Praising God, Broadcasting Victory
When we are beset by afflictions and adversity, we often see nothing positive in these events. Apostle Paul was a great leader because he could always find something beneficial in the worst of circumstances. He never coveted the pity of fellow Christians. Even while imprisoned, he didn't wish that anyone would feel sorry for him. From his jail cell, he wrote, "But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel" (Philippians 1:12). Rather than bemoan his own pain and suffering, he instead rejoiced in the spread of the gospel. Many sermons and songs have celebrated the night that Paul and Silas spent in a Philippi jail. However, some of the most crucial points of the story are often skipped. The two preachers were accosted for ridding a damsel of demons. They were brought before the city authorities and accused of being troublemakers. Evidently, the trial was a very public spectacle. It didn't require much persuasion for the magistrates to decide that Paul and Silas should be punished severely. As the amused crowd looked on, the two men were handled quite roughly. It is recorded in Acts 16:23, "And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely." The city fathers were sure that this treatment would curb the religious enthusiasm of the two Christian leaders. Perhaps after a night of being locked up in a cell, Paul and Silas would slink out of town. The magistrates intended to humiliate the preachers into silence. But the civic officials got more than they bargained for. The men of God did not react as predicted. Acts 16:25 states, "And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them." In the worst situation imaginable, it is possible to maintain an attitude of praise. Even in a horrible environment, it is possible to speak words of thanksgiving and gratitude. Every student of scripture knows well the outcome of the apostles' prayer meeting. The Bible says, "And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed" (Acts 16:26). This is a wonderful illustration of the power of prayer and praise. The following morning, the city magistrates sent word to the prison warden that the two incarcerated evangelists should be quietly released. Much to everyone's surprise, Paul steadfastly refused. Notice how it is recorded. "But Paul said unto them, 'They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out'" (Acts 16:37). He understood a principle at work in this story. Do not allow your victories to remain private – especially when your persecutions have been so widely publicized. The only representation of Christianity that many townsfolk of Philippi had seen was the painful treatment Paul and Silas had suffered. Paul insisted that the deliverance God had provided become just as well known. It is time for the people of God to proclaim the benefits of believing truth. This is one of the reasons praise is necessary. Many people in this world have wrong-headed notions about what it means to serve God. All they perceive about church life is what must be given up. They miss the beauty of the tabernacle because they cannot see beyond the bloody sacrifice. The only thing they observe is the price that Apostolic Christians pay. The commitment, dedication, and devotion that is necessary in the life of a saint is quite unattractive and unappealing to many sinners. They would rather find a place among the crowd of scoffers than bear the reproach of Christ. But real worshipers are the ones who are truly wise. They refuse to allow their victories to remain hidden while their trials are advertised. They are not always moaning and groaning about their troubles. They would rather discuss how God has provided for them and made a way through the seeming impossibilities of their lives. The last few chapters in Psalms are exhortations about praise. These songs list many reasons we should take the time to worship. Psalm 149 is about how powerful praise is. Praise executes judgment upon enemies and causes worldly authorities to be bound. That should make everyone want to worship. The world doesn't need to hear reluctant testimonies. When a child of God speaks, those in need of salvation should witness something more than weary clichés. Lost souls need the presence of a church that is broadcasting victory. The Psalmist recognized what it meant to give God praise. It was more than a duty or obligation. He accurately described praise when he wrote, "This honour have all his saints" (Psalm 149:9). He wanted each of us to understand what a privilege it is to be a saint and to be able to give God praise!