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September 11, 2019

The God Hunt – A 40 Day Soul Safari, Day 17

“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!’ The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.’” Acts 16:25-31 (NIV)

When Paul and Silas began to sing the song of hope in what seemed to be a hopeless situation it caught the attention of the other prisoners.  Not only were the other prisoners listening to them, but God heard them as well, and the Bible says that God inhabits the praises of His people!  Some joke that this was the original “Jailhouse Rock!”  Whatever the case, the Bible says there was a sudden and violent earthquake, all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.  The song of hope will set you free!  It may not always change your circumstances, but it will do something even greater.  It will change you and those around you when they see the difference in your life!  I find it interesting that the prisoners didn’t seize the opportunity to escape.  They seemed to be glued to Paul and Silas.  In fact, the next few verses record a remarkable story of how contagious and powerful the song of hope really is.

“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!’ The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.’”  Acts 16:27-31 (NIV)

When the jailer woke up and realized what had happened, he knew he had failed at the one job he had – guarding prisoners who were chained and locked in a cell.  Failure can make you feel hopeless.  He realized that when it was discovered what he had done, it would mean a horrible and fatal punishment.  So, he decided to take matters into his own hands and kill himself.  Hopelessness can make you feel that way.  It can lead you to despair, especially when you’ve failed.  But with God, failure is never final!  Paul sees what the jailer is about to do, with the sword drawn to himself, and shouts “Don’t harm yourself!  We are all here!”  This jailer needed a song of hope!  Maybe you do too.  Failure can leave you feeling like you have no way out, that no one will ever love you again, or that God certainly could never use you now!  But God wanted this jailer to know the same thing He wants you and me to know when we’ve failed in life.  Don’t harm yourself!  We are all here!  The church is here for sinners like you and me.  We’ve all failed!  That’s why God sent a Savior!  We all need forgiveness because we’ve all messed up and God specializes in turning messes into life messages of hope!  Don’t harm yourself!  God is here and with God you are with hope! 

Wisely, the jailer called for the lights and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.  He saw something radically different about these men who had even caught the attention of all the other prisoners as well.  Like them, he was saying, “I don’t know what you have that could make you sing songs of hope and praise in a place like this, but whatever it is, I want what you have!”  “Sirs,” he cried, “what must I do to be saved?”  That’s the right question to ask when you feel hopeless. Paul quickly responds, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.”  That very night, this same jailer would take these men to his own home, wash and bandage the wounds on their backs, the very wounds he may have inflicted on them himself, and was baptized along with his entire household!  That’s the power of the song of hope! 

When we are connected to the source of hope, Jesus Christ, we can sing the song of hope!  What tune are you singing?  Begin to praise God in the midst of the problems of life, not for them, but for who God is and what God can do!  He is greater than any storm you or I could ever face, and His grace is greater than any sin we could ever commit!  No matter what you’ve done, no matter what anyone thinks of you, God loves you!  If you’re not dead, God’s not done!  Begin to sing the song of hope!