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Acts 16:16-40

Praise in the Darkness

  • Jean Marais
  • Sunday Night Messages
  • June 04, 2023

It seems like troubled times are a recurring theme in Acts. This shows us that, in this life, we will encounter multiple troubles. So, there is a lot for us to learn from these verses. We need to take hold of these spiritual lessons for our own lives.

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

Praise in the Darkness
Acts 16:16-40
June 4, 2022

In Acts 16, Paul is on his second missionary journey, but he is not traveling with Barnabas as he did on their first journey, this time he is with Silas.

When Paul and Barnabas decided to go on this second journey, Barnabas wanted to take along John Mark, but Paul insisted that because John Mark had deserted them on their first journey, he should not go on this one.

We then learn that a sharp disagreement arose between them and they separated from one another. Barnabas took Mark along with him and Paul chose Silas. These friends had a terrible argument.

Barnabas is known as an encourager and insists that John Mark be given another opportunity. Paul has a reputation as being a firebrand and insists that John Mark is weak and must be left behind.

We see Paul growing and changing, however. Later, he writes and asks that Mark be sent to him. “Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:11. So we see this disagreement was later resolved.


Now as we get into chapter 16, we see that they passed through the Phrygian and Galatian regions, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. After they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them. Paul then had a vision of a man of Macedonia appealing to them, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

They were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to go to other areas and followed the leading of the Holy Spirit going to Macedonia. Yet, in Macedonia, they would run into much trouble.

The theme of this chapter is their response to suffering. Before this chapter is over, Paul and Silas will be falsely accused, dragged before the chief magistrates, and as a crowd rises up together against them, their robes are torn off and they are beaten with rods as thick as a man’s thumb.

They are then thrown into prison, into the inner prison which would be dark and damp, while being fastened with stocks and bonds; cold steel fastened onto their bruised and beaten bodies.

We are not surprised that they are going through trouble. Jesus Himself said, “In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

We are not surprised that they are suffering. Jesus also said, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you… because they do not know Him who sent Me.”

What surprises us and encourages us out of the story, is how they respond to that suffering, to that tribulation. Their response could’ve easily been, ‘God, we have been faithfully following you doing as you commanded and look at where it has landed us! This is not fair!’ But they responded very differently.

This is important for us to understand because we all know what it means to be beaten up by life, and maybe we should say that we know what it means to be beaten down.

There are many different types of troubles. Many troubles simply come from the unfairness of life. You probably already figured this out, but life is not always fair. There are many troubles we don’t deserve, you might say. Paul and Silas certainly didn’t deserve this trouble; they are falsely accused.

It seems like troubled times are a recurring theme in Acts. This shows us that, in this life, we will encounter multiple troubles. So, there is a lot for us to learn from these verses. We need to take hold of these spiritual lessons for our own lives.

Psalm 34:19, Many hardships and perplexing circumstances confront the righteous,

But the Lord rescues him from them all. (AMP)

How we respond to difficulties and troubles is an indication of our maturity. Someone once said that people are like teabags; the true flavor comes out only when they are in hot water.

I. Strengthen Yourself in the Lord

  • This is one of the most important life lessons I think we’ll ever need to learn.
  • Discouragement often comes with troubles, and we have to be very careful because the discouraged heart does not respond as God desires.
  • Paul and Silas suffered brutality and are now held in the inner prison which would be dark and damp and cold. And this after they did good, they were advancing the kingdom of God, and even commanded an evil spirit out of a girl.
  • This could have resulted in great discouragement and resentment. Why bother keeping on doing the right thing? Why take all this abuse?
  • This is the attack on the heart when people go through difficult dark times. But not Paul and Silas.
  • At about midnight, they started praying and singing hymns of praise to God.
  • What did they sing? I wonder if they might have sung the words to, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Those words were written by the prophet Jeremiah in Israel’s darkest hour.

Lamentations 3:21-24, This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I have hope in Him.”

A. Praise is better than complaining

  • Complaining is a common way that people respond to problems, and it isn’t very helpful.
  • The attitude of complaining actually comes from immaturity and lack of faith. Many people also complain about God, almost as if they thought they could badger God to do what they want.

Illus – I am sure everyone has seen kids throwing a temper-tantrum if they do not get what they want.

  • Interestingly, Paul wrote to the church that was started in this very city of Philippi, saying…

Philippians 2:14, 16, Do all things without grumbling or disputing… holding fast the word of life.

  • You only have to look at the grumbling Israelites in the desert to know what God thinks about the attitude of complaining.

Illus – They grumbled and complained because they were tired of manna even though it was a daily miracle of provision. And besides that, it tasted like doughnuts! But God decided to teach them a lesson so He gave them quail, so much quail, in fact, that they became sick of it. Literally. They started snorting it out their noses.

  • Be careful because complaints may turn into bitterness and bitterness is like a root that makes all the water in the well bitter.

Hebrews 12:15, See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.

B. Have a praising heart

  • When they prayed and sang hymns of praise, their souls were strengthened in the Lord.
  • That’s what we need; in times of difficulty, we need our souls strengthened, that’s the only way we’re going to respond with faith and hope.

Illus – When David came to one of his darkest hours, even to the point that his men began to speak of stoning him… he strengthened himself in the Lord.

1 Samuel 30:6, Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

  • Here’s the bottom line; we need our hearts in the right place. Only then can God teach us and show us what He desires to do.
  • We once again see something profound that David did. He started speaking to his soul.

Psalm 42:5-6, Why so downcast, O my soul? Why so downcast within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.

  • He put a stop to the downward spiral of anxiety and worries. He commanded his soul to stop moping and start praising.

Psalm 63:6-8, I think of You through the watches of the night. Because You are my help, I sing in the shadow of Your wings. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.

  • The moment you start to praise God it takes your focus of yourself and your problems and shifts the focus to God. This stirs faith which results in hope.

2 Corinthians 10:5, We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 

  • Our thoughts and imagination can run away with us. This is where we need to take it captive and bring it under the authority of Jesus Christ, the truth.
  • We need a theology of thanksgiving. We need to find that song in the night; even though we don’t feel like it. We need to give thanks by faith.

Habakkuk 3:17-18, Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hind’s feet, and makes me walk on high places.

  • An interesting note is that it does not say that Paul and Silas started singing so that God would do a miracle. They were not trying to twist God’s arm to get what they want. They were just praising God in the midst of the trouble.

James 1:2-3, Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

  • They were just praising God in the midst of whatever they were going through.

Nehemiah 8:10, Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

  • When we start praising God it floods our hearts with truth. The truth brings hope and stirs joy in our hearts.


  • Joy is not happiness. Sometimes people confuse joy with happiness. Happiness is the feeling I get when something makes me happy. For example, ‘I’m so happy you came to visit’ or ‘I’m so happy you bought me an ice cream’.


  • Happiness is a fluctuating emotion and if we build our lives on that it does not bring stability. It is grounded in external conditions, like ‘You make me happy’ or ‘The ice cream makes me happy’. This gives something else the power to also make you unhappy.


  • Joy is a deep inner knowing built on the solid foundation of our hope in God. This is why one can go through difficult times and still have deep inner joy.

John 16:33, I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.] – Amp.

II. Trust that God will make a Way

  • Paul and Silas are just trusting God in this, whatever may come. They’re not asking God for an earthquake. In fact, when the doors were opened and the chains fell off, they didn’t leave.
  • Now we see that this was about the heart of the jailer. Many believe that he later becomes one of the leaders in the church.

A. God uses your faith to touch others

  • Verse 25 makes a point of telling us that as Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, the prisoners were listening to them.
  • In a similar way, the jailer saw their heart and their character and their faith and when Paul called out that he should do no harm to himself, he responded, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
  • Our faith has a direct impact on those around us. When people see you going through troubles and yet your faith is steadfast, it’s powerful evidence that your faith is real.
  • You never know who is listening or watching as you go through trouble.

 Illus – One day my dad was fed up with the barking dog of the neighbor…

  • Those around us are watching to see how we will react, … don’t react out of frustration… wait on the Lord.

B. Wait on the Lord

  • You never know what God might do. Wait on the Lord. If you become impatient or frustrated, you will react badly.

Proverbs 20:22, Do not say, “I will repay evil.” Wait for the Lord, and He will save you.

  • God often works in unexpected ways. They could have seen the jailer as the symbol of those opposing them. They could have been angry and resentful towards him and the whole system that was oppressing them.
  • This attitude, though, would keep them from later effectively ministering to him.
  • They were not set free from this prison by doors that were opened by the earthquake, they were set free by the heart that was opened in the jailer.
  • You never know what God might do. Wait for the Lord. Remember, God knows what He is doing.

Illus – Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and thrown into a pit. They sold him into slavery, he was unjustly accused by Potiphar’s wife, thrown into prison, forgotten by a friend he had helped, and yet not a single complaint. “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good,” he later said to his brothers.

  • Many people have dreams for their lives and that is good. But it is better still to be surrendered to God so He would direct your steps than maybe following dreams that are not God’s heart for you.
  • Sometimes our dreams are driven by fear and insecurity, and many times people look back after a few years and see what they thought was the best for them was actually not.

Illus – It is like someone climbing a ladder and then, when reaching the top, finding out it is standing against the wrong wall.

  • Trust God to lead you to know what wall to put your ladder against and be faithful.
  • Dreams are fulfilled by the hand of God when we walked in faithfulness.

C. God will make a way of transformation

  • God used the earthquake to open the heart of the jailer who came to Paul and Silas asking, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
  • And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved, you and your household.”
  • The jailer took them to his house, and they spoke the word of the Lord to his family. They also believed and were baptized.
  • Through all these troubles and trials God was making a way for the gospel because that is the power of God for salvation and transformation.
  • By Paul and Silas singing in the difficult times, many people’s lives were impacted. Can you imagine the stories that resulted from this told by everyone that was locked up with Paul and Silas?


  • All because they praised God with pure hearts and motives, surrendering to His divine will in their lives. They kept on praising in the darkness knowing that God was God in every season.


  • This should be our prayer and focus as well. God, I will praise you even in the darkness so that your name will be magnified through and in my life.

Acts 16:16-40    NASB

16 It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17 Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you [a]the way of salvation.” 18 She continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out at that very [b]moment.

19 But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was [c]gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities, 20 and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, “These men are throwing our city into confusion, being Jews, 21 and are proclaiming customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans.”

22 The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their [d]robes off them and proceeded to order [e]them to be beaten with rods. 23 When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; 24 [f]and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the [g]stocks.

25 But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; 26 and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. 27 When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” 29 And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, 30 and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of [h]the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. 33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. 34 And he brought them into his house and set [i]food before them, and rejoiced [j]greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.

35 Now when day came, the chief magistrates sent their policemen, saying, “Release those men.” 36 And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The chief magistrates have sent to release you. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us in public without trial, men who are Romans, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they sending us away secretly? No indeed! But let them come themselves and bring us out.” 38 The policemen reported these words to the chief magistrates. They were afraid when they heard that they were Romans, 39 and they came and appealed to them, and when they had brought them out, they kept begging them to leave the city. 40 They went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia, and when they saw the brethren, they [k]encouraged them and departed.


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