I was at the end of my rope. The depth of fear I experienced that night was beyond description. The cold metal sword in my hand would quickly end my life. My reasoning ability saw no other solution to my problem.
It all began many days earlier when a band of travelers encountered a girl who could tell the future. Her owners made a profit from her ability to reveal secret things. She began following the travelers loudly proclaiming them to be servants of the Most High. One of the men became annoyed with her persistence and called out for the spirit to leave her in the name of Jesus Christ. The spirit came out at that moment.
Her owners soon realized she could no longer tell the future and they would not be gaining a profit from her divination. They were angry and took the travelers to the marketplace for a trial. “These men are Jews and they encourage the practice of customs which are unlawful for us Romans to observe. They are causing great confusion in our city.”
The crowd in the marketplace became enraged and joined with the accusers. The rulers ordered the men to be stripped and beaten with rods. After being beaten severely the travelers were thrown into jail.
That is when the situation became my problem. The rulers strictly charged me to keep the prisoners secured. I knew from a previous incident what that meant. Now, I am not a weak man given to paralyzing fear, but a practical man who understands the way things work with the rulers.
Popular opinion easily swayed the rulers, and the people were angry with the travelers. The prisoners were in my jail and should they escape I would receive the punishment intended for them—death.
“Have a good night at work, my husband. I have packed you plenty of food to see you through until morning.” Remembering the sound of my wife’s sweet voice served only to remind me how many lives would be changed if I failed my assignment.
I personally escorted the prisoners to the inner most dungeon where I had them shackled by their ankles. Their wounds were still bleeding, but they were not complaining. Never had I felt such peace in a group of prisoners. The other prisoners became calm too.
Once I was satisfied the prisoners were as secure as I could make them, I settled down to have my supper. My food was so good I found it difficult to save any for later. Just then a guard came to tell me that the new prisoners were singing praises to their god and the other prisoners were listening quietly. I gave him firm orders to return to his watch and be prepared for anything that might happen. If they sang all night I would not be bothered.
Sometime after that I drifted off to sleep. I was awakened abruptly to find the building shaking and stones falling around me. A deep rumbling sound alerted me to what was happening. It was an earthquake! The jail was dark as I began feeling my way toward the first barred entrance. The door was ajar.
Yelling into the darkness I ordered someone, anyone to light the torches so I could see. At last, I reached the inner dungeon and the doors were open. Nausea tightened my stomach. I snatched my sword from its scabbard and brought its point to my jugular. I could wait for a slow public execution or I could end it myself.
“Do not harm yourself. We are all here.” A voice called from the darkness with urgency.
It was the man called Paul speaking to me as if he cared I was about to kill myself. Trembling but no longer from fright, I fell before him in awe. I felt peace like I had never felt before. Joy swept through the dungeon as men sang praises to the God of Paul. Jesus became my savior and my household followed me in the faith.
This story is taken from Acts Chapter 16: 24-34. It would be easy to see only the suffering of Paul and his group, and to miss the wonderful story of salvation the jailer found at the end of his sword.
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