Acts 16:22-28, 35-36, 38-39 NIV The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. 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. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.” The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city.
We often share this story, or embrace it ourselves, when we are going through difficult times as an example of being set free from whatever is troubling us through praise.
But what if the freedom that you are seeking doesn't come? What if you are not released from prison? What if you are not healed? What if you still lose your job, or your house, or your relationship? What if your praise causes you more physical or emotional pain because of the response it brings from others? Can you continue to praise?
I want to share the story of a man that I read about during my daily quiet time with God. The story was in the YouVersion reading plan, Chosen:. Remind Yourself Of The Gospel Everyday written by Author and Evangelist, Matt Brown Can you like this man remind yourself daily that “I have a bright future in Jesus Christ.”
Excerpted from Chosen:. Remind Yourself Of The Gospel Everyday
My friend Ryan shares a story of a man named Mr. Bi who was a professor at Beijing University, known as “the Harvard of China.” He made a joke in class about the Communist party to a group of students. One of those students reported his joke to the police. The next day officers burst into Mr. Bi’s office and brought him to a remote, cold Communist prison—without warning, without a trial.
He woke up that morning as a professor chairing one of the most prestigious academic positions in the world. By nightfall, he was behind bars in prison. Chinese prisons at this time were some of the worst places on earth—horrible lairs of disease, torture, and death. Mr. Bi quickly plunged into depression and despair. His depression led to thoughts of suicide over the course of weeks. One afternoon, in a cloud of sadness, he brought himself to the window of his eighth-story prison cell. The Chinese did not put windows in the higher floors of prison cells. If a prisoner decided to throw himself to his death, it was not a problem.
Mr. Bi’s heart raced as he looked out and thought of jumping. And then it happened. He heard a small voice say, “Don’t go. Don’t go. Don’t go.” He sat down in the middle of his cell, desperate.
There on the hard concrete floor, memories flooded his mind. A friend of his, a foreign professor who was a Christian, had shared the Gospel with him. Mr. Bi prayed, “Jesus, if You are real, please bring me this forgiveness and peace my friend told me You promised. In turn, I will offer my life and service to You.”
He looked up and, “The sky was never bluer, the sun was never brighter through the open hole of a window, and I had joy rise up inside of my heart like I have never felt before.”
This distinguished professor threw all his reservations away and shouted out, “I have bright future in Jesus Christ!” The guards heard him and cruelly told him to be quiet. But his joy could not be contained. He kept shouting it over and over until they came into the cell and beat him.
A person in a prison freed by believing the Gospel of Jesus is freer than any person outside of prison without the Gospel.
Mr. Bi was eventually released and started several orphanages in the interior of China, caring for the poor and leading many to Christ. He had a bright future in Jesus Christ. To this day his joy is infectious when you meet him. And he will tell you the joy he had in prison is the same he has to this day.
Every person feels at times they are in a prison of their own making—trapped by thoughts, habits, actions, and a nagging past that will not let them go.
The Gospel teaches us that the worst of all prisons is the one we make for ourselves. The cells of this prison are barred with our insecurities, with the deep awareness that something is not right inside us, that something is deeply broken. We carry this with us like chains around our necks. It is the human condition.
This will only change if something drastic happens.
The Gospel is the most drastic of measures. It’s a bloody cross. It’s the death of God Himself for our sake. It’s the utter smashing defeat of death itself in a glorious resurrection to show God’s love and power throughout all eternity.
Scripture reminds us that we must pay close attention to what we have heard, especially when it comes to the Gospel (Hebrews 2:1). The most important sermon you will ever preach is the one you preach to your own heart, daily reminding your heart, “I have a bright future in Jesus Christ.”
Hebrews 2:1 NIV We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.