16 One day, as we were going to the house of prayer, we encountered a young slave girl who had an evil spirit of divination, the spirit of Python. She had earned great profits for her owners by being a fortune-teller.
17 She kept following us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Great High God, and they’re telling us how to be saved!”
18 Day after day she continued to do this, until Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit indwelling her, “I command you in the name of Jesus, the Anointed One, to come out of her, now!” At that very moment, the spirit came out of her!
19 When her owners realized that their potential of making profit had vanished, they forcefully seized Paul and Silas and dragged them off to the city square to face the authorities.
20 When they appeared before the Roman soldiers and magistrates, the slave owners leveled accusations against them, saying, “These Jews are troublemakers. They’re throwing our city into confusion. 21 They’re pushing their Jewish religion down our throats. It’s wrong and unlawful for them to promote these Jewish ways, for we are Romans living in a Roman colony.”
22 A great crowd gathered, and all the people joined in to come against them. The Roman officials ordered that Paul and Silas be stripped of their garments and beaten with rods on their bare backs.
Miracles Can Come Out of Painful Places
23 After they were severely beaten, they were thrown into prison and the jailer was commanded to guard them securely. 24 So the jailer placed them in the innermost cell of the prison and had their feet bound and chained.[n]
25 Paul and Silas, undaunted, prayed in the middle of the night and sang songs of praise to God, while all the other prisoners listened to their worship.
26 Suddenly, a great earthquake shook the foundations of the prison. All at once every prison door flung open and the chains of all the prisoners came loose.
What about our personal prisons?
In these passages we see Paul and Silas, going their way in life, doing the normal things of life. The enemy sent a young woman who was demonized to harass them constantly for days on end. When Paul reached the end of tolerance, he dealt with the enemy and the girl was set free. They were then accused of teaching unlawful things and beaten then put into prison. Not just shoved into a cell, but put in the innermost place and put in shackles. In this horrible atmosphere with their backs ripped open by the rods they were beaten with, they chose to praise and worship God. Totally counter to the normal reaction of mankind. They refused to allow the physical pain and rejection cause them to deny their God and Lord Jesus Christ.
Instead of complaints and whining, sour attitude and crying out in pain, they were able to go through the circumstances and rejoice in the Lord, right there in the middle of their pain! In the middle of their unfair punishment, they remembered their God. The Lord heard them and caused an earthquake to open ALL the prison doors. So that not only they were set free, but everyone else around them too. It was a miracle of God performed in the middle of their praise. The greater miracle was the prisoners did not all try to escape. The guard’s own life and his family also were recipients of Salvation all because these two men chose praise and worship over allowing their flesh and blood circumstances to win out.
When I was meditating over these verses, I realized many of us are in our own personal “prison”. We may be trapped in sick bodies, so worn and out of control it looks like there is not way out. We may have emotional terrors that haunt us day and night. We may have so much debt or other financial problems that only a dark future shows before us. Our families may be in such an uproar that there is no peace to be found.
The Lord Jesus wants to challenge us today to walk through these trials and horror-filled issues praising and worshipping Him. Why to act like we are not having all these things in our lives? No, to open the way for Him to come in and show us the way out of the prison we are living in. Praise is a weapon we can use against the enemy of our lives.
18 Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death. 19 Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. 20 He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. 21 Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.