This picture might not seem like much, but it speaks volumes. You see, that is the picture of the Philippian jail. Now the stop on a tour, this cell held captive those who opposed the law of the land—or threatened to flip the law on its head.
Insert Acts 16.
Paul, Silas, and crew were walking through the local marketplace under the constant barrage from a slave girl to the tune of “these men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved” (Acts 16:17).
Patience wearing thin, Paul turned to the girl and cast out a demon (#casual). In doing so, he ruined her owner’s side business and he wasn’t too happy about it. The whole encounter landed Paul and Silas in the above pictured slammer.
And that didn’t even rain on their parade, which is one of the things I admire most about Paul. He and his team were so surrendered to the gospel—a surrender founded on a deep trust in the Father’s heart—that they could sing in prison.
The result? Powerful witness.
As they sang, their cellmates listened, the earth shook, the prison doors slung open wide, and a suicide halted. Overnight, a household was saved and baptized. Joy filled their jailer as he came to know God. Paul and Silas encouraged the family of faith and moved on to establish beachheads for the Church across Macedonia, Greece, Asia, and beyond.
Side note: A wise friend once pointed out the potential impact of the jailer’s new life. He had a whole different sphere of influence among Roman soldiers. I can’t wait to hear more about that one day.
I tell you all this in hopes of working through some of what I’m learning about gospel surrender.
To start, it doesn’t make sense because giving up your life means actually finding it.
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” -Mark 8:34-35
I could give you my polished up “amen” sentiments on Jesus’ words, but that wouldn’t be real because surrender is hard and scary.
True, whole-hearted surrender could mean…
- Staying up late and getting up early
- Getting less and giving more
- Choosing conviction over comfort
- Living off the support of other people
- Giving up time with friends
- Staying home when you really want to go
- Making the conscious decision to live where it’s not “safe”
- Moving to a new country
- And the list goes on and on
This is the reality of surrender that has been staring me down. It’s caused a few ugly cries because regardless of what you see in me, I can guarantee you that too often I still want my Kingdom over God’s Kingdom. He and I are often at odds.
There’s a constant tension running through my bones, vying for my affections.
Because surrender isn’t commitment. It’s way more. I’m comfortable with commitment because it lets me call the shots on what I do when. Surrender beckons me to hand over the controls of my life to someone else. And though I know theologically God is a trustworthy, good Father who gives me bread not stones, true surrender tests if I’m living in that reality.
It’s been said before that God works through surrendered people. And what I see in scripture convinces me that’s true. Jesus is right. When we lose our lives for Him, we find something better—a true treasure worth our all.
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. -Matthew 13:44
And I think that’s what I see most in the empty ruins of a Philippian jail cell. Stories led by the Spirit of Jesus and legacies that have inspired millions, maybe billions, to find joy in bearing their own cross—a spiritual dichotomy that only somewhat makes sense because it’s been modeled by our own Savior’s surrender.
Stories like this are still being written in your home, across the street, and around the world. Through the surrendered, slaves are set free, captors become family, and real joy is found and passed on.
“May we claim more than just Your name
May we be Yours
May we trust more”
Of the Land