It was midnight, though they could not tell what time it was where they were. Their ankles were secured and legs stretched out so that their bodies were forced to lie uncomfortably on their backs on the cold, damp prison floor. This damp floor was found in the inner prison where no natural light could find its way. The air was foul and still, reeking with the odors of the other prisoners before them, for they were cut off from fresh air as well as light. Their bodies undoubtedly still stung from the severe beating they had taken not long before their confinement.
Many men might break under these conditions if they had to endure them for very long. Their spirits would be broken. But Paul and Silas not only endured these conditions but bore under them with an amazingly supernatant attitude. Whatever sounds may have filled the prison–moaning or crying, the seeping of water from the walls and floors, or the sounds of a rat chewing in the corner–new sounds would be heard. Paul and Silas broke into these old sounds with the new and surprising sounds of prayer and praise (Acts 16:22-25).
Paul and Silas had an abiding joy that allowed them to endure such circumstances with cheer. But where does the source of that kind of joy originate? David said, “Let all those that put their trust in Thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because Thou defendest them: let them also that love Thy name be joyful in Thee” (Psalm 5:11). The one thing that the child of God knows is that God is on his side. And if God be for us, who can be against us (Rom. 8:31)? That knowledge should bring confidence, peace and joy.
God being on our side means that He has provided amply for us. We have great joy because He has provided for us the atonement (Rom. 5:11). When we know what that entails, what the cost of it was for the Lord and what the cost of it would be for us if He had not, then our hearts ought to be overwhelmed with the greatest joy, with a joy unspeakable and full of glory (I Pet. 1:6-11). The Lord, Himself, provides for us our pattern of joy in the face of trials.
The Lord faced the greatest of all trials. Not only was He despised, oppressed, rejected and afflicted, but He suffered one of the most excruciating and humiliating deaths the world has ever devised (Is. 53). He endured the cross and endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself yet He did it for the joy that was set before Him, though He despised the shame (Heb. 12:1-3). How could the Lord have joy in the face of these trials? Because He knew the Lord was at His right hand and as long as that was the case He could not be moved (Psalm 16:8,9).
No matter what we face in life, as long as the Lord is with us, or, rather, as long as we are with the Lord, we know that we will reap joy. David said even when walking through the valley of the shadow of death, we know that God is with us (Psalm 23). One set of footprints in he sand only means the Lord has carried us through. For the child of God, weeping may endure for the night, but joy is sure to come in the morning (Psalm 30:5). The promise of God is that they that sow in tears shall reap in joy (Psalm 126:5).
That is how Paul and Silas were able to face such harsh conditions with such a cheerful disposition. We may not always have the best in this life. Jesus had not a place to lay His head but He looked forward to the joy that was set before Him at the right hand of God. We, too, can take joyfully the spoiling of our goods knowing that in heaven we have a better and an enduring substance (Heb. 10:34). Therefore, we have need of patience, that after we have done the will of God, we might inherit the promises (Heb. 10:36).
As long as we serve the Lord and walk before Him in righteousness we can know joy for in His presence is the fulness of joy (Psalm 16:11). When the Lord presents us faultless before His presence it will be with great joy (Jude 24). Therefore, “count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations, knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:2-4).
Eric L. Padgett