“At midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” Acts 16:25
Paul and Silas were not visiting prisoners, they were prisoners. Without any judicial inquiry they had been beaten with rods until their backs were marked with many painful and bloody stripes. To ensure they did not escape they were placed in the inner cells. I remember visiting the high security section of a prison in South Africa. As we left I counted the locked doors, all with guards that we passed through. There were eleven! Paul and Silas may not have had so many but they were well secured. What could have justified such strong action?
Paul had wanted to go to the Roman province of Asia to preach the Gospel of Christ but was forbidden by the Holy Spirit. So he tried to go to Bithynia with the same outcome. For a man like Paul this might be a little frustrating but then the Holy Spirit directed him to Philippi where he had opportunity to preach the Gospel and see results. In the process of this a demon possessed woman followed him everywhere and was distracting his hearers from his message. He became so annoyed that, after many days and under Christ’s authority, he cast the demon out of the woman. This was a relatively insignificant distraction but it led to Paul and Silas being beaten and imprisoned.
We should not be surprised that relatively insignificant distractions may lead to significant service for Jesus Christ. Quite often these are only seen in hindsight.
Paul and Silas could have been filled with self pity or questioned whether or not they were in the will of God. Some may have thought they had been disobedient to God. Others may have asked what terrible thing they had done or maybe they just assumed Paul and Silas were workers of much evil. Instead, they were praying and singing hymns “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (cf. Acts 5:41). This is where many of Christ’s followers fall short. We are not all willing to suffer for His name. Instead we are inclined to seek the pleasures and enjoy the comforts of this world. In so doing we forsake Christ. Unlike Paul and Silas we are more likely to be concerned about our position rather than the condition of others. That they were singing hymns tells us that they were definitely not sulking or wallowing in self pity. Though beaten and imprisoned unjustly they were singing praise to God from their hearts with thanksgiving.
We ought not to be surprised that the Lord then gave these men the opportunity to lead many to Christ. There is a link between being willing to suffer for His name with leading others to faith in Jesus Christ.