16:25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”
29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.
Would you have been singing in that prison? Would you have stayed after the doors were opened and the shackles fell off?
It pains me to tell this story but I feel I must for all our sakes. I had a church member once who in her 80's got lung cancer. Her reaction was anger. I went to visit her and she explained to me why she was angry. She had served the Lord all her life. She had never smoked. She had tried to live a healthy life. Now she was going to die from a disease she felt she did not deserve. She was hurt. She felt betrayed and let down. Why would God permit this?
That is quite a contrast from Paul, Silas and Timothy. They were serving God too. They didn't deserve the treatment they received either. Yet instead of self pity and anger at God they are singing His praises.
Again I ask, would you have been singing in their position? Would you have stayed after the way of escape was right in front of you?
What made the difference between that sweet but disappointed and disillusioned member I had and those disciples? I believe the answer is theology, circumstances, and the resulting expectations. Let's start with us. We live in pretty easy circumstances. We are pretty far removed from serious persecution or hardship. This ease has allowed us to slip subconsciously into bad theology. What bad theology? The theology that good things happen to good people. This warped theology has been plaguing humanity for a long time.
The disciples lived in very different circumstances. They watched their Messiah be beaten and die. Those who came soon after like Paul and his companions may not have seen it but they were certainly aware of it. In addition Paul himself had been a persecutor of Christians. He well understood that very bad things can and do happen to very good people. Jesus words "in this world you will have trouble..." were not lost on Paul.
We on the other hand seem to have forgotten He said that. We learn about good health practices and other positive living practices and we read studies about how living in harmony with Bible principles will extend our life span. All the while we forget that although in general this is true it guarantees nothing. We also forget the goal of following Jesus is not living healthier and longer but it is saving lives.
So radically different was the worldview of these men that they counted suffering for the sake of Christ and for the sake of saving lives a privilege. It was a cause for celebration.
For me it's not hard to answer the question would I have been singing in that prison. All I have to ask is do I sing now when the needs of others change my plans, shorten my sleep, or otherwise cause me "pain". Do I rejoice to serve at personal cost? Do I remain in difficult situations when there is an easy way out or do I flee to greener pastures?
The call to follow is a serious one that is so rewarding that we literally can sing in the midst of terrible circumstances and mean it. Jesus rejoices over us with singing. He endured the cross despising it's shame for the joy (our salvation) that was set before Him. We were eternally worth it to Him. Now He says "Follow Me."