Summary: Paul and Silas lovingly and boldly ministered to the needs of the people they encountered. As a result of their endeavors people's lives were changed, but Paul and Silas were imprisoned. Serving Jesus often involves struggles and setbacks.
Acts 16:16-34 “Bad Things Happen to Faithful People”
Power comes in many shapes and forms. There is the raw horrendous power of an atomic explosion. In contrast to such power is the group power of civil disobedience, which we witnessed in Gandhi’s fight for India’s independence, and Martin Luther King and his fight for civil rights. Words have the power to build up or break down, and goals have the power to inspire to greatness.
In our lesson today, we see several demonstrations of power. These various expressions of power affect us as we daily seek to live out our faith.
THE POWER OF EVIL
Our story opens with Paul and Silas proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ in Greece. They are followed by a young girl, who is identified as having an evil spirit—a spirit of divination. She followed Paul and Silas around, while being forced by the evil spirit to shout that the men were servants of God and preached the way of salvation. Though she spoke the truth, the evil spirit’s intent was to harass the missionaries.
The description of the girl reveals to us the power of evil. Evil enslaves, controls, and separates people from the richness of life.
We may not be possessed by demons, but we know the power of evil in our lives. We can be paralyzed with fear, and made sick with worry. Addiction and dependency enslave us, and possessions can control us, and desires can drive us to unholy words and actions.
Thankfully, there is a greater power than that of evil—the cross of Christ. Jesus has saved us—freed us, and he has given us the victory over sin, death and the devil. Being a disciple of Jesus can set us free beyond our imagination.
The cross’ power over evil is demonstrated by Paul. Angered by the heckling and harassment of the girl he orders the evil spirit out of her. The evil spirit leaves taking with it the girl’s ability of divination. Evil cannot withstand the power of Jesus.
At times the Spirit of the Lord moves powerfully in our lives and in our world and miracles occur. Many of us have experienced such miracles. We have been healed when health and wholeness was not considered a possibility. Our prayers have been answered in unexpected and surprising ways. Lives have been changed and even dramatically turned around.
In the area of health, the miracles are often the result of medications or the skilled hands of a surgeon. At other times, the source of the miracle is people—people who see a need and respond in love and people who support others in prayer.
THE POWER OF FAITH
A third power, the power of faith is demonstrated by Paul and Silas. As a result of casting out the evil spirit from the girl they were imprisoned. The dire circumstances of their imprisonment did not diminish their faith, in fact, their faith was inspired.
We read that in the middle of the night Paul and Silas were praising God and singing hymns. They did not complain, nor did they think their predicament was unfair. The faith of these two men transcended their circumstances in life. They were sure that no matter what happened God was in control and would have the best path for their lives.
It has been said that it is not what happens to us in life that determines the fullness of our lives, but rather how we respond to what happens to us. Paul and Silas are examples of this truth. God moves through their worship and praise to accomplish miracles and to bring salvation to the jailor and his household.
In these difficult times when people are defeated and without hope, demonstrations of faith and hope stand out, proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Inspire hope in others and transform lives.
I recently read this statement, “Christians only dabble our toes at the edges of the waters of faith. Few of us have a clue how vivid and powerful life with Christ can be.”
As we face the challenges of life, we are invited to open ourselves up to the power of God through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s power is able to change our lives and our situations. It is also able to bring the gift of faith to the people around us.