It seems as though I am constantly hearing people talk about change. Folks usually talk about change as though it is some gradual event that we need to just ease into. Frankly, most changes that I have observed have not been gradual. The change has come as a surprise. A frightening diagnosis from the doctor, a spouse who wants a divorce, a death in the family, a child caught in the trap of sin…there is nothing for any of us to just ease into here. No time to sit back and get ready for it. One word sums it up…surprise! So rather than talk about being ready for change, I sometimes wonder if it would be better if we just said what we already know. Some difficult surprises will come into your life.
Now, how will you react to your surprises? Will you get angry, depressed, anxious, perhaps even start to question God’s faithfulness? How many of you will start singing praises to God? Maybe that one isn’t at the top of your list but let me take you to Acts chapter 16. Paul and Silas had just cast out a demon from a young girl and suddenly found themselves standing before city officials surrounded by a large crowd. Both men were beaten with wooden rods and then thrown into jail. Surprise!
The jails in this point in time were horrible places. A man by the name of Apablaza conducted a study called Conditions of Prisons in the First Century. Here are some of the things he found about prisons like the one Paul and Silas were in.
- Prisons were often packed beyond capacity resulting in unbearable heat and dehydration of prisoners.
- For security reasons the prisons had no windows often resulting in lack of air sometimes at a dangerous level.
- Most prisons had no light and the psychological impact on prisoners was tremendous.
- Prisoners were chained by their arms, legs or both. Each chain weighed about fourteen pounds and the weight would become debilitating.
- Many of the dead would be piled in a corner of the jail to be taken away at a later time.
Yet, Paul and Silas are sitting in the dark, suffering the pain of a beating, chained, and they were singing hymns to God. As they are singing God performs a miracle that ultimately releases them from prison.
What are the lessons here? Surprises are coming. Don’t ever lose hope in God. He does have a plan for you. Whatever you are facing today, trust in God and like Paul and Silas your miracle might be right around the corner.