July 16, Sunday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provided by Cami King—now a friend of AMI—was first posted on April 10, 2016.  Cami served faithfully as a staff at several AMI churches in the past.  

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“The Suffering Witness”

Acts 16:22-30

The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” 29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

My Hebrew professor taught our class about something she called “the suffering witness.” As we studied the life of Naomi, and how Ruth managed to somehow come to faith in Yahweh even as Naomi suffered and appeared forsaken by Him, and then studied the life of Job and how he teaches us about God—not in spite of, but through his suffering—she explained that sometimes we are positioned to be a greater witness for God as we move through suffering than we are as we move through times of abundance. Sometimes, the voice of our witness carries a little further and echoes a little louder from the valley than it does from the mountaintop. 
To drive this point home, she told the story of a missionary to Burma who lived for years with the Matu tribe with not one single convert. Although he was welcomed by the tribe and did life together with them for many years, no one professed faith in Jesus. As he neared the end of His life and eventually died, another missionary arrived and, to everyone’s surprise, saw almost instant revival in the community with too many converts to keep track. When the chief of the Matu people was asked what made the difference (assuming it was something this new missionary was doing well), he explained that they were drawn to the faith by the life and witness of the first missionary. But they were unwilling to fully buy in and accept His message until they saw how he died. They were waiting to see how he died, how he moved through the greatest moment of human suffering, in order to fully evaluate the merits of his message of the gospel. And obviously he died well, because when his successor stepped on the scene, he couldn’t baptize the converts fast enough. 

When Paul and Silas were thrown in jail, Luke writes that they spent the night praying and singing hymns to God. And he notes that their response to the situation was in the hearing of the other prisoners. Not only this, but when they were freed by supernatural means, they stayed put (knowing that Roman law required guards be put to death for losing track of prisoners). Their witness in a time of suffering spoke volumes and led to the conversion of their jailer who, beholding the whole thing, was filled with awe and fear of the Lord. 
More often than not, we want alleviation of difficult circumstances so badly that we forget to worship God where we are and allow Him to use us even in suffering. But may we remember today that our suffering witness is extremely powerful in the hands of our Faithful God. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to surrender times of difficulty and suffering to You for Your glory. As the song says, “I will fall at your feet and worship you here…” in the midst of trials, in the face of suffering, as I move through difficulties, right here I choose to worship. May my suffering witness speak volumes to those around me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Numbers 24

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