25 About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately, all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. (Acts 16:25-27)
The second thing we see in this passage of Scripture is that God shows up.
There was an earthquake powerful enough to break open the prison doors. The jailer knew that open doors meant escaped prisoners. And escaping prisoners meant death for him. He was so afraid that he was about to take his life. He was hopeless. He felt like there was no way out.
Has an earthquake in your life ever made you feel like that? Consumed with fear, helpless, and all alone? That’s what fear does to us. Fear makes us think that there’s no solution to our problem. Anxiety grips us. We think about all the bad things that could happen, and panic sets in. Then, we begin to do something that hurts us. We turn to alcohol or drugs or the subsequent sexual encounter, anything that we think will make us feel better. We want so much to get out of the chaotic moment. Anything that would numb us for just a little bit is what we gravitate towards.
Fear can also make you feel like you’re all alone. Even with a good marriage, and good friends, a good job – when fear consumes you, it seems like nobody cares, and nobody can help. This desperation is what the jailer was experiencing. A flood of fear hit him and shook him to his core. He thought the only option he had was to take his own life.
A movement of God in our life always causes us to move. You can’t stay in the same place when the doctor gives you bad news. You can’t stay in the same place when your spouse says they want a divorce. When you experience a situation that’s out of your control, you will have no choice but to move, but it’s up to you which direction you will go.
God allows earthquakes into your life so that you would turn your attention to the only One who can give you hope, and His name is Jesus. When a movement of God happens, making you feel helpless and hopeless, in what direction will you move? Will you be like the jailer and move toward giving up? Or will you move towards Jesus?
The next thing we see is that there’s a call of hope, and a cry of salvation.
28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. (Acts 16:28-34)
Just as the jailer is about to take his own life, Paul says “Don’t do it! We’re here! We’re not going to leave.” This is the call of hope. It gets the jailer’s attention.
Circumstances might fill you with fear, you might be harming yourself or running away from God. If that’s you, the “call of hope” is for you today. Jesus cries out to you through your friends, parents, and me, and this message is: Don’t hurt yourself any longer! Stop settling for the Fun Dip of life. It gets you high for a little while, but you come down hard, and it’s not good for you.
God uses the earthquakes in our lives to draw us closer to Him. The earthquakes in our lives open our ears to the gospel. Some of you have yet to learn what the jailer learned so quickly. You’re angry and upset at God for bringing the earthquake into your life. It shook you. It was painful. It changed everything. But without the earthquake, the jailer would not have heard the call of hope. It took the earthquake to open his ears to the message he needed to hear.
After you hear the call of hope, it’s up to you to decide how you will respond. The jailer dropped his sword, ran down the hallway, and fell before Paul and Silas asking, “What must I do to be saved?” This question was his cry for salvation. When you hear the message of the gospel, your response must be a cry to God, asking Him to save you.
Notice that Paul doesn’t tell the jailer that he must live a good life. Or that he needs to try harder. He doesn’t say anything about working. He doesn’t say anything outside of having faith in Jesus. He simply says, believe in the Lord, Jesus, and you’ll be saved. And if your household believes, they’ll be saved as well. Paul shares the message of hope about Jesus coming into the world to save us from our sins.
Lastly, we see the act of faith.
What is the jailer’s act of faith? He believes in the gospel, receives Jesus, and God saves him. His entire family also believes in Jesus, and God saves them too. Then, he responds with baptism. When you read the Bible, you see this teaching pattern: people receive Jesus, and then they’re baptized. Some denominations baptize babies, but we never see that in the scripture. Belief always comes first, and then baptism. Baptism is an outward symbol of an inward commitment that we’ve made. It doesn’t save us; it is a public demonstration of our faith. If you have placed your faith in Jesus, I encourage you to be baptized. No matter what situation you are in today, obedience to God’s word is necessary.
If you’re in a crisis, start with worship. Pray and wait for God to show up in some way. God will offer you hope through someone or in His Word. Next, you need to cry out to God for salvation, for help, put your faith in Jesus, and be obedient to His Word.