The other night my reading from The Message//Remix:Solo for the day was from Acts 16. Paul and Silas had just been arrested and beaten and thrown in jail. The following reading comes that same night.
Acts 16: 25 – 34 “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. 27When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. 28But Paul shouted in a loud voice, ‘Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.’ 29The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30Then he brought them outside and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ 31They answered, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ 32They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. 34He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.”
OK, I don’t know about you, but the first thing that made an impression on me was that after a really bad day, being beaten and probably still bleeding, sore, tired, and in prison Paul and Silas are praying and singing hymns of praise at midnight! Wow, now that is faith! I would not even be finished whining about how much my wounds hurt, forget having moved on to singing hymns to God.
The interesting thing is that the notes in the devotional book focused on the fact that even after getting out of prison, Paul and Silas were somewhat unbelieving, they didn’t even leave at first. Similarly, when the guard saw that the prisoners were still there and he didn’t have to do himself in, he still didn’t really believe. When he came to believe he was baptized right away, not waiting for morning, as if it might all slip away if he didn’t shore it up with the formality. Does this happen a lot? Do we get the things for which we prayed and then fail to believe that our prayers were really answered? Do we just chalk it up to luck or even worse expect the other shoe to drop and take it away to the extent that we don’t take time to be happy about it or give thanks?
When we pray, ideally, we believe the prayer will be answered. So, if we pray for something and then it then happens we rejoice and are glad right? Our faith in God was a part of the efficacy of the prayer, so what happens then if the person gets better or we get the job and we fail to give God credit for the answered prayer? Does that lack of faith in the face of proof mean that the person gets sick again or we lose the job? Clearly not. These issues are far more complex than that.
Notice that, after an interval of suspended belief, Paul and Silas do leave the prison and that after his initial reaction to the cells being opened the jailer moves forward to caring for the men and being baptized. This seems to be the trick, move forward into belief. It is never too early, nor too late, to say thank you to God for his goodness.
photo thanks to flickr.com/photos/ben_grey/3777024332/