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JOY



“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25).


Where were they? Why were they there? And what enabled them to sing with joy?


Paul and Silas were in the Roman city of Philippi where they had been arrested for liberating a slave girl from demonic possession. When the slave girl’s “owners realized that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities. Bringing them before the chief magistrates, they said, ‘These men are seriously disturbing our city. They are Jews and are promoting customs that are not legal for us as Romans to adopt or practice.’ The crowd joined in the attack against them, and the chief magistrates stripped off their clothes and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had severely flogged them, they threw them in jail, ordering the jailer to guard them carefully. Receiving such an order, he put them into the inner prison and secured their feet in the stocks” (Acts 16:19–24).


So, where were they? They were in the deepest, darkest dungeon, shackled with chains, with their feet secured in the stocks. Their backs were bloody. Their bodies were bruised. I can imagine that their eyes were severely swollen, allowing only limited vision through narrow slits. Every inch of their skin stung with pain; an intense pain that reached deep into their bones.


Why were they beaten and imprisoned? It’s simple. The missionaries serving in the pagan city shared the Gospel. They declared the saving power of Jesus. They shined God’s light in the darkness, but “people loved darkness rather than the light” (John 3:19).


And what enabled them to raise their voices in cheerful worship and praise? Their Master, Jesus of Nazareth, had been brutalized and executed by crucifixion. As Paul and Silas suffered at the hands of the cruel, merciless executioner, they remembered the price that Jesus had paid to ransom them from sin and death. Jesus had carried their sin and shame to Calvary. Now they “took up his cross” (Luke 9:23) in obedience to Christ’s command.


James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote to the church: “Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2–4). Peter encouraged the persecuted church: “You are being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:5–7).


Months after suffering in the Philippian jail, Paul penned these words: “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).


Paul’s joy wasn’t dependent upon his present circumstances. He didn’t just rejoice when the sun was shining. He could (and did) “pray and sing hymns to God” even when the storms of life assailed.


One last thought… As the missionaries’ melody rang out, “the prisoners were listening to them.” Be certain… the world is watching.




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