Have you ever heard a testimony of someone who met Jesus while imprisoned and got radically saved? Often it seems that their transformation upon conversion is so radical that many of them start ministries while inside prison and are boldly witnessing to other inmates daily.
Months ago, I heard of a personal story of a woman like this connected to some people in my home group and found myself particularly inspired by it. It is awe-inspiring how God can use the most unfortunate circumstances for His purposes and how often the most broken and lost people are the ones who become such loud spokespersons for Jesus Christ.
This truth is very powerfully expressed in the life of the Apostle Paul and especially in the account of Paul and Silas in prison in Acts 16:16-34. A slave girl who was possessed by an evil spirit called them out for preaching the way of salvation, and after Paul cast the spirit out in Jesus’ name they were taken captive, beaten and imprisoned. Yet instead of complaining about their circumstance, when midnight rolled around they weren’t cussing and fussing. They were praising and singing hymns to the Lord! God shook the prison with an earthquake, the cell doors opened, chains were loosened and instead of just fleeing the scene, Paul was a conduit for God’s mercy extended to the guard on watch. He stopped him from killing himself and led the man to the Lord. Then even saved and baptized the guard’s entire family afterward!
God allowed the hardship and imprisonment to fall on Paul and Silas to do His will at the time, which was to extend the gift of salvation to the guard and his family. Wow, what a powerful lesson we can all learn from this account of how God’s purposes can often be revealed.
No matter what happens to us in life and how unfair or unjust our treatment may be, we should always be on the lookout for what God wants to accomplish through us in the midst of the storm. We always have a choice of how we should respond, we can complain with bitterness or we can praise God with contentment!
Have you ever considered that maybe God put you in a prison of circumstance to accomplish His purposes? Maybe the person or person’s opposing or “imprisoning” you are the ones God wants to extend mercy and forgiveness to. Maybe your antagonists are the ones God wants to save and bring into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
I know upon hearing about this account, one person in particular came to mind. God made it very clear that the “prison” I seem to be in because of this person in our interactions and relationship was to accomplish His purposes, and it reinforced the way God has been leading me to interact with them. God made it clear, He wants me to treat them the same way He treats me, with grace and compassion.
Perhaps you are in a season of hardship or challenge so the people God has placed in your life during this time can see how you endure with grace and thanksgiving to God. You have probably heard the expression “be careful how you live, you may be the only Bible some people ever read.” I pray this story will help seal this lesson into your memory and challenge you to be extra present to the purpose the Lord may have you in “prison.”
If we could see the whole picture like God can, we would always be at peace as His purposes unfold, no matter how they may look.
“’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.'” – Isaiah 55:8-9
How can you reshape your perspective on hardship and circumstances in your life to see where God is moving? Will you choose bitter complaint or contented praise?