20 “And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; 21 and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.” 22 Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. 23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
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 familywere 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.
35 And when it was day, the magistrates sent the officers, saying, “Let those men go.”
36 So the keeper of the prison reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Now therefore depart, and go in peace.”
37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out.”
38 And the officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans. 39 Then they came and pleaded with them and brought them out, and asked them to depart from the city. 40 So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.” Acts 16:20-40……….
I don’t know about you, but when I’m in the thick of a struggle, in the heat of a battle, going through some sort of trial, or some sort of tribulation, or find myself in the throes of an awful storm, or face the terrible hatred, meanness, nastiness, verbal abuse, rage, etc., of someone else, it’s not uncommon that I find myself so overwhelmed by the emotions of it all that I can’t seem to see past what I’m going through and I feel like I’m buried under a mountain and burden of emotions. The truth is that it can be very difficult to see past myself.
If you read the scriptures above, you will find that the apostle Paul and his buddy were horribly persecuted for preaching the Gospel. But note this. RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TRIAL, where did they look? Whom did they praise? Where was their focus? ON THE LORD! They praised and worshiped God, and through their praise, God set them free. But this is not all! They showed love, care, and kindness to their persecutor, and ended up being used by God to save their persecutor and all his family! But this is still not all. Even AFTER everything was over, and they had finally gotten a break, rather than turn to themselves, they kept going forward and ENCOURAGED OTHERS!
Where was their focus in and through it all and even afterward? ON THE LORD! AND ON OTHERS!
To be honest, I can be so self-consumed during a fiery trial that I can’t even fathom getting my focus on the Lord and on His Word and on loving, helping, and encouraging others. But that’s exactly what the Lord calls us to do, isn’t it? His greatest commands are to love Him with all our hearts and to love others, and nowhere in the Bible does it say that this is only when we want to or only when we feel like it or only when we feel good and life seems easy and comfortable. This love is to be unconditional, i.e. not conditional on our life’s circumstances.
When I’m facing struggles, and I’ve faced and continue to face them pretty regularly, it can be pretty hard, if not impossible, to believe that I have anything to give to the Lord and anything to give to others. But the Spirit of God lives inside me because I’m Christ’s follower, and God gives me all I need to love and worship and serve Him and to love and serve others in His name for His glory.
The same is true for all who follow Jesus. ALL HUMANS were created to love and worship and serve God forever and to love and serve our fellows, and those who give their lives to Christ receive all we need – the equipping – to do just that.
If you’re in the thick of a battle, or facing trials beyond measure, or find yourself in a powerful storm, etc., please don’t believe the devil’s lie that you can’t do anything and that you can’t be useful to God and others and that God has no purpose for you in the midst of what you’re going through or that you shouldn’t or can’t look past yourself.
The apostle Paul is a wonderful role model in the scriptures above in that God shows us through him exactly what we should, and in God’s love and strength, can do when we face our own battles.
LOVE THE LORD!
IN CHRIST’S NAME!
FOR GOD’S GLORY!