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About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
(Acts 16:16-34)
This is one of my all-time quintessential favorite passages in the Bible. It was pivotal in my discovery of who God is and what he’s called me to do.

In this passage, Paul and Silas minding their own business, going from village to village sharing the gospel. Then this girl shows up who had an evil spirit. She was a slave and fortune teller, and she kept following Paul and Silas and mocking them. She kept following them, and shouting, and finally Paul became so troubled that he cast the evil spirit out of her.

Have you ever just gotten so mad at the devil? I don’t know why it took Paul so long to cast the demon out. I wonder if that’s like us, we take so long to say, “God I need you,” instead of trying to finagle our own way.

Check out what happens next. This girl gets set free from these demonic powers and almost immediately the crowd turns on Paul and Silas. The owners of this servant girl get angry because they can no longer make any money. So, they create a huge uproar in the city, and Paul and Silas get arrested.

You would’ve thought people would be happy that people are being healed and lives are being changed. But just the opposite happens. It’s not enough that they’re thrown into jail, either; they’re stripped down, whipped, thrown into stocks and imprisoned.

We have this fallacy built into our theology that if we’re following God, good things are going to happen for us. But you look here, and exactly the opposite is happening. Paul and Silas are being obedient to God and then all-of-a-sudden they’re getting slammed.

Notice you don’t see Paul and Silas get into a big funk. They don’t get depressed that this big injustice happened to them. They go to prison and start worshiping!

Here in the United States we’re at a real disadvantage. This is what life really looks like if you’re in Iran, Iraq, China, India or any place dominated by another religion and you work in Christian ministry. That’s exactly what Christians are experiencing in these countries.

K.P. Yohannan, of Gospel for Asia, has story after story of his own people going to a village to preach, and they’re tortured and killed. It seems surreal to us here in the west, where we have rights and freedom of speech and that kind of thing. We expect a standing ovation when we do things for the Lord, but that’s just not what we see in scripture.

It doesn’t mean God’s not looking out for us. Just the opposite, in fact. Look at Paul and Silas again. They’ve been beaten, bloodied, humiliated, and thrown in jail. It’s the worst-possible scenario. Suddenly, in verse 26, an earthquake happens. It’s hard to imagine this really happening: They’re bleeding and singing, and suddenly an earthquake comes and the doors to the jail are open.

I don’t know about you, but if I was in that situation, I’d take it as a sign from Heaven that I’m getting out of here! God’s taking care of me! I’m going to tell everybody about the great miracle! But they didn’t do that. Everybody’s chains came off, the jailer woke up, and he decided to kill himself because that would be better than what happens if everybody escapes.

Paul said, “Don’t harm yourself! We’re all here!” If was Silas, I’d be like, “Shut Up! We’re about to be free!”

What’s going on in Paul’s mind? What does God have to do to prove to them that He wants them out of that jail? It looks as if Paul’s wrecking the miracle.

Bruce Olson, the author of Bruchko, went to the middle of the South American jungle to minister. He reached several villages, and then gets captured by some guerrillas. They took him captive, and no one knew where he was. No one knew what happened to him, but word got out that he was still alive, being held captive. About 10 months after he was captured, the guerrillas set him free.
I had him come to one of our Acquire The Fire events, and beforehand Bruce told me about being captured.

“Oh, it was great,” he said. “The guerrillas wanted to learn English, so I taught them from the Bible.”
I asked him about others who’d escaped. “Couldn’t you escape, too?”

“Oh no, I could’ve escaped,” he said. “But the goal wasn’t to get free. The goal was to bring the gospel to these people.”

That had to be what Paul was thinking in this situation. The goal wasn’t to get out of jail. The goal was to share the gospel. What manner of man was Paul?

The jailer cleans their wounds, brings Paul and Silas to his house, and gives them a meal. Then the jailer gives his life to the Lord and the whole house gets baptized.

Paul cared more about that guy’s soul than he did his own life. He followed God’s call to his own peril, even if it meant giving his life.

As I meditated on this story years ago, an understanding began to bubble in my heart. This guy was consumed by more than his own desires, his own comfort and well -being. Paul was consumed by the call of God on his life to do whatever it takes for the sake of a soul, the sake of a life. I’m afraid that people who are consumed by the call are so few and far between these days.

When people see men and women who are so consumed, they think we don’t belong on this earth, and maybe we don’t. They don’t realize what it is that has compelled us, consumed us, infected our hearts. It’s our love for humanity and seeing them the way God sees them.

For people who are consumed by the call, their own safety is not their biggest concern in life. Their own comfort, or how much money they make is not their biggest concern. They’ll go the extra mile. They’ll do what it takes.

People consumed by the call live like there’s something that matters more than the stuff most people live for. To put it another way, they’re not living like people consumed by the mall. They live on less so they can give more, more of themselves, more of the love that God put in our hearts.

I can’t help but think that what consumed Paul started with his dramatic encounter with Christ. That encounter, and the aftermath of it where he begins this deep relationship with Christ, swept him off his feet. This encounter with Christ was so real, it compelled him to be consumed with following Jesus.

Let us remember what we’ve been rescued from. How great is the grace of God in our lives! It’s the love of Christ that compels us to be consumed.

Copyright © Teen Mania Ministries
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Author Biography

Ron Luce
Web site: Ron Luce
Ron Luce was the co-founder and president of Teen Mania Ministries from 1986-2015. Ron and his wife Katie dreamed to raise young people who would change the world.

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