The Prisoners Are Listening -- What Happens When We Praise God in Suffering

I had a most interesting conversation with a friend. I hadn’t seen Debra in years, and we were catching up on each other's lives. 

“How’s everything going?” I asked. 

“It’s going well,” she responded. “Steve lost his job several weeks ago.” 

Normally when someone tells me her husband has lost his job, the conversation doesn’t begin with, “It’s going well.” Like chocolate syrup on barbecue, the two just don’t normally go together. 

“I’m sorry to hear about Steve’s job,” I said, but before I could say more, she interrupted me. 

“It’s OK. I remember years ago when your husband lost his job. You’d come into Bible study, and we’d ask you how it was going. Every week you’d have a new story of how God was taking care of you.How he’d met your need that week. I know if he took care of y’all, he’ll take care of us.” 

I thought of Debra as I read Acts 16. 

Paul and Silas didn't know others were watching either. They were just faithfully living out their calling, preaching and teaching the gospel in Philippi. Many were coming to faith in Christ. When they exorcised a demon from a slave girl, however, the tide of popular opinion turned against them. 

The slave girl’s ability to foretell the future had given her masters a steady cash flow. Now it was gone. And boy were they mad. 

Hauling them before the magistrates, they levied charges against them. The officials were eager to comply—these foreigners were upsetting the balance of their city. Beating them viciously, they confined Paul and Silas to the deepest part of the jail, stretched their legs out as far as they could go, and locked them in the stocks. 

What did Paul and Silas do? Whine and complain because they were being punished for doing good? Become angry at God for not protecting them? Turn their backs on him because he wasn’t holding up his end of the bargain? 

“But at midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God . . .” 

They glorified God. Not despite their troubles, but in their troubles. 

And what happened next? 

“. . . and the prisoners were listening to them.” 

When a believer experiences a trial and continues to praise and glorify God, people take notice. They listen to what you have to say, because your suffering has earned you the right to say it. 

People expect believers to praise God when everything is going well. Why wouldn’t they? Like Satan said in Job 1:10, “Why shouldn’t Job serve you? You’ve blessed everything his hand has touched.” 

“But take your hand of blessing away,” Satan hissed, “and see if he doesn’t curse you to your face.” 

People who are prisoners, chained in hopeless captivity to the world, the flesh, and the devil, recognize true freedom when they see it. And even if they don’t appear to be watching, like my friend Debra so many years ago, they are. 

They’re listening to how you speak about God. They’re watching for the next chapter, to see what’s going to happen. And deep down inside, even though they may be skeptical or disbelieving, they’re hoping God will come through for you. 

Somehow, deep inside the jail cells of their hearts, they know that maybe, just maybe, if God rescues you, he can also rescue them. 

And that’s exactly what happened. 

“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 chains were loosed.” 

If you’re going through a trial today, be aware that others are watching you. And they can spot a fake a mile away. It’s not enough to paste on a Bible promise and a plastic smile and lie through your teeth. You’ve got to own the truth that God is in control, and he’s going to use everything in your life for your good and his glory.

 What kind of kingdom ambassador are you? If you're struggling to trust God, check out this link of 50 Promises of God. Or read through the book of Psalms, writing down every attribute of God you find. Coming face to face with God will grow your faith and build your trust.

The prisoners are listening.
And God wants to use you to help set them free.

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