And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice-the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Romans 12:1

Acts 16:16-36

To set up what was going on at this point in the story, the council at Jerusalem had just convened. It was a meeting between the apostles and elders of the church stating that Gentile believers would not be bound by Jewish law in order to be Christ’s followers and this was news that would change lives. It was declared that it is through the grace of Jesus that we are saved, just as we are. After coming to its decision, the church sent Paul out with a few others, including Silas, to the newly founded Gentile churches throughout Antioch, Syria and Cilicia to bring them the good news of their decision. Afterwards, Paul and Silas decided that they would go back to all the places they preached about Jesus to check on the new believers and, in turn, strengthen the churches there.

After receiving a vision of a man from Macedonia asking him for help, Paul knew that God was telling him to go there and preach the gospel. They met with some women who were gathering at places for prayer and many became believers. One woman in particular, mentioned only as a slave girl who had an evil spirit, had it removed by Paul in the name of Jesus. This led to a series of events in which Paul and Silas were stripped, beaten ruthlessly and thrown into prison. The very next thing we are told about them is that they were heard praying and singing hymns to God at about midnight, with all the other prisoners hearing them. Paul and Silas knew they were only acting in obedience to what God had told them and yet here they are suffering and in pain. Despite this, they still choose to honor God as if nothing had gone wrong. They were dedicated to living holy lives, set apart for God to use and do with as He wills. They knew that God’s ways were greater than theirs and what happens next in the story was likely not as big a surprise to them as it was for everyone else.

An earthquake shook the foundations of the prison, which caused all the doors to bust open and the chains to fall off from the prisoners’ feet. It would be easy to assume that everyone would have bolted for the exit as soon as this happened, but that is not what happened. Paul and Silas were not concerned for their own lives; they were concerned for the life of the jailer who would have rather ended his own life than deal with the consequences of having his prisoners escape. In the midst of their situation, Paul and Silas were so aligned with the heart of God that they stopped to make sure the jailer understood they had not gone anywhere. God may have been in the earthquake, but His heart to love is seen here in Paul and Silus’ concern for the jailer. Instead of running away, they spent time with him, counseling and teaching him about Jesus. The jailer’s entire family became believers of Jesus that night and were baptized. The very next morning orders came in releasing Paul and Silus from prison. Sometimes we have to choose between an opportunity to run towards what we believe is safe or do what we know God wants us to do. Worshipping God means we do what we know He wants us to do. It can take on many different forms of expression, but for Paul and Silas we see it in the way they were obedient to God’s call, dedicated to prayer and hymns despite their circumstance, and in how they loved their enemy.

Questions to think about:

1. There are always people in our lives who are watching how we live. Can you name a person who you may be having an influence on that you can be more intentional around?

2. What is something unique about who you are or how you were made that you can use to worship God?

3. What is something in your life that currently may not honor God, that you can turn around and make into an intentional act of worship?