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Monday, March 20, 2006

"Others Are Listening"

"About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them" (Acts 16:25).

I had an interesting experience Saturday that illustrates the power of our day by day witness. After a trip to Michigan I stepped on the plane to return to Pennsylvania with a cup of coffee and newspaper. I couldn't figure out how I was going to sit down and buckle up holding the coffee and paper and of course had nowhere to set it down.  But the flight attendant saw my clumsy dilemma and kindly offered to help. After I was seated she handed the paper and coffee back to me and I said, "Thanks so much, you saw my need."

Daily Encouragement Net capLater she came over to me and looking at the "Daily Encouragement Net" on my cap asked me "What does that mean?"  I told her about my online ministry of encouraging people for Christ and she smiled and said, "I just wondered what you meant when you said earlier, 'You saw my need'." (I realize what she picked up on is that I had used a Christian-ese phrase without even being aware of it.) We shared together in conversation for a few minutes, as the other passengers looked on.  I had opportunity to encourage her to continue to let Christ's light shine through her helpful and joyful disposition in her work.

When do you sing praises to God?  At church in concert with the fellow redeemed, with your headphones on during a "praise walk", or on your commute to work?  The daily text records the very first instance of singing praise to God in the early church. (The disciples had joined Jesus in a hymn following the Last Supper, prior to Christ's death and resurrection).

In our text today the great apostle, Paul, and his ministry associate Silas, are in a Philippian jailhouse.  They had just been stripped and severely beaten and were awaiting further sentencing.  Yet at a time when we might picture them at best in a fitful sleep (or more likely worrying their heads off) they are praying and singing hymns to God!  The part that really intrigues me is the phrase "and the other prisoners were listening to them."  What a strange sight this must have been. 

Do you find it hard to witness?  Most of us do!  What a wonderful example we see in these faithful men. Humiliated, beaten and bloodied, they still demonstrated their faith in God by their prayers and hymns of praise even as the other prisoners looked on. Though the officials in town thought they were putting a stop to spreading the gospel message.  In actuality they provided a captive audience by throwing these preachers in jail with the very people who needed to hear the salvation message!

Regardless of whatever circumstances you are dealing with, you may witness by your dependence on God and joyful songs to Him, although some may choose to hum or whistle!  I've always assumed that the Philippian jailer was among those who had listened. (Read the rest of the story.)

Others are listening and observing your life.  How are you letting your light shine today?

Be encouraged today,

Stephen C. Weber

Brooksyne's prayer: Jesus, You've spoken to us about being filled with the Spirit speaking to ourselves with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  This heavenly language brings Scripture to our hearts and makes us one with you even in the midst of our busy schedule.  It is from the abundance of being filled with Your spirit that we overflow with blessing to others, even in the midst of hard and unfair situations in our lives. May praise and thanksgiving be the resounding theme from our hearts this day!  In Your name, Jesus, I pray.  Amen.

Note from Brooksyne:  I'm reminded of an experience I had when I was only 16 or 17 years old, growing up in Tulsa Oklahoma, when I was working at my first job as a waitress.  I went to work so I could save money for tuition to attend Bible College upon high school graduation.  The restaurant had quite a few employees who were very rough in their speech and worldly habits.  The manager was at the top of the list for swearing in just about every sentence he uttered.  But somehow God set my heart on the reason I was there and I tried to do my work as for the Lord and overlook the atmosphere in which I was exposed to daily.

The songs I enjoyed in church were always on my heart and I hummed their melody or sang under my breath their lyrics as I would clean tables, sweep floors, etc.  I had been working for nearly a year and must admit the atmosphere was starting to get to me.  I was beginning to lose the joy that I started out with. One day the manager called me aside and asked, "Brooksyne, what happened to the music you were always singing?  And your pretty smile seems to have disappeared."  What a wake-up call that was for me and also a reminder that some of the people who are watching are the ones we least expect to notice.  My song quickly returned as I worked for the restaurant for the next two years.  Only eternity will reveal any lasting impact my Christian witness was in that workplace.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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