Summary: We've all been accused of something we didn't do. What should we do about it? Paul and Silas show us we can worship and wait, refrain from revenge, and give glory to God.
When You’re Falsely Accused Acts 16:23-34
Have you ever been falsely accused? I’m pretty sure we all have at some point in time. It really feels bad. If you’re like me, your first impulse is to justify yourself, to assert your innocence, and if at all possible...to get revenge!
But that’s not what we see here. Things go south really quickly for Paul and Silas. We didn’t read the background story. What was their heinous crime? They put a damper on profit margins, that’s what! My father-in-law always says, “Follow the money.” If you read the background story, you see that a demon-possessed girl was following Paul and Silas around, shouting, “These people are from God! Listen to them!” Great message, yet an obnoxious delivery! She wasn’t really living up to 1 Peter 3:15, which tells us to share our faith with “gentleness and respect.” Finally, Paul had had enough, and told that despicable demon in the name of Jesus to leave the girl, which he did. When the girl acted normal, her owners realized they had lost their sideshow circus act, and brought false charges against Paul and Silas, saying they were rabble-rousers stirring up trouble in town.
Before the two of them could blink an eye, Paul and Silas found themselves not only in jail, but whipped and put in stocks. These devices were designed to hold your legs apart and produce cramping. These fellows were falsely accused to the extreme. What would they do? How would they react? Would they insist on their rights? Would they pursue litigation? Would they seek some kind of retaliation?
Well, if you look on your outline, you’ll see the first thing they did was to...
1. Worship and wait
Now that is certainly contrary to our instinctual response. Yet, that is what they chose to do. Look at verse 25: “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.”
Paul and Silas chose not to whine, but to worship. In so doing, they took their attention off their problems and shifted it to the problem solver. When life puts you on your back, look up! “Look to the mountains, whence cometh your help” (Psalm 121:1).
Now this is not easy to do, at least for me. I was driving home from work this week, pretty upset over an accusation I thought was exaggerated and untrue. And I knew I was going to be preaching on this very story, but I didn’t want to praise God. I wanted to feel sorry for myself. Yet, that didn’t really do anything except make me more upset.
When Job’s distraught wife encouraged him to curse God and die, he said to her, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10). Earlier he had said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Job praised God in good times and in bad, as did Paul and Silas. What about you? Can you choose, as an act of faith, to worship and wait, to see what God may do? Years later, Paul would write from another prison cell back to a church right here in this same city, “Rejoice in the Lord always!” (Philippians 4:4).
The New King James Study Bible notes, “It is in times of darkness that the light of a Christian witness shines brightest.” In today’s story, the other prisoners were listening in on this worship service. They were taking note. And then something amazing happened: an earthquake in which no one died, yet every jail door swung open. Back then, jail cells were locked by iron rods across the bottom of the doorway, so an earthquake could have set ajar all of these rods. And we discover in the story that God did not send the earthquake to free Paul and Silas, but to save the jailer and his family. And all because of an attitude Paul chose to have toward his tormenter. Look at point two; we worship and wait on the Lord, and we also...
2. Refrain from revenge
Verses 27 and 28 tell us, “The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, ‘Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!’”
The jailer’s first instinct was to commit suicide. Losing control of your prisoners in Roman times was a capital offense. He knew he had a painful death coming to him, so he decided to just end it quickly himself. However, when Paul gave a report of, “All present or accounted for!”, the jailer was floored. The guy he had been torturing convinced him that he wouldn’t get in trouble!