“An Unusual Jailhouse Conversion”

August 16, 2016

Loaded hay wagon at the Northwest Lancaster County Antique Tractor ExpoOld farm wagon with wispy hay.
A painter spent some extra time on those wagon wheels!

“An Unusual Jailhouse Conversion”

Message Summary: What evidence of conversion are you demonstrating today? Are you sharing it with others?

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“At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized” (Acts 16:33).

Jailhouse conversion describes those who at a low point in life make a turnaround and commit their life to Christ while in jail or prison. I see a man in my chaplaincy role who made such a decision while in state prison. It turns out the chaplain who discipled him is a friend of mine and I now have the opportunity to follow up on his care and encourage this man regularly to stay on the straight and narrow.

The testimony of Troy Haas, who became a missionary to Kenya, demonstrates a jailhouse conversion. “In the jail, another inmate ‘began to share Jesus Christ with me,’ Haas said. He obtained a copy of Chuck Colson’s book, “Born Again,” and started to read it.

On the night of Dec. 10, 1986, Haas said he awoke in the Harris County jail and realized, “I had nothing unless I gave my life to Jesus Christ.” Then he prayed, “God, I don’t know You, but from what I know about You, You are my only hope.”*

Today let us examine another jailhouse conversion, one not involving the inmate but rather the jailer!

Paul and Silas in prison PhilippiPaul and Silas had been beaten and imprisoned for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Philippi. (The full story is recorded in Acts 16:11-40.)

Yesterday we considered Peter, who under similar circumstances of imprisonment, managed to sleep before his trial. But in this story Paul and Silas didn’t go to sleep. Instead of whining about the humiliating, cruel, unjust, and  extremely painful treatment they endured from being stripped and severely flogged by the town officials, they prayed and sang hymns to God. “But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God” (Acts 16:25).

It’s fairly easy to imagine what they prayed about, assuming among their petitions was, “Lord, get us out of here!”

What hymns might they have sung during their time of capture? “Blessed Assurance” would sure fit well. Or perhaps they sang, “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow” or they encouraged each other with the old spiritual, “He’s got you and me brother in His hands…”

Or maybe Paul and Silas preferred contemporary music and sang, “Ten Thousand Reasons” This verse would sure fit well:

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore

Of course you already know none of these songs were written till many centuries after Paul and Silas lived. In fact, given the span of church history even songs we may consider very old are relatively new!

It is likely that they sang from the Psalms, a common songbook of their time. A good text for a hymn would be Psalm 4:8:

“I will lie down and sleep in peace.
For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

It seems implausible they had any written words for text so they must have memorized the passages and music. I wonder if their singing annoyed the jailer and the other prisoners? The text clearly states, “The prisoners were listening to them” (v. 26), so this wasn’t some muted singing under one’s breath so they could barely be heard. Their voices projected even at midnight. It was surely the first time this jailer had ever guarded joyful prisoners like this, for one cannot sing without stirring up joy from within! However the impromptu worship service was interrupted with a earthquake.

Philippian jailorInstead of bolting, Paul and Silas stayed around to lead the jailer to faith in Christ after his soulful query, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). Do you suppose hearing their singing and witnessing their overcoming disposition had anything to do with this?

Many of our readers have memorized the answer to the jailer’s question about salvation, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31).

Treating woundsThe daily text reveals a very touching evidence of true conversion. “At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds”. This must have been a tender scene. Their midnight song service is all the more remarkable considering their untreated wounds. May God help us to have victory even when it hurts!

Prior to his conversion, it would appear the jailer had no concern for their wounds. But afterward he “washed their wounds”, giving first aid to Paul and Silas. As he washes their wounds he is surely receiving some foundational discipleship lessons at the same time. He immediately went on to receive his Christian baptism, along with his family. What remarkable evidence of this genuine jailhouse conversion and transforming regeneration for the entire family!

The lesson for today: The jailer showed evidence immediately of his remarkable conversion to Christ.  He demonstrated the new nature by becoming a servant and showing compassion to the hurting and mistreated. He immediately submitted to Christian baptism. After this he took Paul and Silas to his home where they had a meal and rejoiced together (v. 34).  He sure had a great testimony for the church and for his future grandchildren! What evidence of conversion are you demonstrating today? Are you sharing it with others?

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying man Daily prayer: Father, there are many incredible stories of spiritual transformation throughout every generation. You work Your miraculous transforming power in our lives, whether we have lived a life of debauchery or whether we quietly lived in sin, for we have all sinned and fallen short of Your glory! Our only hope for salvation is found in the acceptance of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Whatever our story, no matter how dramatic the change or seemingly uncolorful in our own minds, our transformation to living a godly life is miraculous and serves as a witness to those around us. Prompt us to tell our transforming story often, to live a life above reproach, and to be victorious even in settings that test us, like that of Paul and Silas who lifted their voices in song and praise, during their midnight hour in prison. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Blessed Assurance”  Video  Harpeth Gospel Quartet

“I Know Who Holds Tomorrow”  Video  Gene McDonald

“He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”  Video  African Children’s Choir  This sure makes us miss our Zimbabwean neighbors who are in Africa for several weeks.

“Ten Thousand Reasons”  Video  Matt Redman This is the original version most of us are familiar with. I really do think Paul and Silas would like this song.

“10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)”  Video  Rend Collective (Acoustic) Last night as we watched the sun go down from our front porch we were discussing today’s message. I asked my family what songs they think Paul and Silas might have sung while in jail. Brooksyne, in a moment of rare carnality, suggested “Jailhouse Rock”, in remembering the earthquake that released the prisoners. Ester suggested “10,000 Reasons” by a group called Rend Collective which she heard in concert this spring. This version was recorded at “The Junction Center”, a local concert venue hosted by our more contemporary Christian radio station WJTL.

“I Will Lie Down And Sleep – Psalm 4:8”  Video  Steve Green  (This is a song Brooksyne sang often with Ester when she was a youngster.)

* Houston jailhouse conversion propels missionary to Kenya

The Opioid Rage  Here’s another great conversion testimony although I don’t know whether it is a jailhouse conversion.

Rend Collective is a group I recently came across when Ester went to the concert. They have thoughtful words and are amazing to watch. Rend Collective – Build Your Kingdom Here OFFICIAL  Video

Finally Today:

Mike's whiteboard witness
Mike, a Christian employee, uses a small whiteboard near his work area to express his faith. He changes the messages regularly and I see this is the 18th whiteboard witness I have posted here on Daily Encouragement Net. Here is the first one we posted right after we started working at his company. Many pass this spot where Mike has a great opportunity to share a word for Christ. How are you letting your light shine today?

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