“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone's chains came loose."
- Acts 16:25-26
This week definitely provided me a cruel reminder of one of the burdens of being a parent: It is painful to watch your kids suffer. Beginning last Sunday our precious five year old daughter has been battling an infection that has her feeling yucky all over. She has been tired, throwing up, and moaning due to the discomfort. As her dad, I would do almost anything to see her instantly and completely better. I have been up with her at night; I have rubbed her back; I have rocked her to sleep; I have gotten her food and water when she needed it; and most importantly I have prayed for her. In the midst of her ailment she has had one request time and time again that reminds me of the power of God. My precious baby will ask for me to sing WORSHIP SONGS to calm, comfort, and cover her. This is a profound thing for a little one to grasp the power of. It is not surprising however, as Jesus said that through little ones "praise is perfected and Psalm 32:7 declares, "You, Lord, are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance."
This past Sunday we began a new series (in our new home on Townsgate) entitled, "PIT-I-FULL". This series is addressing how we look at and deal with the pits we find ourselves in and how with the Lord's help we can be rescued out of them and established beyond them. This spring series is a great follow-up to Easter, as we continue to follow our Savior, Jesus Christ, out of the tomb and over every enemy! The above account from the book of Acts, of Paul and Silas in prison, has always been a powerful reminder in my own life of how we are to respond to our major problems with a deep, heartfelt worship of and trust in God. The picture of their imprisonment is a bleak one at best: 1) They are throw in prison despite doing no wrong (they had delivered a servant who was demon-possessed in Philippi); 2) It was the middle of the night (no LED of smartphone lights); and 3) These prisons were more like underground dungeons/pits. It is pitch-black, it is musty, and it reeked of all physical, moral, and spiritual refuse and nastiness. In the midst of being bound in chains and blinded by the darkness, the most profound thing happened. Paul and Silas begin to have a worship service and a revival ensues: a miracle takes place, people are saved, chains are broken, and prisoners are delivered. This sounds awfully similar to Jesus' announcement of His ministry in Luke 4:18-19, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
This loving service I have given to my daughter this week and this life-altering model that we have from Paul and Silas in Acts is a reminder of how important it is to allow praise to fill our hearts, fill our circumstances, fill our faith, and fill our atmosphere. One of the things that I have found about the "pits" I find myself buried, muddied, and trapped in, is that it often leaves me in a funky foul mood, where I give place to self-pity, doubt, and hopelessness. When we are in the midst of a long struggle and a fierce battle and an uphill journey it is easy to become consumed with it and jaded by it. We can all give place to a "complaining spirit" when things are not going our way. These troubles cause us to stop looking up to the Lord for help and can even cause us to be saddled with a hardened heart. The writer of Psalm 42:5 says, "Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God."
Let's learn to apply praise to our daily lives and big-time burdens. When we are sick, empty, knocked down, mistreated, and have reached our breaking point we can still focus on God's presence, we can still put praise on our lips, and we can still ask for a miracle no matter how many miles deep our current "pit" feels. Let's be like the prophet Jeremiah who says it so wonderfully in chapter 17, verse 14, "Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the One I praise."