Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. Acts 12:7, NIV
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” Acts 16: 25-28, NIV
You’ve probably heard the stories of God busting Peter and Paul out of prison many times. In Acts 12, Peter is led out by an angel—as shackles just fall off and the gate opens by itself—to the house where the other followers of Christ are praying.
In Acts 16, as Paul and Silas worshiped in prison (after being severely flogged and their feet placed in stocks), an earthquake shook the prison, the doors flew open, and their chains came off.
But here is where the story gets even more interesting. Paul and Silas would likely have heard the story of Peter escaping from prison before they left on this missionary journey. Yet, when they had a clear opportunity to do the same, they stayed! This counterintuitive act both spared the jailer’s life and resulted in his entire family coming to the Lord. While the text doesn’t make this explicit, it seems like the Holy Spirit intended different responses to nearly identical circumstances.
I believe that at least one reason God gives us these examples and teaches us to expect things to be different is so we will be led by an intimate dependency on the Holy Spirit, rather than trusting in formulas, principles, or what worked last time.
We do the same in our schools and classrooms, hoping that the next educational breakthrough or PD will bring the results we feel so much pressure to produce. And sometimes principles help, especially when they align with Scripture. We can all cite principles that have improved our classroom management, grading practices, or homework philosophy—and we may have even learned some of them in a PD!
But principles and PDs aren’t enough. They do help us manage and control things to a degree. But I’m not satisfied with just better control—I want transformation! I want to see God break into the lives of my students and colleagues.
Let’s avoid the limiting (and boring) trap of settling for principles and rules. What if you prayed over your class or individual students, and asked the Holy Spirit for creative ways to teach and lead? Rather than always doing what worked last year, what if you let God speak to you about what this year’s students need?
When Paul and Silas counterintuitively stayed in prison, the result was an entire family coming into the Kingdom. What fruit will you see when you trust the sometimes counterintuitive leading of the Holy Spirit at your school?
Holy Spirit, open our spiritual ears and eyes to discern Your leading and empower us to obey even when Your directions seem counterintuitive. Help us to break our reliance on human effort and what has worked in the past to experience Your miracles. In Jesus’ name.
Copyright David Schmus.
David is the Executive Director of Christian Educators.