not exclusively for Paul and Silas. Their bold and joyous praises to God caused the other prisoners who had been listening to be set free, too! And later in the next few verses, it led to the salvation of the very man who had chosen the day before to send them to the armpit of the prison!
If Paul had asserted his rights as a Roman citizen, the jailer and his family might never have been saved.

What lessons can we glean from this account?
1. Doing God’s will, at the right time, in the right place, and in the right way does not mean we will never suffer.
2. The suffering and persecution we go through is nothing compared to the value of a soul!
3. The presence of pain is not the absence of God!
4. If you are surrounded by darkness, you can be a light.
4. Our obedience in the face of adversity will not only deliver us, but can be used by God to set others free, too!
5. Never underestimate the lengths God will go to in order to give someone a chance to hear the Gospel and see it lived out in you!
6. Next time you are singing praises to God, remember that there may be someone who can hear you that needs what we’ve got in Christ Jesus!

So don’t hold back. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad!

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