Today’s Reading: Acts 15 & 16
Paul took Silas and Timothy with him on his second missionary journey. Their purpose was to go back and visit each city where they had previously preached the word of the Lord. They wanted to see how the new believers were doing. The result of their trip was that believers were encouraged but also many more found faith in Jesus Christ. Just like the first missionary journey, there were communities where Paul’s message was accepted but also cities in which he faced opposition.
Paul knew before he even began his second tour that he would again face persecution and potentially death. On the first missionary journey, he had been stoned and dragged out of the city. The memories of that pain and rejection would still be vivid in his mind. YET HE RETURNED. Out of faithfulness to the God who had saved him from a life of persecuting others, Paul returned to a city that had brought him pain and suffering. The result of his courage and obedience was that the churches were strengthened in their faith and grew larger every day (Acts 16:5).
In the city of Philippi, Paul and his team experienced both good and bad. Let’s look first at the good:
On the Sabbath we went a little way outside of the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. She was baptized along with other members of her household, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed. – Acts 16:13-15
Many people were were forever changed by Paul’s visit to Philippi. Let’s consider three of those individuals. Because of this trip, Lydia’s faith in God increased and she and the members of her household were baptized. Lydia extended hospitality to the apostles and God provided them with a place to stay while in the city.
The second person greatly affected by Paul’s time in Philippi was a slave girl possessed by a demon. She was a fortune-teller and her owners made a great deal of money from the abilities the demon living inside of her possessed. Each day she would follow after Paul’s team shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved” (Acts 16:17).
Out of compassion for the slave girl, Paul cast out the demon. Actually, that’s not what happened. Paul, human like we are, became so exasperated after listening to her shout for days that he turned to the girl and said, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And instantly it left her (16:18). She was now free from the demon that had tortured her for so long. This young girl, a slave with little to no “worth” in the eyes of the community she lived in, was forever changed.
This is where we see the bad that Paul experienced while in Philippi:
Her masters’ hopes of wealth were now shattered, so they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities at the market place. “The whole city is an uproar because of these Jews!” they shouted to the city officials. “They are teaching customs that are illegal for us Romans to practice.”
A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and 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 the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks. – Acts 16:19-24
During the good times and the bad, Paul praised God. Because of his spirit of devotion to God instead of self-pity, one more person was greatly affected by Paul’s trip to Philippi.
Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!”
The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God. – Acts 16:25-34
It’s possible that God wants to greatly affect the life of someone else today through our obedience. What is God telling us to do? Where is God telling us to go? If we do what He asks us to do, someone’s life will be forever changed, just as ours will be. So, what if God asks us to make a second journey – to do something again, even if we are still a little scarred from the last time? Will we respond in obedience? Someone’s “forever” may be depending on it.