Prisons conjure up visions of incarceration, deprivation, and suffering. God has over the years used prisons for opportunity, challenge, amazement, prayer, praise, and ultimately salvation. God used Joseph’s prison experience to save two nations. He used Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fiery furnace, to warm the heart of a wicked King. Daniel was cuddled by a pit full of lions, his accusers eaten alive, and another King acknowledged the God of Israel.
However, the man with the most exciting prison ministry was Paul. Most prison ministries come from the outside in, but Paul worked from the inside out. Paul wrote many letters of encouragement, rebuke, and admonishment from prison. In Acts 16:25-34 Paul and Silas are in prison for healing a demon possessed girl. The imprisonment itself was illegal. Paul, being a Roman citizen, could not be given many stripes. That was against Roman law.
“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. 26 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. 27 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. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. 29 Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, 30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. 32 And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. 34 And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.” (Acts 16:25-34)
Paul and Silas did not see prison as a negative, but as an opportunity to rejoice, pray, and sing praises to the Lord Jesus. They had a captive audience in other prisoners and the keeper of the prison.
Many of us have been through earthquakes. In Paul’s day, prisons were underground. A “great earthquake” should have collapse the prison, killed all the prisoners and the keeper of the jail. It did not. In fact, it opened all the cell doors, and most miraculously, no one left. Not one. The keeper of the prison was so amazed, he asked the question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” He and the rest of the prisoners were listening to Paul and Silas testify about Jesus. Paul and Silas came into the home of the keeper of the prison, proclaimed Christ, and the rest of the family was brought to salvation.
When you are put in a bad situation for doing what is right, do you see a blessing and opportunity to serve God, or a curse and whine and complain? We need to take the negatives in life and turn them into positives. Paul and Silas did.
Go and do likewise.
Tom Stearns, WASI Chaplain, 907 715-4001