“The leg does not feel the chain when the mind is in the heavens.” Tertullian.
“And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 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.” Act 16:23-26
Today we are on Acts chapter 16. In it we read where Paul and Silas were arrested, beaten and scourged for their faith and sharing of the Gospel. Being a Christian for Paul, Silas, and almost anyone else was not easy. They lived in a time of hostility towards those who proclaimed Christ. Christianity was not a comfortable practice of getting up on Sunday mornings, getting dressed in nice cloths, being greeted at a door, fixing a cup of coffee in the fellowship area, sitting in a comfortable chair for an hour, then going to get a nice lunch. There was an actual cost and commitment involved. There was an actual cross involved.
Yet as the passage in Acts 16:23-26 reveals, no matter what trials, no matter what prisons, no matter what persecution the early Christians found themselves in, they rejoiced in praise. Today I am going to let Tertullian, who was an early founder of the faith and theologian who live in 155-240 AD, speak to you in this blog. The excerpts below are taken from a Letter of his “To the Martyrs.
“Though the body is shut in, though the flesh is confined, all things are open to the spirit. In spirit, then, roam abroad; in spirit walk about, not setting before you shady paths or long colonnades, but the way which leads to God. As often as in spirit your footsteps are there, so often you will not be in bonds. The leg does not feel the chain when the mind is in the heavens. The mind compasses the whole man about, and whither it wills it carries him. But where your heart shall be, there shall be your treasure…
Grant now, O blessed, that even to Christians the prison is unpleasant; yet we were called to the warfare of the living God in our very response to the sacramental words. Well, no soldier comes out to the campaign laden with luxuries, nor does he go to action from his comfortable chamber, but from the light and narrow tent, where every kind of hardness, roughness and unpleasantness must be put up with. Even in peace soldiers endure themselves to war by toils and inconveniences— marching in arms, running over the plain, working at the ditch, and engaging in many arduous labors. The sweat of the brow is on everything, that bodies and minds may not shrink at having to pass from shade to sunshine, from sunshine to icy cold, from the robe of peace to the coat of mail, from silence to clamor, from quiet to tumult. In like manner, O blessed ones, count whatever is hard in this lot of yours as a discipline of your powers of mind and body. You are about to pass through a noble struggle, in which the living God acts the part of superintendent, in which the Holy Ghost is your trainer, in which the prize is an eternal crown of angelic essence, citizenship in the heavens, glory everlasting. Therefore your Master Jesus Christ, who has anointed you with His Spirit, and led you forth to the arena, has seen it good, before the day of conflict, to take you from a condition more pleasant in itself, and has imposed on you a harder treatment, that your strength might be the greater…
Let the spirit hold convene with the flesh about the common salvation, thinking no longer of the troubles of the prison but of the wrestle and conflict for which they are the preparation. The flesh, perhaps, will dread the merciless sword, and the lofty cross, and the rage of the wild beasts, and that punishment of the flames, of all most terrible, and all the skill of the executioner in torture. But, on the other side, let the spirit set clearly before both itself and the flesh, how these things, though exceeding painful, have yet been calmly endured by many,—and, have even been eagerly desired for the sake of fame and glory; and this not only in the case of men, but of women too, that you, O holy women, may be worthy of your sex.”
Read and pray over these Scriptures.
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-7)
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1Peter 5:6-11)
Pray over how these readings bring light and revelation to the trials and “prisons” you may find yourself in the past, present, or in the future.
Pray over ODC and your ministries that we may remain “firm in your faith” as we embrace our call to spread the gospel and make disciples.
Pray over those around the world and the “kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world”
Please share your reflections from Acts 16 in the comments box below.