Often times when we think about the Apostle Paul we imagine him as a man of many sufferings and might not ascribe the words ‘happy’ to him but I can present to you that he was one of the most happy people in scripture. In the book of Acts 16, after he was certain that God had called him to go preach in Macedonia (v.10), he was arrested, beaten, stripped naked and put in chains in the most bottom of all prison cells. Yet, at mid-night the writer records (v.25) that he broke into praise. His praise was so contagious that those that were with him ie the other prisoners heard him (or in the original Greek text, they were ministered to). What could have moved a naked and bleeding man into praise in the darkest moment of his night except that he knew something?
His attitude in chains was so transformative that those around him in similar chains were challenged/changed into different people such that when the chains were broken and all doors opened by the earthquake, they stayed behind in the prison cells. Have you ever praised God in the midst of your crisis such that onlookers are attracted to your attitude and stay long enough around you to learn of what you know that keeps you praising? The prisoner woke up from his sleep and almost took his life but Paul interrupted that decision and said “we are all here”! They were all in prison; some were listening, some were praising, some were trying to kill themselves – which are you? Well it depends on what you know.
Paul knew that he was in the will of God. He knew that God who sent him into Macedonia was faithful enough to watch over Him there and that God was not reacting to the prison sentence and thus had made a way of escape for him. Yes, the doors were open and the chains were broken but he was free way before all of that happened!
Some of us are waiting for the doors to be open and for the chains to drop off before we praise God or before we are happy not knowing that we can be happy before the doors are open, we can praise God before the chains are broken because guess what – the doors were open before the earthquake. God had made a way out of the chains and prisons before the earthquake; this is what Paul knew. If God sent me then He has made a way out of the current mess so I can praise Him for the provision even before it comes. The psalmist says that “they believed His word and therefore they praised Him” (Ps.106:12). If you know you are in the will of God then be happy; sing a song, make some praise noise even if the prison cell and chains are too real.