Today’s Reading: Acts 16:16-40 (additional reading: Psalm 143:1-12 & Proverbs 17:26)
With the London Olympics coming up, I read about a fascinating research study done by Vicki Medvec, a professor at Northwestern University. She studied Olympic medallists and she discovered that Bronze medallists were happier than Silver medallists. Here’s why. Medvec found that Silver medallists tended to focus on how close they came to winning gold so they weren’t satisfied with silver. Bronze medallists tended to focus on how close they came to not winning a medal at all so they were just happy to be on the medal stand at all.
I think that study reveals a fascinating facet of human nature: your focus determines your reality. How we feel isn’t determined by objective circumstances. If that was the case, Silver Medallists would be happier than Bronze medallists because they had an objectively better result. But how we feel isn’t determined by our objective circumstances. How we feel is determined by our subjective focus. Here’s another way of saying it: your internal attitudes are more important than your external circumstances.
In Acts 16, Paul and Silas are in a prison cell in Philippi. the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. So he took no chances but put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.” I think we read a story like this and it’s almost tough to put ourselves in their shoes. I’ve had bad days before, but nothing like this. If I’m Paul or Silas I’m emotionally and physically and spiritually spent. I’m drained to the last drop. I’ve got nothing left to give. Their backs are bleeding from their beating. They are black and blue all over.
And that’s why this next verse is so amazing to me. Acts 16:25 says, “Around midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.”
Paul and Silas could have zoomed in and complained about their circumstances. But they made a choice to worship God in spite of their external circumstances. Worshipping is taking our eyes off of our external circumstances and focusing on God. We stop focusing on what’s wrong with us or with our circumstances. It helps you regain your perspective. It enables you to find something right to praise God about even when everything seems to be going wrong.