Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Grace In Staying And In Going

Choose life.

"I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them." - Deuteronomy 30:19-20 ESV

God puts a strange choice in front of us. A simple choice that the world and circumstances have made complicated.

"About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 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. 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.

But Paul cried with a loud voice, 'Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.'

And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?'

And they said, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.'

And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God." - Acts 16:25-34 ESV

The same jailer that beat Paul earlier now had the tables turned on him. He was anticipating taking a beating Himself but God gave the jailer an opportunity to choose life. The jailer knew what a great hardship he and his family would face because this happened on his watch. One family was saved spiritually. They became people who believed earthquakes could work in their favor also.

Later we find out that Paul was a Roman citizen and he likely didn't use that card because Silas would have gone to jail alone. Here in Acts 22 we see proof of that...

"But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, "Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?'

When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, 'What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.'

So the tribune came and said to him, 'Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?'

And he said, 'Yes.'

The tribune answered, 'I bought this citizenship for a large sum.'

Paul said, 'But I am a citizen by birth.' " - Acts 22:25-28 ESV

Grace had taught Paul how to choose life and Silas was likely saved because of it. Silas had a man to sing songs with. Silas had fellowship and divine perspective. Then the dominoes of God's gracious plan continued to fall and the jailer was saved also.

Did God send the earthquake to save Paul or did God send Paul to save the jailer from the earthquake that would ruin the jailer's life? Maybe a combination of both but earthquakes happen when they happen. I like to think God was saving the jailer.

Are you 'taking a beating' from someone? It would be natural to rail against them for the ill treatment but just maybe God has you there so that they can be saved. Maybe it is some one else in the situation. Who knows. The earthquake (or whatever else God has planned) will free you and I in good season but grace can have us singing in our cells right now.

I'm not telling anyone to stay in abusive relationships or situations no matter what. That is not sound biblical counsel. In Acts 22 Paul sidestepped the flogging he was about to get. We are not gluttons for punishment. We are people who look for redemptive purpose and stay longer than we have to for Sila's sake and find that God can use our discomfort in far reaching ways. Meanwhile we can look for that chance to reveal Jesus to someone in it. When the redemptive purpose is gone we have no reason to stay.

Grace has taught us to choose life over comfort and that will give us opportunities to open our mouth and talk about Jesus in places where His name would otherwise not be heard. Then others can also choose life.


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