Gracious Lord, may Your changeless love and mercy give me the courage to change what needs changing in my life.
Read ACTS 16:16–40
16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.
19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” 36 The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.”
37 But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.”
38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. 40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Good news begged to be shared. We Christians have both the responsibility and privilege of passing on the good news that, through faith in Jesus Christ, eternal abundant life is offered to all people” (Leighton Ford).
An orthodox male Jew would pray, “Lord, I thank You that I am not a Gentile, a slave or a woman.” The divine humor is seen in the first three converts Paul made in Europe being drawn from these three categories. There is nothing stereotypical about how they came to faith. Lydia came quietly but the other two were more dramatic. The slave woman had the right theology but the wrong spirit. Her persistent stalking of Paul eventually led to a face-off and the evil spirit that had controlled her was banished. Paul then led her to know the right spirit, the Holy Spirit. However, her commercial value had gone and her owners felt robbed. Commercial considerations often come before the well-being of employees.
A riot, an arrest, a cursory trial—and Paul and Silas ended up in prison. God needed them there to meet their most unlikely convert, a Roman jailor. How often we underestimate the power of the Gospel. For a man who understood power and pain, he may have been impressed to see prisoners singing after suffering. However, it took an earthquake to shake him up! Fearing failure on duty he was dumbfounded to discover they were still there.
He capitulated; his defenses down, he was open to hear and respond to the Gospel. A second home was opened for Christ. The next day the magistrates released Paul and Silas, believing a public beating and overnight imprisonment to be a sufficient punishment. However, Paul sent a ripple of fear through the authorities when he asserted his Roman citizenship. His stand had two consequences: the forced public apology protected the infant church after they left and recording it would have an impact on others in that and later generations.
Is there anyone you have written off as being outside the reach of the Gospel? Use this story to challenge your attitudes and pray now for God to reach them.
Thank You, Father, that You treat each one of us as an individual and You meet us in distinctive ways. Help me never to pigeon-hole either You or others.