“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:3a)
Acts 16:16-38, is a dramatic and power filled passage of scripture. We get to see
- the Power of God,
- the Freedom through His grace,
- the Power of Praise,
- the Purpose of some Events
- God using man for His plans despite one’s failings and
- the Obedience of the men of God.
Paul and Silas were in Philippi and it is here that they encounter a slave girl who was demon possessed. The story reveals that she followed them and kept shouting that these men were servants of the most high God. She seemed to have kept following them and Paul after a few days gets frustrated as she was being a disturbance and commands the spirit to leave her in the name of Jesus. The spirit immediately leaves the girl, we see the power of God here, everything is under His authority and power and nothing can stand against HIM.
Paul frees her of the spirit not so much out of compassion but more so because she was frustrating him – what do we see here, we see here that even with our failings God uses us to fulfill His purposes. Even though Paul gave in to his frustration, God uses him.But let’s remember one thing that even though Paul allowed anger to get the better of him here, he did not allow anger to fuel his ego and think for a moment that he could have any power over the spirit. Even in his moment of weakness, he never did assume any power came from him other than God working in him and through him. That shows His hearts posture towards God and the understanding that God is indeed Almighty and Sovereign.
We also see that God uses this moment of Paul’s weakness to draw them on a course to bring salvation to the jailer and his household.
This episode with the slave girl leads them to prison as the slave girl’s owners were very upset about the loss of income her healing had caused. At first glance we readily observe that the slave girl was the one who was more obviously in bondage to an evil spirit. Let’s just take a moment and think about what kind of bondage those owners were under.
They were clearly bound by the spirit of greed. Their greed allowed them to entertain an evil spirit in their presence as long it benefitted them. Their greed allowed them to overlook the plight of the girl who was under their care and responsibility, their greed drove them to stir up lies about Paul and Silas before the magistrate and officials(do not bear false witness, Exodus 20:16) and create unrest (not peacemakers, for Mathew 5:9 says blessed are the peacemakers) to see that they get punished.
For us: let us always take time to reflect and look within us if anything is occupying the place in our hearts that God should. What is driving us to do things, is it Jesus or is it our own selfish desires? We need to ask ourselves what are we allowing or overlooking in our lives that is displeasing to God just because it feeds into our sinful carnal nature?
Paul and Silas end up being severely flogged and imprisoned. And what do we see them doing after being beaten and chained, they sing praises. And while they are praying and praising what happens, there is an earthquake. We can with quite a degree of certainty come to the conclusion that it was a divinely purposed earthquake, because it did not make the walls and roof collapse but instead it only miraculously flung open those prison doors and broke those chains. The earthquake wakes the jailer up and he thinks that all is lost as he knew that there would be only death for him if the prisoners were gone, so he takes the sword to kill himself but Paul calls out to Him and says “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here.” (Acts 16:28)
Even though Paul and Silas were the ones bound and behind bars, they were the ones who were free in a true and spiritual sense. The jailer although physically outside the prison was the one who needed to know the truth and be set free.
For us: I want us to look at this from two perspectives.
First, from the jailer’s perspective, from the perspective of one who did not know the Lord as his personal saviour yet, this event is such a fitting way to understand what the power and grace of God does in our life –
- God rocks the ground to wake you up from the slumber of darkness that we were in to see that He is the light (Jailer was in the dark and asleep).
- God opens the door to salvation that is otherwise impossible for us to attain on our own, telling us that He is the way and it frees us from the shackles of sin that holds us back (the prison door flung open and chains fell apart).
- And when we realise that with our unworthiness and sin only death can await us, HE calls out and says I am here and my blood has made you righteous (Jailer thought only death was an option).
The second perspective is Paul and Silas’s, in the midst of their dark valley moment they
- Choose to focus on God
- Choose to pray and praise him despite the reality of their circumstances causing those chains to shatter and doors to open that Satan tries to put on us to keep us from doing God’s work.
- Show us that circumstances should not be the cause for one’s praise alone, but the presence of God with us in all situations should be reason enough for praise.
- Show us that getting out of a difficult situation was not their focus, but to fulfill God’s purpose even if they have to endure that difficulty for a bit longer. We see great discernment from them in this situation and such discernment comes from drawing close to God in prayer and waiting to hear from Him.
May we remember these lessons when we find ourselves in our valley moments – There is power in prayer and praise.
By His name and in His power, we are set free.
God is always working in and around us; may we be more attuned to His workings so that we can be obedient to His purpose of bringing others to Him. The impact our response can make in showing Jesus to those around us can be significant. May we be willing to understand that being in a valley moment may be something we wish to get out of as soon as possible but while we are in it, may we remember to not be myopic to our own situation but ask God to allow us to see how we can shine His light and let His name be known.
God went to great lengths to make His name known to the jailer and his household and Paul and Silas with their obedient and willing hearts were His tools, who went through quite an ordeal in this process. How uncomfortable are we willing to get to make his name known?