John Alan Turner

Writer, Theologian, Consultant, Speaker, Teacher

Answering Tiffany

In light of my last post, my pal Tiffany asked me: "[D]o you think Paul and Silas thought they would get out of prison that night the earthquake set them free? Or were they praising anyway, confident that even if the Romans exiled or executed them, God was still in control? I think they always assumed they knew a miracle was in effect, but that's probably just my American showing. I wonder now." Wouldn't it be great if all you had to do when you find yourself in bad circumstances was press play and the ground would shake and your chains would fall off miraculously? There are preachers out there (mostly on television) who will tell you that when you're up against something terrible, press play and God has to deliver you. Praising God puts God in your debt, and he is obligated to deliver.

That's just not true. Here's something from the story of Paul and Silas that really blows my mind: after the earthquake, all their chains fell off, but they didn't leave. And they still had their wounds. God had just shaken the ground and caused all the chains to fall off, but he didn't heal their wounds, and they didn't get up and run away.

Lesson: you don't press play to get delivered; you press play because you are delivered. Paul and Silas had already been delivered in a bigger sense than just physical. That's why they could face uncertainty with singing -- they weren't uncertain about the big story, just this particular scene.

Choosing to press play might change your circumstances -- and it might not. But choosing to press play will always change you.

Here's one more point: If Paul and Silas had thought the story was all about them, they would have run away as soon as they realized what had happened. But they knew the story is about God, and because they stayed where they were the Philippians jailer and his whole family had a chance to hear the good news about Jesus and were saved.