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Have you ever ended up somewhere that you had no intention of being and you thought to yourself, “How did I get here? This was not what I had planned. This was not how my night, my week, my month, my year was supposed to turn out.” And yet, you found yourself in a situation that you had no control of.
Immediately, I knew something was wrong and found myself in the emergency room with a severely fractured tibia bone.
I have been there. Not long ago, I found myself in that spot. I was playing laser tag, a seemingly harmless game, or so I thought, with our church leadership team, when boom! I collided with one of my teammates and fell hard to the ground. Immediately, I knew something was wrong and found myself in the emergency room with a severely fractured tibia bone.
It was not exactly how I had envisioned my night going. No, I had pictured my team, The Yellow Lightning, taking home first place. I did not picture spending the evening in the emergency room. And on top of that, finding out that my life and mobility would be extremely disrupted for the next several months.
Responding to Trials and Difficult Times
Trials and difficult times are a part of life. We all walk through circumstances when we think, “Where did this come from? How did I get here? This was not what I had planned.” During the difficult parts of life, the primary issue is not diagnosing how you got where you are, but rather how you are going to respond to what you are facing.
There is a story in the book of Acts centered around two guys named Paul and Silas who faced a very unexpected trial. Their response is a great example for you and I to follow.
We find their story in Acts 16
20“The whole city is in an uproar because of these Jews!” they shouted to the city officials. 21“They are teaching customs that are illegal for us Romans to practice.” 22A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them to be stripped and beaten with wooden rods. 23They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. 24So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.
They were on a mission to spread the gospel when they were suddenly and wrongly accused…
Paul and Silas had recently made their way to Philippi, the leading city of the district of Macedonia, a Roman colony. They were on a mission to spread the gospel when they were suddenly and wrongly accused by an angry slave owner who was irate that Paul and Silas had taken away his income by delivering his slave girl from an evil spirit.
The slave owner stirred up a mob against Paul and Silas, saying they were creating mass confusion in the city. They persuaded the chief magistrates (the Roman authorities of Philippi) to sentence Paul and Silas to severe punishment, forgoing a proper hearing, and giving Paul and Silas no opportunity to defend themselves.
Choose to Respond with Praise Even When It Doesn’t Make Sense
After being severely beaten, they were thrown into the inner most part of a prison – most likely a damp, dark, smelly, prison cell with no possible way of escape. They had no idea what the morning would bring. They had no idea how long their stay in that prison would be. This sounds like an incredibly horrible situation to me.
So how did Paul and Silas respond? With fear? Discouragement? Frustration? Anger? No, it was quite the opposite. Acts 16:25 tells us, “Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.”
Was this kind of response due to them being delirious, or was it a commitment Paul made long ago? It is the latter. Paul had determined to let prayer and praise be his response no matter what he was facing.
And we see this in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18a (NIV): “Rejoice always, pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances;”
The Apostle Paul, one of the most foundational leaders of the early church, who wrote over half of the New Testament, walked through some very difficult trials but yet in all of them, he chose to praise and pray his way through anything he faced in life. What? That’s incredible!
Praise Prepares the Way for God to Work
Although it says they were praying and singing hymns, in the Greek, these two actions are connected. What does that mean? It means that their prayers were prayers of thanksgiving that turned into songs of praise.
Yet in their extreme discomfort and agony, they chose to praise their God.
Imagine Paul and Silas in their prison cell, singing at the the top of their lungs! Stop and think about this for a minute. We can breeze past this story so fast and not fully understand the gravity of what they were walking through.
Their circumstances caused them excruciating pain. Their backs were bloody and bruised from being harshly beaten. They were thrown into a dark and filthy cell. Their legs were in stocks, meant to invoke severe pain by spreading the legs as far as they could possibly go. Yet in their extreme discomfort and agony, they chose to praise their God. How is that possible? It’s possible because they both understood that praise prepares the way for God to work, and as a result, see powerful things happen.
God Loves to Show His Power in Response to Praise
As they began to praise something happened, something supernatural.
Acts 16:26 says, “Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!”
Did you catch that? An earthquake happened out of nowhere. The prison began shaking to its foundation, all the prison doors immediately flew open, and all the chains fell off of every prisoner. Those types of things don’t just happen, they are a result of the supernatural power of God.
God wants to show up in the midst of your trial, your prison cell, and display his supernatural power to you.
I encourage you today to start praising your way through your trial. Replace your worry, your fear, your frustration with praise. I promise, as you do that, you will see God do what only he can do! He will turn your prison cell into a place of praise.
Psalm 34:1-3 NLT
“I will praise the Lord at all times.
I will constantly speak his praises.
I will boast only in the Lord;
let all who are helpless take heart.
Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness;
let us exalt his name together.”