An important lesson to always know and embrace is that God is able to move within every situation. Sometimes we can quickly confine God to place/s within our lives. Forgetting that God is not confined to a specific place but is with us through every situation, if we would choose to let him in. This week I want to take some time to look at the account of the Philippian jailer, the account is found in Acts 16v23-35. We see Paul and Silas imprisoned, after Paul had caused an uproar by casting a spirit out of a girl; this spirit enabled the girl to predict the future. They are thrown into prison, but their imprisonment turns out to be a blessing for many.
Instead of focusing on the situation, they choose to glorify God. To allow God to be in the middle of all they were encountering. In God moving through the prison, it led to salvation for the Philippian jailer. This sermon is titled ‘Hope is not lost’ because where God is there will always be hope and life. The darkness does not seem so dark and anything seems possible. I hope this will encourage us all, that God is able to move everywhere and there are blessings that can be encountered by everyone when God shows up. We are not alone, and God is moving. Allow him into every area of your life, for hope is not lost.
Firstly, Paul ad Silas chose to bring God into the darkness and the suffering of the prison. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. (16v25). It does not seem like a natural response for many of us, being imprisoned but yet praying and praising God throughout the situation.
It is a powerful testimony to the other prisoners around them, even in the hardship of their situations. These two men were choosing to not focus on themselves but were choosing to worship their God. It is an incredible response, that Paul and Silas continued to do their ministry within the prison walls. They knew the God they served. They knew God was with them as much as he was with them when they were outside ministering. Let us not imagine they were in an easy situation. They had been beaten and severely flogged before they entered the prison and then due to fear of the threat they would cause: Had been put in the inner cell with their feet fastened in the stocks.
They were not free men, but they chose to rise above their situation and focus on their God. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4v6-7). Paul and Silas set such an encouraging example of bringing their faith in God into the darkness and suffering of the prison. As they worshipped, God was moving and everyone was about to experience an incredible miracle.
Secondly, where God is moving there is freedom. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. (16v26). Chains were being loosened in a place where chains should not have been loose. A place of condemnation was becoming a place of freedom.
The other prisoners had done nothing to set themselves free. They happened to be in a place where God was moving. A miraculous event took place, and no one was left out. It does not tell you a lot about how the prisoners reacted, but it does highlight how when this took place, the prisoners remained in their cells. If we could just imagine for a moment being those prisoners. They have heard these prayers and praise coming from these two men and the next thing there was this earthquake (which would have been terrifying) and they were set free from all that was imprisoning them. It would have been crazy, overwhelming, and most likely puzzling.
May we never limit the power of God within our situations. The way that God moved shook the entire foundation. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. Ephesians 3v20
God will always do more than we could have ever imagined because our thoughts and actions are limited compared to our all-powerful God. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55v8-9). Not only was God bringing freedom, but salvation was coming too.
Thirdly, there was salvation in the brokenness. Instead of a life taken, there was a life redeemed. The key figure within this account is the jailer. We have seen the worship; we have seen God move which led to an earthquake causing the doors to open and chains to become loose. We then have the jailer who is waking up in the midst of all these events. The jailer woke, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here! (Acts 16v27-28).
Firstly, the jailer was asleep, and he probably believed that as long as everyone is securely locked up there can be no harm. Therefore, he could take it easy and probably catch a power nap. His security in his profession was about to disrupted by God moving. For he wakes up and sees the prison doors open, to see doors open would normally mean people had escaped. What the jailer had been called to do he had failed at. There was going to be repercussions from this failure; which the jailer thought could only be dealt with by taking his own life. Instead, he is met by a shout that all the prisoners were still there, and he need not harm himself.
What happens next? Does he simply make sure they are all locked up again? No, instead this happens. The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16v29-30)
The jailer was not ignorant of why the two men were in prison, the stories of their ministry and why they had been put in jail would have been made know to the jailer. For when they were put under his guard, he was told to guard them carefully and that is why they had been imprisoned so. Through all the precautions taken, everything had been opened again. All his security and dependency that he had within his job had been disrupted and stripped. There was not a steadfast foundation anymore because it has been completely shaken. The jailer had a change of heart of where he wants to put his hope and instead asks for more than the life he has known.
They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved- you and you whole household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God- he and his whole household. (Acts 16v31-34)
This whole night transformed the life of the jailer and his entire household all because Paul and Silas continued to bring God into every situation they were dealing with. The jailer was given a life in which he was redeemed. The jailer who had started the night by chaining Paul and Silas ended by washing their wounds. He invited them into his home, and they had a meal together. A man who was initially going to kill himself for having failed in his duties was met by an incomparable joy of coming to believe in the Lord. His decision did not only lead to his own life being saved but the lives found within his household. There was absolute transformation in one night due to the continuous obedience of Paul and Silas. What a powerful testimony of God’s faithfulness.
Personal application- When you bring God into your situations, God will bring transformation.
Where can I go from your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. (Psalm 139v7-8). There is truly nowhere we can go, where God cannot reach us. God is everywhere. God is not afraid of the situations we are in, for God already knows where we are but we have to be willing to let him in.
Sometimes we do not see God moving in a certain area of our life because we are shutting him out. Whether that is down to embarrassment, shame, or a lack of trust. Never believe God cannot deal with that. He knows our hearts, what we struggle with. Even looking at Paul and Silas in Acts, they were not in a great state or in any way in a pleasant place, but they knew nothing could stop them from worshipping God. Even if it were cries of pain or frustration, they knew God could deal with it.
Perspective matters in how we deal with different circumstances within our lives. There were many prisoners witnessing how Paul and Silas were reacting to their circumstance and there will be people who will watch us. It is not to put any sort of fear or pressure to respond to situations perfectly but we need to remember that our God can be worshipped in all circumstances.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour. (Isaiah 43v2-3) God will always remain faithful to his promises, we need not doubt his faithfulness. For God will be good through it all.
Just like Paul and Silas you never know how God will move within your situation when you allow him in. The blessing will never be only for you but those around you will be impacted as well. Sometimes we will not see a transformation straight away, but God is moving. We need to trust in God’s timing and in God’s way of working. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3v8-9).
Lastly, as God moves there will always be resistance and opposition because where God is the enemy no longer has power or dominion. There will be all sorts of resistance that will come against you. The apostles were well aware of this and God has also prepared us for this. In Ephesians, we are told to put on the spiritual armour of God and we must make sure every item is put in place.
Therefore put on the full armour of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6v13-18)
Do not be afraid of resistance, you are fully equipped, and God is before you and with you. God has already conquered all the works of evil through the blood of Christ. Do not fear but keep Jesus at the center of it all.
Hope is not lost within our situations when God is able to move. There will be freedom and salvation. Not by our own strength but by the will of God. God knows who is with you within that situation and who is ready to receive him, even if they do not know that yet.
I hope we can all be encouraged by this message, on how powerful and incredible our God is. God is able to move within our darkest places and able to transform them for his glory. May we never limit the power of God but allow his presence to be present within every area of our life.
May you have a blessed week. Remember you are loved and cherished. May you continuously keep growing in your relationship with the Lord. Love Victoria. xx