Today’s Reading: Acts 21:37 – 22:21
For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, LOVE and sound judgment. – 2 Timothy 1:7
As we continue to review the book of Acts, let’s consider again the story of the demon-possessed slave girl:
One day as we were going down to the place of prayer, we met a demon-possessed slave girl. She was a fortune-teller who earned a lot of money for her masters. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.”
This went on day after day until Paul was so exasperated that he turned and said to the demon within her, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And instantly it left her.
Her masters’ hopes of wealth were now shattered, so they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities at the marketplace. – Acts 16:16-19
There are several things that pop out to me from this passage in Acts. My first thought is for this servant girl. She was possessed by a demon and made to behave in a way that was out of her control. Jesus Christ set her free by His POWER and I wonder where the celebration is. Those around her are angry and they are dragging her rescuers to the marketplace to be punished, but who is celebrating her new freedom? I long to believe that someone wrapped their arms around this wounded young woman and celebrated the healing that had just taken place. I long to believe she began a new journey of faith that day.
My thoughts go next to Paul. How many people had just accepted this young woman’s fate and were so used to her plight they no longer thought much of it? But Paul was “exasperated” with the situation. Other translations describe Paul as annoyed or fed up with her yelling. How often are we so fed up with a situation we see daily that we seek to do something to change the situation? Just like Paul, God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, LOVE and sound judgment. Do we love those around us enough to reach out in love? Do we truly understand the power of Jesus’ name and how He desires to make a difference in the lives of others through us?
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.
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! – Acts 16:22-26
Doing something good for this young woman did not gain Paul and Silas popularity or praise, just like God moving us to someone else’s rescue does not always gain us points with others. Instead we are sometimes faced with criticism, negative remarks, misunderstandings and consequences. When you stand up to someone else’s bully, you often find yourself the next target of that bully.
Paul and Silas could have felt sorry for themselves. They could have become angry with God for not rescuing them from the physical beating and imprisonment that had followed their act of obedience. Instead, they chose to pray and to sing praises to God. The result of their response: other prisoners were listening, the earth moved at God’s command, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The young woman was not the only person who received freedom that day. Lives were changed and chains fell off because Paul and Silas chose to trust God and worship Him, even in the most difficult of situations.
The story goes on – more captives are freed! The jailer woke up and assumed all the prisoners had escaped. In his horror and knowing what his fate would be once the authorities showed up, the jailer drew his sword to kill himself. Paul again spoke boldly and the course of a man’s life was changed, as were the lives of everyone in his house.
“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 16:30-34
The chains of every prisoner fell off! The slave girl is set free from the demon tormenting her, chains fell off of those in captivity, and the jailer and his family found faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. None of that would have happened if Paul and Silas had given in to fear. But instead they recognized the power of speaking the name of Jesus Christ, they saw the earth move when they chose prayer and praise over pity and panic, and they forever changed the lives of those around them because of their faith in God.
For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love and sound judgment. – 2 Timothy 1:7