Emma Tanner

A Work in Progress

Throwing off the chains

on March 2, 2013

Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!”

The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptised. He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.

Acts 16:25-34, New Living Translation

Reading this amazing story this morning really challenged me. Paul and Silas had been arrested, stripped, publicly humiliated, severely beaten, and thrown into prison. Unlike many of us would react, however, they were not wallowing in self-pity but praising God! Their focus was not on themselves. They were not saying “Why me?” They were not giving in to fear, misery or despair, understandable as that would have been. They are focussing on God who they know is always the same no matter what is happening on earth.

And even in the midst of the chaos and confusion of their miraculous rescue, Paul has compassion for his jailer (who may well have been one of those involved in his flogging) and thinks of him before his own escape. His focus on God and other people bears fruit immediately, with the jailer and his whole family coming to faith in Jesus and welcoming Paul and Silas into their home.

I found this whole episode such an amazing illustration of the power of God, and how he can and does act in our day-to-day situations in a completely unexpected and miraculous way. So often we place limitations on our expectations and forget that nothing is impossible with God. I bet even Paul and Silas weren’t expecting an earthquake, their doors to burst open and their chains to fall off!

It is such a vivid picture of what Jesus does for each of us, too. All the things that imprison us- our sins, hurts, worries, unforgiveness- he releases us from completely by his death for us on the cross. It is very simple, like Paul and Silas said to the jailer: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” Our chains are snapped in an instant when we accept and believe what Jesus has done for us, and how much we need him. Our prison door swings open.

For many of us, however, the process of emerging from our prison cells into the light can be a slow process. We stay inside our jails where we feel secure and it is familiar, rather than walk out into the uncertainty of the light, and freedom. We all have chains that we still hold on to. We like to cling to some old sins like a security blanket, but Jesus wants to penetrate every corner of our hearts. He doesn’t want there to be any dark little corners where we can hide our sin away and nurture it. God has recently been shining a light for me on my tendency to be judgemental and critical of other people, something that I have always struggled with, but never really brought out into the open for him to deal with.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes

We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.

Romans 6:6-7, New Living Translation

We are free in Jesus- let’s walk into that freedom, and give ourselves over completely to the renewing and transforming work that the Holy Spirit longs to do in our lives.


3 responses to “Throwing off the chains

  1. I love this story too, it’s one of the reasons I think sometimes our most powerful worship is when we lift up God from a place of difficulty – it’s like we’re saying, “even in the middle of this horrible situation I will still honour you …oh and any enemies watching who might have tried to have a hand in this … you failed!”
    It’s also one of the reasons why I love playing bass guitar… I heard someone reading this story out loud a few years ago and as they read the bit about the earthquake and the doors falling off their hinges the thought popped, unbidden into my head, ‘some Angel’s playing bass guitar, REALLY loud’ Ever since then, one of my prayers is that God might grant me the privilege of playing notes that release captives into the freedom of heaven…
    I’ve already been privileged to discover that my playing reaches deaf people (http://www.mattgallagher.me/2010/08/detling-2010-tuesday/)…


    • evt77 says:

      That’s so awesome about deaf people being able to ‘feel’ your bass playing and worship Matt! One of my favourite hymns is ‘And Can it Be’, my heart sings whenever I hear the words ‘my chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed thee…’ Such power in proclaiming those words. I wanted to attach a clip of it to my blog post but as I am a technical ignoramus and only just getting used to all this it was a step too far this time…!


  2. […] Throwing off the chains (princessemmablog.wordpress.com) […]


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