By Joseph Ametepe
"But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's chains were unfastened. And when the jailer had been roused out of sleep and had seen the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Do yourself no harm, for we are all here!' And he called for lights and rushed in and, trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' And they said, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.' And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household" (Acts 16:25-34).
The above passage is a classic example of an important spiritual principle: God can and does bring much good out of evil. There was no doubt that Paul and Silas encountered evil when they went to Philippi to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ. After casting out a demon from a slave girl who brought big bucks to her owners, all hell broke loose upon God's committed messengers. They were seized. Shamelessly and senselessly dragged. Slandered. Struck with many blows. Finally, they were shut up in the most secured place in the Philippian prison. Of course, Satan was behind all these. He was opposing God's purposes and plans. He wanted to stop the spread of the life-changing Good News. His evil intention was at work behind the scenes. His wicked intention was to thwart God's work through God's workers. His devilish plan was to hinder sinners from finding freedom and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. His purpose was to continue to hold sinners in slavery to himself. His diabolical goal was to rob the people of Philippi from receiving the gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ. In fact, he wasn't pleased at all when Lydia and her household believed in the Lord and were baptized. So he doubled up his efforts against God's messengers to Philippi. His efforts "paid off". Paul and Silas are now shut up in prison. They no longer have the freedom to spread the Good News. Satan was satisfied. But God was not finished.
In fact, God permitted all the evil Paul and Silas experienced because He had a greater purpose to accomplish in the Philippian prison. He will bring much good out of the evil that is meant against His faithful messengers. I am not sure if Paul and Silas knew at that moment that God was going to do that. Whether they knew or not, they refused to hold a "pity-party" for themselves in their prison cell. Rather, they raised up their voices in a "praise-party" to the Lord. Their praises rang through the prison halls and cells. Prisoners heard for the first time believers' praise of God even in a difficult and distressing circumstance. Not long after the "praise-party" to the Lord began, God decided it was time to flex His muscles. All along, God had been patiently waiting for this moment to display His power and might to bring much good out of the evil suffered by His servants. At His command, a powerful earthquake struck. The foundations of the prison house were shaken. The earthquake was precisely measured by God to shake the prison house, not to shatter it into pieces. That is a miracle in itself. Windows were not shattered, nor the ceilings neither the doors. The doors, however, were opened. Everyone's chains came loose. It was at this point things got very interesting. The jailer woke up from his slumber. He had thought that this night was going to follow the normal routine. Lock down the prisoners. Leave nothing to chance. Loiter around for awhile and stretch his legs. Look forward to a peaceful night without incident. Lounge in his chair and doze off until morning. But this was not to be. On this night, God didn't let the jailer have a normal night of duty. This was the night God had appointed from eternity to bring the jailer and his household to salvation.
When the jailer came to the stunning realization that the prison doors were opened, he decided to commit suicide with his own sword rather than face Rome's sharp sword of execution. He knew the Roman law very well. When a prisoner escapes on one's watch, the jailer must pay with his own life. Just before the jailer took his own life based on a wrong assumption (he had wrongly assumed that all the prisoners had escaped:-by the way, most people who commit suicide do so on faulty assumptions), Paul saw the danger and shouted, "Don't harm yourself! We are all here!" Having called for lights, the jailer rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He asked Paul and Silas one of the most important questions of life. "What must I do to be saved?" Without any hesitation, Paul and Silas clearly, concisely, and convincingly showed the jailer the way of salvation. They made it clear to him that salvation is found only in Jesus Christ through simple, child-like trust in Him. Having explained the way of salvation to the jailer, God Himself went to work. He brought much good out of the evil Paul and Silas experienced by saving the jailer and his household. The jailer demonstrated the genuineness of his salvation, not only by submitting to water baptism but also by showing kindness to Paul and Silas. He washed their wounds. Brought them into his own house. Set a meal before the hungry messengers of God. I don't know what conversation took place between Paul and Silas at that "after midnight dinner." They must have looked at each other in shock. Perhaps at this point the lesson would have sank in. "Trust Me, My servants! I am the God who specializes in bringing much good out of the evil that is meant against My servants! I am in the business of turning obstacles into opportunities for My servants! Let that not escape your hearts."
That message is for us as well. Have you started out in obedience to God and have been attacked by the enemy? Are you facing obstacles in your path of duty? Do you feel like you have been "shut in prison" and can't do what God has called you to do? Are you experiencing satanic opposition in the ministry God has graciously given you? Do you feel like all hell has broken loose on you after responding to God's voice to serve His purpose? Take heart! Turn your eyes upon Jesus and praise Him! Trust Him to bring much good out of the evil you have encountered and are encountering! Take Him at His word to turn the obstacles into opportunities for you. Our God is trustworthy and He will also bring it to pass for you as He did for Paul and Silas!