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The great question, and the equally great answer

January 2016 | by Barry Loeber

Today’s society seems filled with a vast number of unhappy and unfulfilled men, women and young people. There seems to be such gloom and doom on the faces of so many.

This is not just some passing judgement, but, I believe, a startling fact. As someone who works on the front end of a well known supermarket, I see it on a daily basis.

And, no, I don’t believe it’s because of ‘another’ shopping trip and less money in the bank. I think it has more to do with the fact that so many are vainly searching for an elusive ‘ultimate happiness’, whether they think this lies in that dream home, exotic holiday, super-fast car, or in 101 other things.

Great desperation

In Acts 16 we meet a Philippian jailer who was in a terrible predicament. The poor man was on the verge of suicide. Due to divine intervention with an earthquake, all the prisoners have been suddenly and miraculously released.

In those times, if prisoners escaped from under the guard of a Roman jailer then the jailer received the punishment due to the prisoners. In Acts 16, to save himself the humiliation and punishment, he would rather take his own life.

Suicide is a serious and tragic reality in the UK today. Statistics show it is on the rise. The pace of modern living, coupled with a sense of emptiness of life, brings many to the brink of suicide, and not a few ‘go all the way’.

They fail to grasp the fact of the provision of a Saviour whom God offers to every man and woman in this world. Hope and ultimate happiness are only to be found in the Lord Jesus Christ, but, in their spiritual blindness, people cannot see it and are in despair.

Maybe the pressures of life are weighing you down and the circumstances of life crushing you? Are you like a prisoner waiting for the prison doors to be flung open wide by death, so you can escape the rat race of life?

True, you are not in a physical prison, but in a spiritual prison; whereas Paul and Silas were in a physical prison, but not a spiritual one. Far from persecution and prison drawing out a pessimistic spirit in them, it brought forth a spirit of praise to God.

Great assurance

There’s always light at the end of the tunnel! That may sound like a cliché, but, with the gospel, it is so true. The jailer is about to take his own life. All his hopes, dreams, ambitions and goals will be gone in a moment. But, as he lifts his sword, a voice of hope rings out.

The apostle Paul assures him all is well; the prisoners haven’t all run away, as he thought. What a comfort the apostle’s voice was to the jailer! What a comfort the Word of God is to a desperate soul!

I wonder if you think that a Christian can never be confronted with suicidal thoughts. What about ‘the fiery darts of the evil one’ that we read about in Ephesians 6? Could these not include suicidal thoughts? Is a Christian exempt from depression?

Well, as one who has struggled with depression and gone through some raging inward fires, let me tell you that a Christian can be faced with these awful realities. But, in my own experience, it has been the Word of God that has comforted me and brought solace and peace to my soul.

In some of my deepest and darkest pits, along life’s journey, the book of Psalms, in particular, has been a real tonic for me. But may I also add that the voices of fellow human beings and, in particular, Christian brothers and sisters, have been used by God to bless my life. I cannot stress enough the importance of fellowship with God and fellowship with one another.

Great question

In the midst of his darkness and desperation, the jailer asked the greatest question that any mortal could ask: ‘What must I do to be saved?’ This is the question that everyone born into this world needs to ask. Yet, so few do.

Why not? And why are we not hearing this question on everyone’s lips? How many Christians have known people coming and asking us this question? Perhaps very few.

Maybe, in some cases, the reason for this is our lack of difference and distinctiveness from the world. Why would we ever be asked this question if those around us are totally unaware that we are Christians? And why might colleagues we have been working alongside for 10 or 20 years be unaware of our Christian faith? Why have we not made it known to them?

A real concern for souls will surely cause us to cry out to God for their salvation. And being a real and vibrant witness to them will surely make us a target for life’s essential questions.

The jailer was made to see his desperate plight, and yet the joy of Paul and Silas, as they prayed and sang hymns to God in spite of their circumstances, made him ask this question.

Great answer

With such a great question, comes such a great answer. There is only one answer to it. And we Christians are carrying that answer around with us as we go about our daily lives.

If only we would awake on a Monday morning feeling such joy that we have this great answer. We would take the opportunity of looking out for those asking the question and needing the answer.

Men and women will try anything and everything to try to satisfy and appease the emptiness in their life, but we carry the solution to their anguish and heartache. This is both a tremendous privilege and great responsibility.

Thank God that Paul and Silas were not hesitant or slow in sharing their faith. It meant life to the jailer — literally, physical life, and, spiritually, life more abundant.

Great change

The jailer is brought into the kingdom of God as he comes to a knowledge of the Saviour. What a transformation in his life! From being one who was about to end his life, he is now beginning a new life in Jesus Christ.

Conversion is such a wonderful act of God. How can we ever fully understand and appreciate it as Christians? One moment we are in darkness, the next in the full light of the gospel. If this is not God’s amazing grace, then what is?

A sinner becoming a saint is amazing grace. A persecutor of the church becoming a preacher to the church is amazing grace. An alcoholic, drug taker, prostitute, person on the borderline of suicide, and, even an outwardly moral, model citizen of society, coming to the Lord, is all amazing grace.

Let us not take God’s grace in Christ for granted, but let us live it out and demonstrate it to a needy world, so that it often asks us the great question and readily receives the great answer!

Barry Loeber serves on the world mission committee at Gateway Baptist Church, Burgess Hill

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Evangelistic