Paul’s second missionary journey had been nothing short of a disaster by the time we read the account in Acts 16:25: “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (NKJV).
It began with an argument between Paul and Barnabas. Next, Paul and company walked hundreds of miles across present-day Turkey with the Spirit telling him “no” twice regarding direction. At the coastal town of Troas, he ran out of walking room.
Time for a vision, a man saying: “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” They sailed to Macedonia, but there was no man-of-the-vision; just a small group of women at the river, and a demon-possessed slave girl whom he delivered. Paul and Silas were then brutally flogged and thrown into jail. Had it been me, I would have doubted God’s sovereignty and my calling: “If this is what I get for trying to serve Jesus, forget it!”
Paul had not yet written the words: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28); but, he was living those words in the Philippi jail. If he had only felt that God works good in all things, I doubt he would have been singing at the midnight hour. His knowing that Christ is the Risen Ascended Lord was deeper than his feelings.
I was on a bus traveling from Pergamum, Greece, to Sardis, Turkey, when I laid my eyeglasses on the chair next to me in order to read a newspaper. When I put my glasses back on, the vision in my right eye was blurred. I self-diagnosed, saying to myself, “I’m having a stroke in my right eye.” I fell into depression, falsely figuring that the stroke would progress down the right side of my body and maybe even kill me.
When we reached our lunch destination, I went through the food line and sat by myself in a back dark corner. As I ate, I noticed that the friend who had sat across from me on the bus was walking toward me with a big smile. I wanted to say, “Go away.”
But she came right up to my table and said, “My husband and I were sitting across from you on the bus, and as we were getting up we noticed this underneath your seat. Is this yours?” And, she handed me the lens to my eyeglasses’ right side! I felt I was having a stroke, but I was not. What I had been feeling was not reality.
In that Philippi jail, Paul praised the Lord despite horrendous circumstances. It was the turning point of his ministry. Twelve of his 13 letters had not been written, nor had Luke-Acts been penned. Imagine the result had Paul despaired in that prison cell, blamed God and abandoned his calling. He did not let his feelings trump his knowings! What’s real is that the Lord is working for good in all things.
The greatest test in your ministry may just be the prelude to a string of unparalleled victories! Follow Paul and Silas’ example, and trust Him in every midnight hour.
- Ask the Lord to give you faith and deep knowing, like Paul and Silas.
- Pray, when a situation seems bad, for God’s wisdom and sight to keep you grounded.
- Praise the Lord, without ceasing, even when circumstances seem dire.
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