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#carmelprays – Acts 16:16-40

Opening Song: Revelation Song

Read Scripture: Acts 16:16-40

This passage is set against the backdrop of Paul preaching in Philippi with Silas. While carrying out their mission work, they are harassed by a demonised girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. This slave girl made money for her masters by fortune telling, and used her fortune telling abilities to disrupt Paul’s preaching. When Paul had enough of her interruption, he said to the demon, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!”, which led to the instant fleeing of the spirit from the girl’s body. However, by casting out the spirit, he had terminated the thing that generated money for her owners. They seized Paul and Silas, dragged them into the marketplace, had them stripped, beaten and flogged, and were thrown into prison without trial (v22). Despite being stripped, beaten, shamed and thrown in prison, Paul and Silas were not indignant or bitter at God, or at the people who did it to them. Instead, they prayed and sang hymns to God (v25), so much so that the other prisoners were listening to them (v25). It amazes me that because of their devotion to God, even when thrown into trials, points people to God. 

We can draw encouragement from God’s design of the turn in events. Instead of fleeing, Paul and Silas choose to minister to the jailer, who was on the verge of suicide because he thought the prisoners had escaped and that he would therefore lose his job. The jailer came to Paul and Silas in a position of lowliness and desperation, asking them how he could be saved. They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household” (v31). Because of their arrest and the injustice that they went through, God turned it out for good – that the jailer and his family would come to believe in Jesus and be filled with joy (v34). Through the conversion of the jailer, who was most likely a retired Roman veteran soldier, God assures us that God’s kingdom is for all who believe, and that those who believe will receive joy like they have never known.

Nothing can hinder God, and definitely not religious or secular opposition from the Greeks in this case. In Philippians 4:4, Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord always – in all circumstances, be it good or bad. Indeed, we can rejoice because the gospel is God’s activity, salvation is for all people, Jew and Gentile alike, and nothing can hinder it. It is a radical and counter cultural idea to be able to rejoice in our sufferings, but this passage tells us that with God, we can do just that! He uses the most painful, unjustified, wrongful and despicable experiences and turns them into an opportunity for His glory to be shown. We can labour with optimism, not because we are capable but because God is in control, and God works all things for good, for those who are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28). 

Have you ever felt wronged? Were your rights ever violated? In Singapore’s multi-religious environment, most of us would probably never have experienced any serious violation of our religious rights. As Roman citizens, Paul and Silas had a right to a trial before any punishment, and their citizenship was supposed to exempt them from public beatings (v37). Yet, they were falsely accused, and their rights were violated. Like Paul and Silas, who prayed and sang praises to God in their suffering, may their Christ-centred response teach us how to be right with God when we are wronged by man, and may we draw encouragement and hope, knowing that God works all circumstances for His purpose – that His glory might be shown and that people may come to know Him. 

Pray in Response

O Lord God, search me to reveal the true motives of my heart. Like the masters of the demonized slave girl who used her for fortune telling for their own profit, convict me when I come to You only looking for my own personal gain rather than for Your glory! No matter what the circumstance I find myself in as Paul and Silas did being in prison, give me courage and strength to keep pointing others to You. May each person You bring my way find me rejoicing, praying and singing praises to You my great and awesome God that my life is a testament of Your mighty work in Jesus Christ name. Amen!

Response Song: Raise A Hallelujah

By Lim Ren Ai

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