Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Purpose in the Prison

There is a lot on this site posted about seeing God at work in everything around us, and I think one of the cornerstones in my life was the day that He showed me that His purpose and NOT his fairness dictates the circumstances of our lives.

When God opened my eyes to this truth, not only did it set me free from bondage that I was in, it transformed the way that I view and live my life! Everywhere I read in scripture I cannot help but see "Purpose" displayed in and through the circumstances that God allows! Even in the prisons of life, His purpose stands out.

Have you ever felt stuck in a prison like circumstance? If God really loved you why would He allow you to be placed in an environment that seems to hurt you? I invite you to read on...

" And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them." ~Acts 16:25

Of course we know that this preacher Paul was at one time a religious persecutor names Saul, but God took Saul, and as only he can changed him to be a vessel of Mercy As Paul himself would refer to in ROMANS 9:23

In this passage that we have just read we find that Paul and Silas were preaching their way through Macedonia at the command of the Lord. They were in a city called Philippi.

They meet a woman by the name of Lydia, and as they wander through the city of Phillip, They are being followed by a slave girl who is possessed by a spirit. The owners of this girl use her to tell fortunes in the agora, the market, the place where everything happens from trade to political discussions and prisoners were tried. It was the very center of Roman life. 

The demon inhabiting the girl keeps mocking Paul saying he is a slave of God. Ironic, the slave pronouncing another a slave.

The Bible tells us that Paul was grieved by this girl. It grieved him to see this slave girl, enslaved by a demon as well.

There is a mob scene; Paul and Silas are beaten with rods and thrown in prison. There they are put into stocks, Roman torture devices designed to keep the body in uncomfortable or “stress” positions. There they wait and wait to come to trial.

Prison was a very bad place to be in Paul’s time.

Most Prisoners wore chains; their feet might be shackled, their hands manacled or even attached to their neck by another chain, and their movements further restricted by a chain fastened to a post. The existence of laws prohibiting chains that were too short or too restrictive indicates that jailers sometimes employed such practices. The very word ‘chains’ became a synonym for imprisonment. Some prisoners were also kept in wooden stocks, devices to restrain the feet, hands, or even the neck of an individual

Prisons often were very dark (see Isa. 42:7); the inner area of the prison mentioned in Acts 16:24 was probably without windows. Although solitary confinement was known, prisoners generally were kept grouped together, accused and condemned, men and women alike.

Prisons often had poor air circulation, a lack of hygienic facilities, rats and vermin, and food of poor quality. Unscrupulous guards might at times use the withholding of food or even outright torture to extort money from prisoners or their relatives. Although various rulers, especially in Roman Imperial times, struggled to prevent such abuses, the quality of prison life largely remained the responsibility of local officials, and conditions undoubtedly varied considerably from place to place.

“Ancient prisons provided almost nothing for prisoners. To survive, a prisoner's family or friends had to bring him food, blankets, medicine, and other necessities. Without outside help, a prisoner could easily starve or die of illness before even coming to trial.” You can understand why Jesus talks about how important it was to visit those imprisoned.


So Paul and Silas end up in prison, beaten and bloodied and chained. “Locked in the innermost cell of the jail and shackled besides, they are free to sing.”

And so they sing forth praise to God, in fact we find that Paul and Silas sing until the middle of the night.

As things on the inside of their hearts begin to move, then things around them begin to move. An earthquake shudders the foundations and unlocks everyone’s chains. Fear runs through the building and the guard who would be executed if the prisoners escape on his watch is just about to fall on his sword, saving himself an ugly death and preserving his honor when Paul calls out for him to stop. The prisoners are all still there.

Why didn’t they run? The life of their captor, probably the same one who beat them, who tortured them, was hanging in the balance.

This story holds many miracles.

We have an Earthquake
Breaking Shackles
Busting locks on the cell doors
Paul and Silas freed

But the keeper of the prisoners himself becomes free that night as well! The one who held them captive was in reality the captive. He was enslaved by the Devil

Paul and Silas stayed in prison so that this man, the jailer, could preserve his life, the same man who had brutalized them. Then this man is so changed that he opens his home and family to those he had imprisoned. He bathes them and feeds them. This is the biggest miracle of all.

Lives changed.

Prisons opened, not just the one that Paul and Silas were jailed in. Spiritual Prisons.

I kept going back to this verse 25

 "And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them."~ Acts 16:25

Paul and Silas singing while they are actually in prison.  They have just been stripped and severely beaten, and they are thrown in prison with their feet in stocks.  And in that condition, they sing to God.


I don’t know that Paul and Silas had ever had voice lessons.  I don’t know if the songs they sang were “Proper Hymnal” hymns, peppy little ditties that they learned at Church Camp, or just the same seven words sung over eleven times in a row.

I don’t know if they were just making songs up as they went.  I don’t know if it sounded like Pavarotti or like a dog in pain, but I do know that God responded with an earthquake that set them free, proving that God’s power is greater than all the chains and prisons that man can devise.

What a place for two preachers to be. I could not help but be struck by the fact of where they were at. God sent them to Macedonia, they went, and now...

 They were in Prison!!!

Throughout many of Paul’s writings we find the term Prisoner of Christ. He was in no doubt a prisoner for his Faith in Christ, he himself refers to the many times he was imprisoned (2 Cor. 6:5; 11:23) but I believe it went deeper than that.

We find he starts his ministry referring to himself as Paul and apostle of Jesus Christ, then Paul a servant of Jesus Christ, and then he finalizes his view with Paul a Prisoner of Jesus Christ.

You see the more Paul served the Lord Jesus Christ the more convinced he became, that outside of God there was nothing. To gain Christ was his goal, the high prize was his destination, and recorded in Acts 17:28 Paul States, “in him we live, in him we breathe, and in him we have our BEING!!!

Paul was wrapped up in Christ!”

Paul was more than apostle in his relationship with Christ, he was more than a volunteered servant, he was his Prisoner. He found himself a prisoner of Hope In whatever state he was in...To be thankful to God that he had been counted worthy to suffer for his name.

But here they were in a physical prison.

They did not fit in there, they did not feel comfortable there, they knew they were not "prison material anymore" they had a purpose. But so did God. There was a "PURPOSE FOR THE PRISON" if you will, they were held not only by confinements of wood and steel, but they were also held in chains of opportunity.
What was the opportunity of the Chains?

See, you and I can easily identify Paul and Silas to the extent that...

We do not fit in this world and circumstances that we go through, situations we go through...can seem like a prison at times.

Why would God allow us (Because nothing happens to us that he does not permit) to be placed in a circumstance, that seems so often like a prison? 

Here is the message, it all points back to Christ.

The chains of opportunity he wore explain the purpose of the prison.
It is not always about our benefit.

Yes, we benefit from those times, and we grow in Christ. We take a step in faith, and we draw tighter to him as walk with him...these are all benefits of the prison. However they are not the purpose of the prison, the purpose is found in Acts just five little words!

"And the prisoners heard them."

The purpose was not for Paul and Silas to see God rock the jailhouse, although they did benefit from seeing God move.

The purpose was for those who were bound with Chains of unbelief! The centurion, his family, and the prisoners throughout those cell bocks.

(The prisoners heard who they were and why they were there. Word gets around fast in a prison.) They heard the praising; they heard the singing, and the love being placed upon Christ! They openly demonstrated for the captives in sin to see that Prayer was not just a spare tire for them, it was the steering wheel!!!

You see what gave the prison a purpose was the prisoners.The shackles became the ministry.

 Christ is the Model of all we are to do and be in this life.

"Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world." ~1 John 4:17

We find in…

"Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."~ Matthew 20:28

Therefore since he came to this world not to be ministered unto, but to minister so should we. This is one of the qualities that the Lord displays in abundance through out his ministry on this earth, and the desire for us to follow that pattern is a constant message preached all through our Bible.

Why would God allow us (Because nothing happens to us that he does not permit) to be placed in a circumstance, that seems so often like a prison? 

When we begin to see the prisons that have been permitted for us to be in as a ministry opportunity then we take another step toward Christ likeness and another step closer to the Lord is another step closer to joy.



The Christian Life is not promised to be easy, in fact it is promised to be just the opposite.

"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified." ~ 1 Peter 4:12-14


 "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." ~Matthew 5:14-16

How you view the prison that has been allowed in your life will affect the freedom of the prisoners that are in that allowed prison you have been placed into.

What would the spiritual prison system do, if tomorrow you punched in ready to sing for the entire world to hear? There is a song that I have had on my heart quite a bit lately and these are the words to it.

“God wants to hear you sing, when the waves are crashing round you, when the fiery darts surround you, when despair is all you see, God wants to hear your voice when the wisest man has spoken and says your circumstance is as hopeless as can be…That’s when God wants to hear you sing.”

"And the prisoners heard them."

Climbing with you,


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