We’ve been looking at what Paul and Silas knew which allowed them to worship in the midst of chains, beatings and bars. Their backs were raw and bloody, they were covered with wounds, they had suffered a great injustice, but they exhibited no self-pity or resentment. I probably shouldn’t keep repeating myself, but these were men of faith, so instead of asking “Why did they sing?” we have to realize that because of their faith singing was the perfect response. Because of their faith, they were able to rejoice, despite the chains and beatings. Because of their faith they experienced Resurrection Power! And Resurrection Power can’t be stopped.
The third thing they understood in all this was that suffering—physical, mental, and emotional suffering—is absolutely necessary to Christian maturity. That will upset some of you, but it’s a reality of the Christian Live. They actually benefited by this experience. Again Paul would write to these same Philippians and say,
“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” —Philippians 1:29
Suffering is part of the program. They actually expected it because it was part of the program for the Son of God.
“Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” —Hebrews 5:8-9
We’ve all heard how the Hebrews wandered the wilderness for 40 years. And I have heard it argued that their wilderness experience wasn’t at all necessary. The argument says that the reason the people of God had to spend that time wandering around in the desert was because of their own sin, that it wasn’t God’s desire or plan.
And this is true, although, the scripture also says, “when Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine Country, although that was shorter. For God said, ‘if they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea” (Exodus 13: 17-18).
My point is that even before the people of Israel sinned and had to wander for 40 years in the wilderness, God already knew something about them. He knew that they weren’t ready to go right into the Promised Land. It has been said that it took one day for God to take Israel out of Egypt, but it took 40 years to take Egypt out of Israel.
Moses told them to remember how the Lord led them in the desert for 40 years, “to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble you and test you, to do you good in the end” (Deuteronomy 8:2-5, 16).
Clearly, God’s purpose for the wilderness journey was for training, for discipline, for instruction. God was acting as a father to provide for His people. Part of His provision was to bring His children through the wilderness.
God does indeed have a purpose and He is bringing us into the land of promise. However, when we get there, we have to be mature enough to accept the responsibilities and privileges of that inheritance. He has to lead us through a process of growth, of training, of instruction, so that we will not only be brought out of Egypt, but that Egypt would be brought out of us.
So suffering is an inescapable part of the curriculum. You will never grow up, you will never be what God wants you to be, without some form of suffering. Go ahead and argue with me, but I can prove this point throughout the Scriptures: both Old and New Testaments. When you learn to accept this principle, you will stop griping and crying about what’s going on: “Oh, everybody’s against me . . .” When you grow up and run into some suffering you will start rejoicing, like Paul and Silas rejoiced. They saw that the enemy had been defeated, that the work was established—that the Kingdom of God had benefited.
Isn’t that enough to rejoice over? Of course it is! So they began to rejoice and sing and to thank God for what they saw. And God was so excited by this that he said, “I just can’t hold still. I’m going to shake the place up a little bit!” It blesses the heart of God to see men act this way. So He opened the prison.
This was their established routine: They came to town and proclaimed the Word, they expected God to do something, and when the results began to show, they started the operation of body life—the life of the family of God. What happened after the earthquake shook things up? The jailer and his household were saved!
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Book of Acts: