If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years on this earth, it’s that life is messy. It would be great if every transition happened on cue and every memorable moment was clean and unadulterated. But it seems like that rarely happens. Is it only me? Judging from today’s headline news, I think not. Life is messy!
When I turn through the pages of the Bible, I’m relieved to find it was no different then. People of faith often found themselves in chaos. They did their best to follow God, pray, and meet together regularly. But still, life was complicated – even for those who followed a risen Savior! Shocker, I know.
One of the best examples of this is the apostle Paul (great name, by the way!). For someone so educated, connected and influential his journey seemed to attract complexities. Nowhere is that more evident than in his he visit to Phillipi, when he found himself incarcerated.1 That’s right. In jail. Locked up. In the poke. However you say it, Paul experienced it. Thrown in the clink, and they threw away the key.
To be fair, Paul hadn’t committed a horrendous crime. As a matter of fact, he was on a terrible string of luck at the time. He had recently severed ties with his preaching partner. 2 He had gone to great pains just to be there. In a short amount of time, messy turns unpleasant. He is seized by a mob,3 attacked,4 beaten and thrown into prison.5 Like an MMA fighter, he’s taken direct hits, and is knocked to the floor. But he’s not knocked out.
Maybe you’ve been there? Knocked down, but not knocked out. Too much month and not enough paycheck? Over committed and over worked. If you’ve ever had your back against the wall and thought you were down for the count, there’s a well-known, first century apostle who can trade stories with you. But his has a surprise ending. Stop me if you’ve heard this before…
On his first night in the dank, dark prison Paul and his accomplice are “praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.”6 We don’t know exactly what they were singing, but some believe it was an early version of “Jailhouse Rock.” (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.) Whatever it was, had a profound effect. According to one record, what happened next is almost beyond words: “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.”7 Translation: some literal ‘rock and roll’ sprang the cell doors wide open!
Up to that point, Paul’s entire trip has been a disaster. There in the penitentiary the great apostle doesn’t fall apart. He doesn’t lose his cool. He doesn’t point fingers, question himself, question God or meltdown. None of that. He sings. He’s knocked down, but not knocked out.
What’s more astounding is what Paul did after he was released. He kept planting churches and writing. His lowest moment was followed by the most productive years of his life. Had he given up, a significant chunk of the Bible would’ve never been written. And countless lives never transformed.
So, don’t sweat the messiness of life’s. Sometimes it is chaotic, crazy and downright challenging. But that doesn’t mean it’s over. Don’t throw in the towel yet. Who knows what you have left to do? It could be just one song or one prayer away? Push yourself up off the matt, rise to your feet and stand. Because you might be knocked down. But you’re a long, long way from being knocked out!
1. Acts 16:24
2. Acts 15:36-41
3. Acts 16:19
4. Acts 16:22
5. Acts 16:23-24
6. Acts 16:25, ESV
7. Acts 16:26-27, ESV