My friend Ben is a Villa fan. For those of you not interested in English association football, that’s a team from Birmingham. They are rather poorly at the moment. Considering that they are led by an ex-Norwich manager they could be said to be sick-as-a-canary (sorry about that, it’s a bit of an obscure joke).

Anyway, in a more serious way my friend Ben is not too well himself. After two brain tumour operations he has a number of health challenges. I just spent the weekend with him in Edinburgh, where he serves as an Evangelist.

I can’t help but write about his courage. Not once during my visit did he complain about his limitations or fears for the future. His demeanour was one of joy. His conversation was filled with excitement about what God is doing and going to do.

I was refreshed by his spirit and not a little chastened in reflecting on my own tendency to complain at the slightest health challenge. What keeps him encouraged? I must ask him next time I see him. But I have a pretty good idea. There are many examples of people in the Bible who rose above their problematic circumstances. What can we learn from them? Let’s have a look at two people in particular – Paul & Silas, and learn three things from them. The context is what happened when they went to Philippi:

“The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.” (Acts 16:22–24 NIV11-GK)

  1. Travel Together. Paul was not alone. Silas was not solo. They were together in the problems and together in the prison. When we travel together the tribulations lose their terror. My friend Ben has a devoted wife and loyal friends around him. Do you have a partner in the gospel?
  2. Sing Together. “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” (Acts 16:25 NIV11-GK)  Simply being together guarantees nothing. But helping each other to be spiritually minded makes all the difference. Paul & Silas formed a two-member boy band and sang their hearts out – at midnight, in a jail! Who do you pray with and sing with?
  3. Teach Together. “They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.” (Acts 16:30–32 NIV11-GK) Note it is not just Paul teaching, but Silas also. We would expect Paul to teach. He is the senior man and an Apostle. But they taught together. Do you teach the lost alone, or with a friend?
As a result of Paul and Silas travelling together, singing together and teaching together we see a great victory for God. The jailor and his whole household are baptised (v33), and “he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God” (Acts 16:34 NIV11-GK) 
I do not know whether Aston Villa will stave off relegation. But I am sure that whatever their fate, and whatever the state of Ben’s health he will continue to live a life of joy and inspire me. Viva the Villa fan!
Malcolm Cox