“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and 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 bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, ‘Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.’ And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.” Acts 16:25-34
This Philippian jailer may not have been high on society’s totem pole, but he was immeasurably valuable to Jesus. He took his job seriously, so seriously that when an earthquake released the bonds and doors on his prisoners, he readied to take his life rather than be implicated and held accountable for their escape. Paul arrested his suicide attempt by calling out, and the jailer approached this unusual man and his friend Silas, humbled and trembling.
How could these criminals care more for him and his family than for their own release? God interrupted his fear and awakened his faith, transforming, in moments, his whole life orientation. Who else could reveal true freedom through joyful songs and prayers of the shackled, could change the guard’s fear of man into fear of God, could soften hands that locked ankle stocks into those that washed wounds and served the hungry, could transfer the title of a government official to ‘chosen child of God’? Jesus sets captives, and those who lord it over captives, free! And believing in His gift of salvation brings freedom to follow Him with joy.
In what reactions, habits, mindset, am I stuck, thinking I was made this way, I’ll always be here, I can never change? What stubbornness, rights, resentment, secrets, do I guard under lock and key, afraid to release? What message of truth from others, however unwelcome or startling, might God be using to rattle open my life in a new way to Him? How willing am I for the Lord to open my heart to those I would have kept at bay, to shake off the restraints of life-long attitudes, prejudices, bitterness, fears, to transform my thinking, to stoke my faith’s fire?
Lord, may I eagerly, and willingly, and daily, respond to Your truth that sets free with passionate faith, and lavish love to others. (John 8:31-32)