Jump Start # 3092
Acts 16:23-24 “And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into the prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison, and fastened their feet in the stocks.”
I went to a concert recently. This wasn’t one of our classical endeavors that we often go to. This was a rock ‘n roll show. Popular band. Packed fieldhouse. Loud. Lots of people standing, clapping, taking pictures. It was a great night. As the show ended, the band stood arm in arm on the stage and took a big bow, and as they did confetti, and long streamers fell from the ceiling. It looked like snow. Everyone was on their feet, applauding, smiling and happy to be there. It was wonderful.
This morning as I was thinking about that, our verse came to my mind. What a contrast. What a sad difference. Paul wasn’t standing on a stage, streamers falling from the sky, and the audience whistling, clapping and excited to see him. No, it was just the opposite. Our passage leads to the conversion of the Philippian jailer. It’s late in the night. We remember Paul and Silas singing hymns. There is an earthquake. The prison doors open. Everyone remains in place. The jailer, scared, attempts to take his own life. Through the words of Paul, not only is that stopped, but Jesus is preached and the jailer and his family are baptized into Christ.
What we often forget about is our verses today that lead this story. Twice these verses use the word “threw.” Paul and Silas were thrown into the prison. Later the jailer threw them into the inner prison. “Threw” doesn’t sound compassionate. It lacks the concept of gentleness. At the end of the day I might throw my car keys in a basket where we keep the keys. I throw my dirty clothes into the laundry basket. But we don’t throw the dog outside. One doesn’t throw dishes into the dishwasher. We definitely wouldn’t throw a child into his bed. Yet, Paul and Silas were thrown twice.
And, before that, they were beaten with many blows. How many? Too many! That would hurt. That would break the skin and cause bleeding. That would possibly even break a bone. Sore. Hurting. Likely bleeding. They were thrown two times into the prison and then their feet were put in stocks. That limited movement. I doubt there was a bed to lay down on. I doubt there were nurses to bandage their wounds. In fact, the jailer will later wash their wounds. Dirty. Cold. Tired. Hurting. That’s how we’d find these preachers of the Gospel.
Where was the confetti falling down? Where was the standing ovation? Where were the loud cheers? Life sure has a way of getting things backwards. What these preachers offered was much better than a few moments of singing. They offered the eternal saving message of Jesus Christ. What they offered would change lives. What they offered would better homes, hearts and the community. The cross of Jesus, a message that resulted with beatings, blood and being bound in a prison.
Some lessons for us:
First, the fanfare of life is short lived and vain. I love going to ballgames. I love concerts. But the moment passes, they become a memory and nothing much changes. God’s people have never been rock stars. There were brief moments here and there where they were popular but that never lasted. Oppressed, chased, despised, the world sees all of this as utter foolishness. Not to God. He chose that avenue for His people to travel down.
Second, we make a major mistake when we try to make Christianity popular, exciting, fun and equal to a live concert. Some mega church preachers miss this. They soften a message to sell an entertainment hungry crowd the sensation of a concert. This drives feelings more than faith. This, like the concert, doesn’t last. This produces shallow and empty Christians which with one puff from Satan, they will fall over.
We do not compete with TV, comedy clubs nor concerts. Our God is not upon the stage, but upon the Throne. Our direction is Heavenward. Thrill seeking preachers will sell their souls to get the approval and applause of the masses. They may be liked. They may be popular, but it won’t last. And, what they had to give up to get that is the saving message of Jesus Christ.
Third, the world loves darkness. It always has. The world hated Jesus. It still does. The world would rather spend an evening with rock stars than listening to the Lord. This fact is troublesome to many. Somehow they want to find a way to make the world warm up to Jesus. They are looking for a better PR platform, a new approach to the message, a new “less church” atmosphere. But all these attempts fail. The world loves darkness.
We don’t stop preaching. We don’t change the message. We don’t give up. Because in that world of darkness, some recognize the light we are manifesting. Some see something that they don’t have and something that is missing in their lives. Some will seek. Some will ask. Some will listen. Some will believe. Some will change.
Concerts are fun…listening to preaching can change one’s eternal destiny.