About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. (Acts 16:25)
I have always been intrigued by this verse from Acts 16. Paul and Silas have been arrested in Philippi for speaking, and healing, in the name of Jesus. The two men have been thrown into prison, having been severely beaten and chained.
It leads me to wonder what I might do in a similar situation. First of all, would I be willing to risk imprisonment and torture for the sake of Jesus Christ? And if imprisoned, what would I spend my time doing? Knowing myself I would probably wallow in a certain amount of self-pity and spend my time considering how hard done by I was.
Not so with Paul and Silas. They spend their time in prison praying and singing hymns to God. They do not wallow in self-pity but spend their time in praise. Even past midnight they are still conducting a prayer and worship event in their cell, with the other prisoners listening in.
What enables a person to act in this way? What makes someone risk everything for the name of Jesus, and then spend time praising God when face with suffering, persecution and even death?
What made the difference for Paul and Silas is that they knew Jesus as their greatest treasure, above all else. When Jesus is your treasure, you can risk anything and everything because that treasure can never be taken away from you. You can rejoice even in the midst of extreme suffering because your treasure is secure. You can face danger when the thing you value most is never in danger.
I love this quote from John Shedd and popularised by Admiral Grace Hopper:
A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.
In fact, I have that quote on the wall of my office to remind me of this important fact: Christians are people who take risks. We are not meant to be safe in harbour, but out in the open seas of the world, sharing Jesus with those who need it, whatever the cost.
The reason Christians can take risks is because the thing we treasure the most – Jesus – can never be taken away from us. We risk all because our treasure is never at risk. Whether that’s risking our lives, as many Christians around the world do on a daily basis, or risking our status, our friendships, our reputation for standing up for Jesus, we do so. We risk everything because we risk nothing of eternal value. It even means we can rejoice as we do so, as Paul and Silas did.