I’ve just returned from a two week trip to the US to speak at a few churches. Here’s a portion of my message from Acts 16
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to 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 everyone’s bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
In this passage, Paul and Silas find themselves in prison after being used by God to rescue a demon possessed girl who was being abused by evil men to make money. Here there are praising God in the middle of their mess with other prisoners watching. A good reminder for those of us who follow Jesus – people watch how we respond to our bad circumstances.
All of a sudden, God breaks in. An earthquake hits the area throwing the doors to the jail open and releasing their chains. But instead of making a run for it, Paul encourages everyone to stay put and reassures the jailer that no one has left. God broke into the situation, but it was not for the benefit of the Christians. God’s purpose was to shake up the jailer.
By staying put, Paul extends mercy to the pagan jailer – the first instance of Christians showing mercy to non-Christians in the New Testament. Even today, God continues to bring unique circumstances into peoples lives for his purposes. Our calling is to serve when God opens doors into the lives our friends, neighbors, co-workers and family. Sickness, moving house, divorce, immigration, death of a loved one, etc. can all be used by God to shake people up and provide opportunities for us to extend the mercy of God.
The Philippian jailer knew he would be held responsible for the escaped prisoners but when he hears Paul’s voice, he is overwhelmed by the mercy he has been shown. “What must I do to be saved!”, he cries. He probably knew that Paul and Silas where in jail unjustly and maybe he heard them singing praises to God. But now – mercy has been shown to him – this is too much and his heart is broken.
God opened the door to the jailer’s heart and Paul speaks right up, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
It has not been very often that we’re asked “What must I do to be saved?” But when it does happen, we must be ready with to explain the glories of the gospel. God opens hearts and we must walk through with the sweet message of God’s love and grace.
More often than not, we just hear whispers of brokenness instead of a straightforward cry for help. As we open our ears, we will hear the cry of our friend’s hearts. We live in a broken world so it doesn’t take much probing to hear the pain.
God opens doors. Our job is to walk through them. To serve and to speak.