The streets of Philippi had grown quiet in the midnight hour. The blackness of night crept into every corner of the city, especially here where despondency subdued the residents. Constant groanings and clinking of chains sounded the reality of incarceration, as prisoners faced lonely hours of speculation and regret. Many awaited a sentence of deaththe comfortless night was plagued with the horror that loomed ahead and the sorrow of what could not be regained.
There was no escape. There was no hope. They were trapped, and, in the darkness, the captives could find nothing to remind them of light.
As exhausted as he was, Silas could not sleep. The air in the inner cell was stifled, and the guards had stretched his legs to a painful angle with the splintered stocks. He was having difficulty breathing, and the torment of his wounds kept him from getting much-needed sleep. Each breath brought him agony as his scourged back scraped against the unforgiving limestone. Would he or Paul live to see another day? Silas did not know.
Their offense was that they had cast a demon out of a servant girl who was telling fortunes in the marketplace. Her owners were upset over lost profits, so the magistrates had Silas and Paul disrobed, flogged, and locked away in this awful cell.
The accusations were without basis. They had received no trial. Silas and Paul were Roman citizens, which meant that they, by law, were exempt from the scourging they had received. Somehow their rights had been overlooked.
Silas and Paul were locked in the inner cell to ensure they would not escape. This chamber had been a cistern which provided water for the citizens of Philippi, but was now hollow and vacant. Stripped of his garments, dignity, strength, and freedom, no one would have blamed Silas if he had lost his hope.
Yet Silas was not defeated. He neither meditated on injustice nor despaired of his situation. Instead, within him and Paul, there welled up prayers to God. In the desolationin the face of deathfaith coursed in them. It did not matter to Silas that he was bound in this cell, because the Lord Jesus had freed him from the bondage of sin. He knew that God would deliver him, either by bringing him into the presence of Christ, or by allowing him to continue preaching the Gospel. He and Paul were confident that the Lord's plan for them was good. Like living water, their songs filled the emptiness of the inner cell.
Whether you feel trapped because of your circumstances, health, finances, or actions, you may encounter the awful gnawing of hopelessness. Your cistern of strength has run dry and has turned into a prison of despair. Just as Silas peered into the darkness and saw no light, you may see no solution to the doubts and issues that consume you.
Yet consider this: Silas was not awaiting death as the other prisoners were; he was anticipating the mighty hand of God. Through all the pain and weariness, Silas' voice was triumphant because his hope was in God.
You have a song to sing as well. Though your situation is overwhelming, God's hand is able to help you. Scripture teaches that "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. . . . He who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Hebrews 11:1, 6).
Silas and Paul lifted their voices, and a violent earthquake shook the foundation of the prison. Scripture records that not only were they freed, but they were able to lead the jailer and his entire family to the Lord. Silas was mighty in Spirit because his trust in God was unshakeable. The tenor of his witness was triumph.
Are you willing to trust Him in your circumstances? Do you believe that no problem is beyond His power? God's desire is that you would be in such a deep relationship with Him that you would never doubt His provision. As you allow faith in God to conduct the symphony of your life, you will see Him shaking the very foundations of your prisons. Will you, like Silas, lift up your voice to herald the victory which is to come?