Here is what happened. Two men named Paul and Silas were teaching truth and helping people.
Some judges had Paul and Silas whipped, beaten, and thrown in jail. The judges ordered the jailer to guard these men with his life. The jailer put Paul and Silas in a cell in the very middle of the prison, and he even put their feet in chains!
The only thing Paul and Silas were doing was teaching. Well along the way they were met by a female slave. She earned a lot of money for her owners by telling fortunes.
She shouted, “These men serve the Most High God. They are telling you how to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became upset. Turning around, he spoke to the spirit. “In the name of Jesus Christ,” he said, “I command you to come out of her!” At that very moment the spirit left her. Acts 16:16-18
Her owners were using this slave girl as a “fortune teller.” People would pay money, and she would tell them what was going to happen in their lives. When Paul cast out the spirit, the girl could no longer tell the future. The girl’s owners were very angry that they could no longer use her to make money! They grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them to the judges. The slave owners said that Paul and Silas were causing trouble in their city. First off, nobody has a right to own anyone. So what Paul did was a good thing.
The slave owners and the judges lied about these good men, and punished them without a trial. But what we are about to see is that God had it all under control; God allowed this for a reason. God was about to take this terrible event and make it into something good.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying. They were also singing hymns to God. The other prisoners were listening to them. Acts 16:25. There, in the middle of the night, in the pitch dark, Paul and Silas sang praises to the Lord. This unusual sound caught the attention of every other person in that jail — the other prisoners, and the jailer too. They knew there was something different about these two prisoners, because they praised their God in the middle of their trouble.
They didn’t praise God because they were happy. Happy is getting a good report card or a new car. What they had was joy. Joy comes when things are right on the inside — it is the inner gladness and peace you have because you believe in Jesus. Joy doesn’t change when our circumstances change. Joy is deep down inside of us. Out of their joy, given by Jesus, Paul and Silas sang songs to the Lord.
When they were singing, suddenly there was a powerful earthquake. It shook the prison from top to bottom. The prison seemed to be falling apart at the very foundation. The prison doors flew open. Everybody’s chains came loose and clattered to the ground. The jailer woke up. He saw that the prison doors were open. He pulled out his sword and was going to kill himself. He thought the prisoners had escaped. “Don’t harm yourself!” Paul shouted. “We are all here!”
The jailer called out for some lights. He rushed in, shaking with fear. He fell down in front of Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out of the prison. He asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus.” God shook the earth on behalf of those He wanted to save! Paul and Silas did not run away. They knew that God did not cause this amazing earthquake to set them free — God sent the earthquake to set the jailer free!
Paul and Silas had been chained up physically, but the jailer was chained up spiritually. When a person puts their trust in Jesus, the chains that have kept them down are now broken! And even better, that person is now linked to Jesus.
That night, Paul and Silas had the amazing privilege of explaining to the jail keeper how to be set free. The jail keeper and his entire family trusted Jesus, and they were set free. Amazingly, God turned the entire situation around for good!
In this life we can easily get chained to things that drag us down. What sets a person free is inviting God’s earth shaking power into those situations. Invite God in and let Him give you that break you are looking for. God sets us free from everything.
Tony Werner is pastor of the Alamosa Christian Church