And the journey continues…into Acts. Acts is filled with the wonderful adventures of the Apostles learning to walk with Jesus and allowing Jesus to work in and through them to spread the gospel to the world. In Chapter 16 of The Acts of the Apostles Paul tells us how he and Silas met Timothy in Derbe. Paul wanted to take this new believer along with them on their second journey through Asia Minor and Greece. He had an instant affection for this young Greek Hebrew convert. He grew to love him as a son as is evidenced in his writings in 1 and 2 Timothy.
Then Paul has a vision during the night where the Holy Spirit spoke to him and directed them to go into Macedonia with the gospel message. Paul, Silas, Luke and Timothy landed in Neapolis and traveled inland to the town of Philippi. They encountered the purple merchant Lydia and fellow Jews by a steam just outside the city. It was the Sabbath and since there was no synagogue in Philippi, they were praying and worship by the river. Paul presented the gospel truth about Jesus the Messiah and she became a believer and welcomed them into her home. I had the privilege of visiting this spot where Paul and Lydia met several years ago. It is peaceful and lovely, and you can just envision them sitting by the stream singing and praising God.
As the chapter continues and Paul and Silas went repeatedly to the river to worship. A slave girl who was possessed by a spirit kept taunting them. “She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” Acts 16:17 Paul became troubled one day and turned to her and commanded the spirit to leave her in the name of Jesus. The slave girl’s owners had been using her divination powers to earn money, and they were very unhappy with these events. So they went to the town magistrate and complained, which resulted in Paul and Silas being beaten, flogged and imprisoned without trial. They were then thrown into jail. Later that evening while imprisoned, they were singing and praising God when there was an earthquake which opened the cell doors. The jailer, fearing their escape on his watch, started to kill himself. Paul called out to him that they were all there. Acts 16:29-34, And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.”
Later the next day, the magistrate sent officers to release Paul and told them to leave the city. Paul refused to go until they came and spoke with him. He was righteously outraged at their treatment as they were Roman Citizens and the magistrates desired to coverup the way they had unjustly treated Paul and Silas. They were vindicated and left the city, but not before saying good-bye to Lydia and the other believers. The new believers were encouraged.
I love these dramatic stories for several reasons. 1. It shows how Paul was lead by the Spirit on his journey to where the Holy Spirit knew there were people waiting and eager to hear the gospel message. Do I trust the Holy Spirit to lead you to just the right place and just the right time? Are you open to God opportunities to witness? 2. Paul and Silas stood up in faith and saved the young demon possessed girl. They then faced the consequences of their actions. They allowed God to use them and suffered for His name sake. God vindicated them and worked all things for their good and His glory. The jailer and his family came to know Christ, the magistrate and others were witnesses to the power of God, the magistrates were held accountable for their wrong, judgements and the believers were encouraged. How do you react to oppression and suffering? Do you complain and fight or do you pray, praise and sing with thanksgiving? Paul knew he was doing the Lord’s work and that God is sovereign over all government officials. He did not fear the outcome as he knew God was going before him and had his back. He completely trusted God. Where are you on a scale of 1 to10 on trusting God with the details of your life?
Take a few minutes and read this entire Chapter 16 of Acts. Let yourself feel what Paul and Silas must have felt- the joy, trust, and encouragement in faith along with the hatred of others, mistrust, and persecution. After, take a few minutes to pray for those brother and sisters in faith that are persecuted for the sake of Christ throughout the world. Pray for their safely and a boldness to proclaim the gospel, no matter the cost. Bravely ask God to bring you opportunities to witness to the power of Christ in your life.