Faith Under Pressure
Merciful Lord, I’m sure that in everything I am held secure in Your steadfast love. I’m confident in You today.
Read Acts 16:16-40
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Paul and Silas came through the crisis magnificently…. In the midnight hour of crisis, they sang a Gospel hymn of praise to God” (John N. Gladstone).
Today’s account may seem far from your Christian experience: being followed around for many days by a demonized girl shouting that you are God’s servant, a girl whom you then dramatically liberate; being manhandled by angry traders; publicly accused before the authorities with a crowd clamoring for your punishment; then stripped of clothing, severely beaten and thrown into prison with your feet in the stocks! For most western Christians our lives are quieter than this: few call attention to our faith, deliverance miracles seldom occur, and persecution is more about indifference rather than violent hostility. Does that mean we are getting it wrong somehow?
It’s important to remember that this roller coaster of events was part of the bigger picture of the cost paid by the early Christians (2 Cor. 1:8,9; 11:23-33) for their commitment to Jesus and his good news. Different circumstances have different consequences. What is important is that Jesus was so real to them that they were prepared to sacrifice everything that others might know him, too. The nub of this is how important and how real Jesus is to us.
Notice, too, how they behaved in the midst of all this. Their concern for the girl’s plight was more important than popularity, in prison they sing and pray, and when they could have escaped they didn’t put their needs first (25-29). This reaped fruit in a whole family turning to Christ. Their response to suffering was not “poor me” or anger with God, attitudes that would have been understandable. Rather, they kept hold of the truth that God was with them and for them, despite experiences that appeared to say the opposite. And, in focusing on God and not on their own circumstances, they opened up a space for the jailor to make a life-changing choice.
What financial concerns keep some people from faith today (19)? Do any of these affect you in being a faithful disciple?
Gracious Lord, I pray for those under intense pressure because of their Christian faith. Empower them to give a faithful witness, and inspire me through their courage.
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