By Bradford C. Newton
Several years ago, Netflix developed software called Chaos Monkey. It was designed to intentionally initiate failures in the Netflix entertainment system so their squad of engineers could identify potential vulnerabilities. They were preparing for the unknown possibilities of tomorrow by strengthening their system today. You probably can join me in testifying that it feels like we are living in a chaos monkey world. So many challenges, unforeseen trials, decisions that went awry, and things we cannot control! But what matters for us is not avoiding problems.
Can we embrace a life of resilience, faith, hope, and even optimism when others around us are withering under the assault of life? I believe that God’s Word provides the answer.
That is just impossible in this sinful world of ours. What’s important is how we plan to respond. Can we embrace a life of resilience, faith, hope, and even optimism when others around us are withering under the assault of life? I believe that God’s Word provides the answer.
A favorite story of mine that brings us God’s teaching about this comes from Acts
16. It tells the amazing adventure of Paul and Silas in prison. You remember that their
preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ had provoked a riot in Philippi. So often the
presentation of the truth of Christ provokes strong reactions in hearers—however,
usually it is not a riot. The city officials proceeded to beat these two Christian
missionaries and threw them in prison. Just for good measure, the jailer locked them in the most secure cell possible and put their feet in stocks. No escape!
What do these men do? The Bible says, “Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening” (Acts 16:25, NLT). Their bleeding backs were pressed against rough, wet stone walls. Rats were scurrying over their feet. It was at this hour they decided it was time to conduct a prayer and praise meeting!
Suddenly, in the middle of their worship, there was an earthquake. I have attended church meetings that were memorable, but nothing like this. This was not some little tremor that wobbled the china for a few seconds. This was a shaking that was so intense it broke up the foundations of the prison. As the rumbling continued, the metal doors holding the inmates flew open and everyone’s chains fell off.
Have you ever been awakened by an earthquake? I can only imagine the disorientation of the jailer as he scrambled out of bed. He was yelling to his family to get to safety outside. But then he froze in his tracks as he remembered his prison security. It was destroyed. Undoubtedly, everyone had fled. He knew full well the penalty for any prisoner escaping: he would be cruelly executed for dereliction of duty. Alone in his room, he took his sword and prepared to end it all. But then he heard a voice: “Don’t do it! We are all here.”
God’s Word gives us important spiritual lessons as we live in this chaos monkey world. We can be better prepared for the uncertainties, the disappointments, and the challenges ahead by incorporating the experience of Paul and Silas into our faith journey. Here are four lessons that stand out to me.
First, I am impressed that Paul and Silas were singing and praying. This reminds me that even in the toughest times we can trust and praise God, knowing that we are in His care. I love this promise from Isaiah 40:28-2: “Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless” (NLT).
Love in action is what we as Christians need to be doing in this hurting nation. We sang a song in Sabbath School when I was a teen with these lyrics: “They will know that we are Christians by our love.”
Second, we must be aware that other people are watching how we act and react. Paul and Silas had an audience, and these were not Christian people. But something about the way these two disciples of Jesus responded to their troubles made these other prisoners act in an unexpected way—they didn’t run off into the night. Instead they stuck by the two men who were witnesses to the living Lord Jesus. We must remember that other people draw encouragement and take our lead from how we live in tough times. Quite often they mirror our faith and good actions. Ellen White makes this observation: “A kind, courteous Christian is the most powerful argument that can be produced in favor of Christianity” (Gospel Workers, p. 122).
The story now turns to the jailer, who ran to Paul, falling to his knees and asking, “What must I do to be saved?” I am thinking that he may have already known what Paul was preaching. But now, in the crisis, God is speaking to this man’s heart. Conviction moves him to action. In answer to the question, Paul makes it clear and simple: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household” (Acts 16:31, NLT).
Here is the third spiritual lesson from this story: It is not complicated! Saving faith can arrive in an instant. Paul went on to provide some further teaching, but that very evening the whole family was baptized. This throws a caution light up for us as we seek to be Christ’s witnesses. Sometimes we can make the Christian walk sound so complicated that we turn seeking people away. In this chaos monkey world, we need to share the basics of our faith first and let the Holy Spirit guide people further along the path.
The story ends with the jailer taking it upon himself to wash and dress the wounds he had inflicted upon Paul and Silas. Then he leads them to his home as his guests for supper, and they all rejoice together. The fourth lesson is that when you know God’s love, you want to help other people. This new believer wanted to make things right with Paul and Silas by doing more than just apologizing. Love in action is what we as Christians need to be doing in this hurting nation. We sang a song in Sabbath School when I was a teen with these lyrics: “They will know that we are Christians by our love.”
Each of us has our own struggles, disappointments, or sadness. But we can take courage from this amazing story by remembering that the same Jesus who led Paul and Silas that night is with us today. No matter what you are facing today, there is One who has gone before us.
In Hebrews 12:1-2 we read: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (NIV).
As we face the chaos monkey world today, God has a work for each of us. We can encourage and inspire others when things seem bleak and hopeless. Our witness of faith can bring others to meet the Master. When it seems that we are in the toughest of situations, we can remember Paul and Silas and know that the Jesus who delivered them is also here with us now.