I climbed into the trunk of the car with a large lump in my throat and a deep, sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I knew how much I feared being confined. Being trapped. Having no control. Kids do dumb things sometimes. I partook in one of those youthful decisions when I accepted a dare to ride the 7 miles back to the campus in the trunk of a friend’s car. I was terrified! The moment I climbed into the trunk I regretted my choice, and as I watched as the door enclosed over the top of me, I completely lost all sense of hope and security. Have you ever had to have an MIR or CAT scan? Remember how small and tight the area around you was as you laid there listening to the worst noises emanating from the machines?! It is an awful feeling being confined, trapped, constricted, restricted, and having no control. But I also remember the moment my loving friends (who left me in the trunk for at least 15 minutes!) slowly lifted the door allowing me to once again taste sweet freedom. While trapped I could feel the walls enclosing in on me and the air slowly seeping away. With the freedom, I felt alive once again. Rejuvenated, liberated! There is no better feeling than being set free.
Paul was well underway in his ministry when he came to Philippi. While at Philippi in Acts 16, Paul was busy preaching the Word of God when a slave girl, possessed by a demon, happened upon the apostle and began annoying him. Paul became so incensed that he rebuked the demon and the demon departed from the girl. The freedom Paul provided to the girl would soon cause him complications in his work. The slave girl’s owners realized at that moment she was unburdened, that there was no longer any hope of profit from her. Her master took Paul and Silas and went to complain to the magistrates of the Roman controlled land. The magistrates, when they learned what Paul and Silas were teaching, became angry, and ordered that Paul and Silas be beaten with rods and thrown into the Philippian jail.
I don’t know about you, but after traveling a good way to a new place, being pestered by a demon, rebuking it, being arrested, and then beaten with rods and thrown in prison, I would have to say I completed a pretty good days’ worth of work and would have to sit back and relax. Paul and Silas obviously did not think the same way because these two heroes of the faith did not sit back and sulk in their misfortunes, but began praying and singing to God! Could you imagine the scene! Paul and Silas began praying and singing to God after being beaten with rods and thrown in jail for rebuking a demon. Their actions were a true showing of unwavering faith. These men were in a foreign jail awaiting to hear their judgments, but they did not fear their fate as they knew the Lord would protect them. As significant as this was though, the real work of God came just after the praying and singing.
“But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed” (Acts 16:25-26). The prisoners were unchained! Oh, what sweet freedom that must have been. As soon as the trunk door opened I hopped out of the car faster than I had ever moved in my entire life. I wanted out! But these prisoners did not move an inch. The account continues and explains that the Philippian jailer saw that the doors were opened to the prison and he just assumed that the prisoners had escaped. The jailer was about to fall upon his sword and commit suicide because he knew the consequence of allowing prisoners to escape; but Paul stopped him and next comes the account of more chains being loosened. This time, though, the chains were spiritual in nature.
“But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here”. Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So, they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household”. Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household” (Acts 16:28-34).
You may have noticed the picture of the chain on the front of the Mt. Zion Church of Christ website. When a close friend asked me just a few days ago what that picture meant I did not have to hesitate to answer. “It is a reminder that I am free”. Jesus Christ has died so that I can be made free. Jesus rose so that the chains holding me in the bondage of sin will be loosened! Read Romans 6. We are no longer slaves to sin “for sin shall not have dominion over you” (Romans 6:14a). We have no need to worry because God has made us more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). Oh, what sweet freedom!
Did you notice how fast the Philippian jailer and his family jumped out of the bondage of those sinful chains into the freedom of the hope in Christ? Will you jump out of your bondage and have the same sense of urgency to hand your life over to Christ who is the great liberator? Will you be UNCHAINED?!