Jesus Makes The Difference

Bible Book: Acts  16 : 25-34
Subject: Jesus; Service in Hardship; Faithfulness; Difference Jesus Makes

Jesus Makes The Difference

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor,

Acts 16:25-34

No matter what problem your facing today, you need to remember that Jesus makes all the difference in our lives. It is helpful for us to go back and take a look at the early Christians and the lives they lived. Sometimes we get the idea that those believers walked around with halos over their heads and pleasant smiles on their faces. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The early followers of Jesus did not have the wonderful places to meet and worship like we have today. They often had to have church services wherever they were. They met in the hovels, dusty prisons, and even in caves and tunnels under the city of Rome. They were mistreated, hated, imprisoned and executed because of their faith. Yet, they didn’t waver, whine or quit. How was it possible for them to remain so faithful? They knew that Jesus made all the difference in their lives and that is what kept them going.

Today I want us to look at Paul and Silas in a prison in Philippi, and from this to learn again the principles that can make us victorious in a sinful and difficult world.

Acts 16:25-34: (NKJV)

25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 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 chains were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” 29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

Paul and Silas were in Philippi on a missionary journey, and they were there specifically to tell people the Good News of Jesus Christ. They were arrested by the authorities, beaten across their backs with whips, taken to the lower part of the prison and placed in stocks. This was a painful, frightening and humiliating experience for these two missionaries. Around them were hardened criminals, who no doubt cursed their jailors and cursed one another. Paul and Silas were in pain, with no medicine of any kind, but at the midnight hour they began to pray, sing and praise God. This had to be the strangest thing those prisoners had ever seen or heard in their lives. The Bible tells us in Acts 16:25 that the prisoners were listening to Paul and Silas. Be assured of this, somebody is always listening to us, and the question is, “What do they hear?”

I want you to think with me about the difference Jesus made in the lives of these two Christian servants, and the change this made in the jailor who was responsible for them.

I. Jesus Gives Songs in our Dark Times

We all have what might be called “jailhouse moments,” those times when it seems that everything we are doing turns out wrong. It is sort of like a ‘house of horrors.’ Certainly that is what happened to Paul and Silas. They were simply sharing the love of Jesus and the next thing they knew they had lashes across their backs, and they were placed in stocks in the bottom of a dank, dirty prison. But, look what they did in that appalling and rotten situation. They began to sing and praise God.

Psalm 42:11: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” (NIV)

Surely that was the attitude that Paul and Silas had. Listen to me, as Christians we must talk to ourselves when we are in the hard times of life. We have to tell our soul what is necessary. Remember, your soul is your mind, emotions and will. We can’t let those elements control us. Jesus makes the difference when we allow Him to be Lord of our total being.

1 Timothy 2:8 says, “…remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead…”

When we place our thoughts on our living risen Lord, He can give us songs in the night (Job 35:10). The Psalmist wrote, “…no one cares for my soul. I cry to you, O Lord…” (Psalm 142:4).

Yes, that is what Paul and Silas did. They had songs in the night. They cried out to God and He heard them. What an amazing thing to see. Two men, beaten and scarred, bound in stocks in a dirty prison, singing at midnight.

You know, the darkness makes everything worse. When you are sick, the night time is the worst time. When you lonely, the midnight hour is so solitary and desolate to the soul. Yet, here are two disciples of Jesus praising Him at midnight.

I tell you, Jesus makes all the difference in the world, especially when the world has turned out its light on us. God will not leave us. He has given us something the world can’t take away. He is with us in the night hours.

A teacher was seeking to make the point that the moon merely reflects light to us from the sun. She asked a little boy in her class, “Now, Jimmy, which is most important, the sun or the moon?” Jimmy said, “Why, it has to the be the moon because the nighttime is when we need the light the most.” Thank God that we Christians have the light in the midday hour and midnight hour.

I believe that nothing defeats the devil like a Christian praising God when everything nailed down is coming loose. The enemy loves to tell us that God doesn’t love us. He will come to you when life is at the very darkest and whisper, “Why do you still serve God? Look where He has left you.” But, when we sing to the Lord in praise, even when we are hurting, it must sting the old slew foot devil to the very core. That is what Paul and Silas did. Are you hurting somewhere in your life today? Praise God anyway and watch what He will do!

That brings me to the second thought in this event in Paul’s life…

II. Jesus Gives Surprises in our Pain

So, Paul and Silas are singing and praying and they are doing this through their pain. Suddenly, an earthquake begins – the ground moves, the walls of the prison rumble and the prison doors swing open. The chains attached to the walls come lose. Now, be sure you understand what is happening here. Some of us would be caught in this moment and begin to complain that not only are in prison, but now it looks like the place is going to fall on us. Paul knew better. He was looking for the Lord’s hand in everything. Don’t miss this. You have to look for what God is up to in every situation you face.

The keeper of the prisoners was sleeping off and on in the night, and when he heard the earthquake and felt the earth move, he jumped to his feet. He looked and saw all the prison doors open and chains hanging loose from the walls. A Roman guard was responsible for his prisoners. If they escaped, the guard was to receive the punishment of the escaped prisoners. Not only that, but the humiliation of such a thing was untenable to a Roman. So the guard took his sword, placed it on his stomach and was prepared to thrust it up toward his heart in order that he might commit suicide. A normal person who had been beaten and placed in prison illegally might have taken some joy in seeing the guard ready to die. After all, he was likely the one who had beaten Paul and Silas. He was the one who threw them in the cell and locked them in the stocks. But, Jesus makes a difference in our lives. Paul called out to the guard, “Sir, do thyself no harm. We are all here.”

The guard dropped his sword, ran in to Paul and fell down asking, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your whole house.” Wow! What a moment.

You see, God can do some of His greatest work in our weakest moments. He is able to show Himself mighty in power and great in love when it appears that He has left us to our own devices.

Think for a moment, have you ever seen God surprise you with an answer when you least expected it? Has He come through for you or your family when you could not see another step? He has done that for me, for my wife and our family many times. He does some of His greatest work in our greatest weaknesses.

Paul and Silas got an answer to their situation quickly, but it doesn’t always work like that. Sometimes it takes weeks, months or even years for us to see what God is up to. In fact, I think in some cases we will only see in eternity what God was doing in our sorrows. But, you can be sure of this – God has surprises up His sleeve. His arm is not shortened that He cannot save. He makes all the difference when you are hurting in the midnight hour.

God has surprises that will glitter like the sun in the sky for all who will trust Him. Especially when we trust Him at midnight in our lives.

Now, let me share another difference Jesus makes in life…

III. Jesus Gives Souls in our Witness

The last thing Paul and Silas likely thought might happen that night in the prison was that the guard who beat them and locked them in the stocks would become a Christian before sunrise the next day. Let me tell you something very important, your witness to God’s goodness and love leads others to discover the salvation you have in Christ. Nothing draws people to Jesus like a Christian who is living his or her faith in the darkest hours.

You need to know what the Greco-Roman world was like when Paul and Silas were there. It was a place of incredible beauty and intelligence. The greatest minds in the world were there.

Architecture – the Parthenon, the Colosseum, the Roman aqueducts were marvels of unprecedented engineering in their day.

Literature – the writings of Homer, the Greek dramas, and the Greek poets were marvels of literature and still are to this very day. Just reading some of the Greek poets who lived 200 years before Christ can amaze your heart and mind.

Government – the government system in Rome was incredible and led to the strongest nation of the face of the earth at that time. Like America today, Rome was unrivaled in its system of government.

Military – the Roman military was the mightiest in all the earth. Nations and armies fell before them like dominoes.

Art – the Greeks were master’s in art and sculpture. The Romans copied them and they too became masters of art.

Philosophy – why, 300 years before Christ came to the earth some of the greatest minds on earth produced philosophical ideas that are still debated in modern times. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are among the best-known philosophers but many more of significance lived in those lands.

But, Rome and Greece were also among the most wicked and evil empires that ever existed on the face of the earth. Did you know that in Paul’s day not a single hospital existed in the ancient world? Not one that we read about. If you were sick, you did the best you could. Read about people in Israel who were sick – what did they do? They begged on the streets. When Jesus came to Pools at Bethesda, he found sick people all over the place. One man had been there 38 years. Imagine that – 38 years! Why was that sick man there? There was no place for him to go. No hospital where he could find care for his body.

There were no asylums for the mentally challenged. You remember the man in Gadara who was running among the tombs and cutting with himself with stones. Why was he there? There was no place for him to go. No asylums were built to care for people like him. People just threw them out of their cities and hoped they would not come back.

There were no orphanages for children. Did you know that a Roman law gave the father of a child the right to expose the child? That means that the father could take the child out into the woods or wilderness and just leave the child to die. He could leave the child to be eaten by wolves, lions or wild dogs. Sometimes the children would be found by malicious, malevolent people who would break the child’s legs and deform them. Then they would take the child to a city and sit the child on the street to beg. The twisted legs of the child would garner sympathy and coins would be dropped into a pottery bowl. The adults would take the money and practically starve the child in the process.

That was the world Paul and Silas ministered to. Yet, in the midst of that world, God was at work bringing people to faith in His Son. That very night when Paul and Silas were in the prison, God was saving a tough, rough Roman soldier who was a guard of prisoners.

Hear me well. Christians created the first hospitals, children’s homes, public schools for the poor, asylums for the mentally challenged and even cared for their enemies. That is what Paul and Silas did that night in the prison. They cared about the man who was their enemy. That is the spirit of Jesus in His people.

You think it is hard to witness today? Think of that situation Paul and Silas were facing. Yet, God gave them souls for their labor. Never stop praying, attending your church services, giving God’s tithes and your offerings, for God is still saving people. You never know what your word about Jesus will do to bring someone to salvation. You never know what your offering will do to help some missionary like Paul or Silas to witness in a rough and tough foreign land for Christ.

Now, let me hurry up and finish before our time runs out this morning…

IV. Jesus Gives Service in our Salvation

What do I mean by this? I mean that Jesus grants every believer the chance to be of service and to have a heavenly, divine purpose, no matter where we are are or what people are doing to us. No matter who you are, what your skills are, where you are from, when you come to Jesus you are a servant of the most high God.

Look at this guard who was saved. What did he do after he was saved? What did he do the moment he was saved? He served! He took Paul and Silas and washed their backs. He took water and perhaps some oil to sooth the wounds and bathed the very lash marks he had placed on their backs. There is a true Christian. A Christian is a servant of God and a servant to mankind.

One act of service we can all give to Jesus is to praise God – to be unashamed to praise Him. After all, that is what Paul and Silas were doing in the prison. There wasn’t much else they could do, but they could praise God. That was an act of service that yielded incredible results.

I heard a pastor tell about a time when he was in seminary. He graduated and in cap and gown he went to one of the professors and said, “Thank you for helping me make it through to graduation. Without you, I would have quit.” The professor looked shocked and asked, “Young man, if I’ve helped you I’m glad for it, but just when did I do something for you? I hardly know you.”

The young graduate said, “I was ready to quit seminary a little over a year ago. Financial problems and other issues got so bad that I packed up my things and was ready to go out the door of my dorm and leave. Just as I was picking up my bag, I heard someone singing. I went over to the window and looked down, and there you were singing away. You were singing, “It is good to serve Jesus, even when it’s drear. It’s good to serve Jesus, He’s always near. It’s good to serve Jesus.” The student said, “Tears came to my eyes, so I put my bag down, unpacked and decided to stay. Without that song, I would have never made it through."


Listen, child of God, people are watching you. Lost people, saved people, back-slidden people are watching us. Paul and Silas were being watched in the prison. The prisoners were listening. The jailer was listening. Somebody is watching your service for Christ. We must show them the joy of serving the Lord.

So the jailor bathed the wounds of the Paul and Silas, and his entire family was saved. He fed Paul and Silas a meal and they had great fellowship. Oh, what a story of faith, faithfulness, joy, worship, witnessing, salvation and service.

I so glad I serve Jesus. He makes all the difference in my life. What would my life be without Jesus? Nothing. Just an existence. But Jesus makes the difference.

Jesus is the only one who can turn a jailhouse into a joy house! He can take our scars and turn them into stars. Jesus makes all the difference!