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February 11, 2008

All Is Well!

When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he . . . threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. (Acts 16:23-26)

The apostle Paul and Silas had been doing what God called them to do: preach the gospel in hostel territory. There was very little trouble until they took authority over Satan’s mischief (Acts 16:16-21). A young woman who was possessed by an evil spirit followed them for days shouting comments about their mission and calling attention to the power they had in Christ. Have you ever noticed that the enemy does not want you to succeed? He will stop at nothing to break your train of thought, up-end the work God has given you to (do, and lock you away in feelings of discouragement, doubt, and disbelief.

Paul had had enough. He turned and commanded the demon to leave the woman. Immediately, the spirit of divination withdrew. But her owners were not happy. Their opportunity for profit was gone, and they were angry. Ruling officials arrested Paul and Silas and placed them in jail. They were not just confined. Their ankles were put in stocks, and they were taken to an inner cell to insure there would be no chance of escape. But instead of fretting and talking endlessly about their circumstances, Paul and Silas began to pray and sing songs of praise to God.

It was midnight when they were singing—the very moment of any trial that is most likely to tempt us into believing the worst. The enemy tells us that our problems are too great and our heartaches are too deep for God to solve. I remember meeting an old woman who told me how troubled her life had been. Yet, there was a glow of joy within her eyes. “I feel like singing all the time,” she said. “Any tear I cry, I wipe away because I know Jesus is a friend of mine, and I’ll praise Him all the day.”

Many times, God will give us a song to sing rather than remove our darkness. In one of his novels, Robert Louis Stevenson gives his readers a very graphic picture of peace on a stormy sea. A ship was caught up in a violent tempest and every sailor on board was paralyzed with fear. One man finally got up enough courage to go to the bridge. When he arrived, he saw the captain standing at the ship’s wheel. He looked into the eyes of the frightened sailor and smiled a reassuring smile. The man rushed back to his crewmates and said, “All is well, men. I have seen the face of the captain, and he smiled at me!”

A storm at sea, a prison of discouragement, or even a midnight dream of fear cannot change the faithfulness of God. Look up to Him, and you will see Him smiling at you.

(Taken from the online devotional book Grace in The Wilderness, and adapted from a sermon preached by Dr. R. A. Forrest in the summer of 1943, © 2008