So, how is life treating you these days? Are you consistently happy and positive in your outlook and cheerful in your conversation?
Oh? So you do whine and complain, but very infrequently, and only when totally justified?
Take a look at two guys who had ten good reasons for complaining. Their shocking experience is recounted in Acts 16:11-40. Paul and his friend Silas recently arrived in a foreign city:
- They had done nothing wrong, nothing illegal, yet they were falsely accused,
- Yelled at by an angry crowd, probably insulted and cursed by them,
- Seized by the authorities,
- Stripped of their clothes by the arresting authorities,
- Beaten with “many stripes,”
- Thrown into prison, most likely a dungeon,
- Prison was dirty, dark, and smelly,
- Lawbreakers, likely undesirable-types were chained in the dungeon,
- Locked in the “inner prison,”
- Feet were fastened down in stocks so they could not move around.
Any of this happened to you recently? Anything even remotely similar to this happen to you at any time in your life? Do you have ten good reasons for complaining?
Well, you’d imagine as they sat there in the fetid darkness they would rehash the terrible things that happened to them. Or, perhaps they’d sit in angry silence, each blaming the other for over-reacting?
No, that’s not the case. They prayed out loud, sang praises to God and the prisoners heard them. No silent sulking, instead a lot of noisy praying and praising. Maybe even two-part harmony as they sang their favorite songs to God, perhaps praises from the book of Psalms, well known to all Jews.
When you are going through some undeserved or undesirable conditions is there another believer with whom you can pray and sing? Or, are you alone?
Someone you aren’t even aware of may be watching and listening to you. What can you do?
Back to the account of Paul and Silas. Wham! At midnight an earthquake just happens to shake the city of Philippi where they are. What an amazing coincidence! Or, does God get the credit?
Paul didn’t waste valuable time justifying himself or complaining when the head jailer arrived. He clearly answered the man’s question. No quibbling over terms or using fancy words. God had gotten everyone’s attention in a major way.
“What must I do to be saved?”
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved and your house.” Utter simplicity of truth, here. To the point, to the heart.
The jailer takes Paul and Silas to his house, tends to their wounds, then rejoicing in God’s miracle the jailer and all his household are baptized.
Baptized? Here, now? Not in church? No organ music playing softly in the background? Immersed? Perhaps the home did not have had a big enough bathtub! No matter, it was not a fancy occasion with a formalized ritual of words and prayers. It must have been very informal, yet passionate with love and joy. That done, a meal was served. Imagine that!
Some hours later Paul and Silas walk over to Lydia’s house where they briefed the believers who gathered there. “They comforted them.” Wonder who comforted whom? At any rate, Paul and Silas do not pride themselves on their part in the unexpected happy turn of events; soon they pack up and depart, going on to preach in other cities.
Paul and Silas had an actual, undeniable, vibrant relationship with the living God. They knew and experienced the very presence of God all the time.
Later imprisoned in Rome, Paul wrote a letter to these believers in Philippi. Paul exhorts them eight times in 104 verses to “rejoice in the Lord.” In Philippians 4:13, he gives this testimony: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Nineteen times in the epistles he wrote Paul urges believers to “rejoice.”
Can you list ten good reasons for complaining in your circumstances today? How ARE you dealing with problems?
Are there some things in your life that need to be confessed? Have you talked with God lately? Do you know and experience His very presence?
Are you able to clearly tell someone how to be saved from sin? Are you expecting God to provide an opportunity to share His love?
Maybe you and I need a refresher course on how to “rejoice.” When we are able to give up our complaining our joy will bless many others who need the Lord. + + +
By Elaine Hardt ©2005