In Acts 16, Paul and Silas find themselves in the prison of pain and suffering. In that prison, they experienced the grace of God. This article will point out, by examing this passage, that God can turn pain into praise. In this podcast, we will discuss Three things to notice about this prison of pain that Paul and Silas experienced.
1. A place of discomfort
This prison of pain and suffering is a place of discomfort. Paul and Silas were in the will of God, doing what they were called to do, saying what they were called to say, but still found themselves in a place of discomfort that manifested itself in three different ways:
The discomfort of the accusations
And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour. And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. - Acts 16:16-21
These two men were being falsely accused of breaking the law. Paul and Silas had done nothing wrong. These businessmen did not care about the girl (damsel) they were just upset that these two preachers came into town and messed up their business.
When it comes to being falsely accused, Paul and Silas found themselves in good company:
- Naboth (1 Kings 21:13)
- Jesus (Matthew 26:59)
- Stephen (Acts 6:11-13)
If you find yourself in a place of being falsely accused, be encouraged that you are in good company as well. Evil men will always resort to this method because it is largely successful.
The discomfort of the arrest
And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: - Acts 16:22-23
Notice that the crowd jumped on board with the false accusers. No proof of any wrongdoing was given, and more importantly, no proof was ever requested. People love to believe the worst in people; because in most cases, it makes them feel better about themselves. People are drawn to bad news, this is why publications such as the Enquirer are so popular. People love to see the misery of others.
Paul and Silas were cast into prison. To be cast means to be driven with violence. They were not treated with dignity and respect. They were stripped of their clothes, they were beaten and thrown into prison and treated like common criminals. All of this just from attempting to be a blessing and a help to people. For showing people how that they could know that they have eternal life, for helping a young girl from being taken advantage of by corrupt businessmen. Their troubles just seemed to keep getting worse and worse.
The discomfort of their accommodations
And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. - Acts 16:23-24
Once they were delivered to the jailer, he thrust them into the inner prison. This was the place where they placed the worst of the criminals. The hole, a deep dark dungeon. They were chained in the mud, filth and human waste that was left behind by previous prisoners. All because they were faithful to their call.
Trouble is not just a possibility for Christians
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. - John 16:33Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. - 2 Timothy 3:12
Trouble is an absolute certainty for the Christian. We are told that we will suffer tribulations and persecution if we live for Christ. There will be tough times in life. Sometimes the trials and suffering will completely dominate your life. Sometimes the trials and suffering will be all that you can concern yourself with, it will dominate your location, it will dominate your feelings, it will dominate all of your surroundings. Life hurts! I know that no-one wants to hear that, let alone think about it, but it is the truth. If you are currently in a place of trials and suffering, be encouraged that there is hope.
2. A place of ministry
And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. - Acts 16:25
Paul and Silas were hurt, humiliated and in need of some encouragement. But there wasn’t anyone around to encourage them. No-one was there to pat them on the back and tell them that it would be o.k. and that this too shall pass. They knew that only the Lord could help them, only the Lord was there to give them some encouragement.
They knew that the Lord cares for them and knows how they feel:
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. - Hebrews 4:15-16
The Lord was betrayed, he was beaten and crucified. He is touched with our infirmities and he cares for us. He understands and offers encouragement in the midst of our trials and our suffering. He hears us when we call upon him (Jeremiah 33:3) and he will answer us as well (Psalms 91:15). We won’t necessarily get the answer that we want and he may not answer us in the time frame that we prefer, but he will give us an answer.
They prayed and sang praises to the Lord
When going through the tough times, it is important to remember to praise the Lord for all the blessings of life. The Lord doesn’t expect you to praise him for the trouble that you are going through, but we can praise him in spite of the trouble. We can praise him for the promises that he has made to us:
With whom my hand shall be established: mine arm also shall strengthen him. The enemy shall not exact upon him; nor the son of wickedness afflict him. And I will beat down his foes before his face, and plague them that hate him. But my faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him: and in my name shall his horn be exalted. I will set his hand also in the sea, and his right hand in the rivers. He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation. Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him. His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven. If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. - Psalms 89:21-34
If the Lord establish you:
- He will strengthen you
- He will be faithful to you
- He will be merciful to you
If we break his law:
- He will show loving kindness
- He will remain faithful
- He will not break his covenant
- He will not alter his words
The other prisoners heard them praying and praising
Paul and Silas had been beaten, thrown into the inner prison, chained in the muck and the mire, but they were not complaining. They were praising God!
Others are watching
The lost people of the world are watching. They don’t care about you when things are going well and according to plan, but when troubles come, they are all eyes and ears. They want to see if your faith is real.
But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the LORD God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: - 1 Peter 3:14-15
If you handle suffering like the rest of the world does, by whining and complaining, then they would have nothing to ask you about. If you handle suffering properly as Paul and Silas did, then they will want to know about the hope that you have which allows you to react differently than they do.
3. A place of greatness
And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. - Acts 16:26-33
How can a prison be a place of greatness? You may be in the prison of suffering to help others see that God is present in your trouble, that God is sufficient in your suffering. You may be in the prison of pain and suffering to demonstrate his great power.
Suddenly foundations were shaken
One minute things looked hopeless, and the next minute, God changed things. He set everyone free! Only trusting in the Lord will set you free. If you will allow him to, the Lord will shake the very foundations that are causing your pain and suffering.
The greatness of Gods sovereignty
Why did Paul and Silas go through all of this? Why do we go through pain and suffering? We may never know for sure, but we can see how God used their pain and suffering:
- To save the jailer and his family
And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house. - Acts 16:27-34
- To testify to the magistrates
And when it was day, the magistrates sent the serjeants, saying, Let those men go. And the keeper of the prison told this saying to Paul, The magistrates have sent to let you go: now therefore depart, and go in peace. But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out. And the serjeants told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans. And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city. - Acts 16:35-39
- To comfort the brethren and show them that God will not leave you alone in your pain and suffering
And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed. - Acts 16:40
Sometimes you never know why. Even when life does not make any sense, you can know and rest in the fact that God has a purpose for it all.
If you are in a prison experience today bring it to the Lord and allow him to turn your pain into praise.
Our hope at Irvington Bible Baptist Church is that this podcast provided some encouragement and has helped you to develop a closer relationship with the LORD Jesus Christ.