Acts 16:25, “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.”
What a time to start singing! And what a time to start singing praises! If it were you or me, we would be thumping our fist against the door demanding to see a lawyer or blaming someone for our circumstances. Paul and Silas were singing praises to God when they were right in the middle of serious trouble in Philippi! Our wonderful and compassionate pastor, and co-founder of RUI, reminded us of this reference just recently during our time of sorrow. What else can we learn from Paul and Silas?
It seems they had something within them that enabled them to handle this new experience of being steadfast in the stocks in the middle of prison. When you read the epistle to the Philippians, the one word that is perhaps repeated more than any other is the word “joy,” (the word “rejoice” is from the same root word). Sixteen times in Philippians, Paul speaks of joy and here in prison we have him manifesting that joy. This brings to mind this great principle in the Christian life – the difference between happiness and joy. Everybody says they want to be happy, but happiness is defined as that which is a result of outward circumstances, a result of good things that happen.
That’s all right, as long as you can keep happy things happening; however, we all know that this is not the case, and there is not always an “even flow”. There are going to be mountains and valleys; the tide is always going to come in and go out. As Christians, we need to react to these contrasting circumstances with the same consistency. “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand,” is one way a song-writer described it.
Think of these men who are sitting with their feet in the stocks of the dungeon. Could you say that their circumstances are happy? They were not singing because they were happy, they were singing because there is something deeper in their lives and it’s that thing we call “joy”. Joy is not dependent on outward circumstances: joy is a cheerful, calm delight and rejoicing in particular circumstances. Which ones you might ask? It’s those circumstances that are difficult to understand and accept.
Are we praising God that our friend, mentor, and leader, Bro. Curington is gone? Not hardly. I do not believe Paul was thanking God for the stocks and chains and bars, but rather the relationship with the One who knew where he was at that moment. I did not see where or what God was doing with our recent and sudden loss, but I knew that He (our Father) knew right where we were each step of the way. In this, we can rejoice.
You can praise God for what He is, and for how He knows everything about you: you are God’s work and neither God nor you can fail if you recognize that. And you can praise God because you know who you are, you know He knows where you are, and you know what you can do in Him. So you praise God because of the deepness of what He’s done within you, not because of the circumstances that surround you.
Please pray for each of the following:
1. Pastor Kingsbury as he maintains, clarifies, and expands every department of Reformers Unanimous.
2. Jay and Brenda Griffin to sell their home in Ohio as they transition to Rockford in December.
3. Chris and Joy Lemke as they move back to Rockford to work in the Housing Ministry.