THIS WEEK’S FOCUSED SCRIPTURE
16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer… Acts 16:16 (NIV)
THOUGHTS FROM ADAM
We learn so much form Paul’s missionary journeys; he saw it all and experienced it all. Acts chapter 16 starting at verse 16, we see a familiar story. Paul and Silas are thrown in prison because Paul commanded a fortunetelling spirit out of a lady. The magistrates and crowd beat them and threw them in prison just because Paul prayed for a woman to be delivered. The interesting thing is that Paul and Silas were just trying to do the will of God, and they were on their way to a pray meeting. The spirit in the lady kept following them and making a big fuss until Paul had had enough and commanded the spirit to leave her. This began a chain reaction that landed Paul and Silas in a dark prison, chained to the floor, and badly beaten. This is when the cool stuff happened. Paul and Silas were praising God (despite their circumstances) and God showed up. A massive earthquake shook the jail and busted the chains, freeing not only Paul and Silas, but also every prisoner. The jailer thought that everyone escaped and was preparing to take his own life when Paul assured him that everyone was still there. As a result of this event, the jailer and his entire household were saved that very night. Paul and Silas would be released from prison the next day and they continued to travel and tell the story of Jesus to all they encountered. God did extraordinary things through Paul later in his missionary journey. While in Ephesus, aprons and handkerchiefs that had touched Paul were taken to the sick and their illnesses were healed, and the evil spirits left them.
I think we would all agree that Paul was pretty much a super cool believer with a definite “God Can and Will” mentality. We may never face some of the things that Paul did, and if we do, we pray that we will handle them like he did, with full faith in God.
First of all, sometimes God’s path for us can take us to some uncomfortable places.
Acts 16:22-24 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. We go to church, we read our Bible, we share our faith with others, and our faith is strong. Then we find ourselves accused or attacked or worse. We may not be sure how it even happened; things are good and then bam! We find ourselves in a dark place. When this happens (not if, but in fact, when) we must take a lesson from Acts 16 — praise God anyway. Paul’s path shows us that you can be right in the sweet spot of God’s will for your life and be very uncomfortable — praise God anyway.
Second, we have to see that our valley can be someone else’s mountaintop. Acts 16:29-34 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. While Paul and Silas were in prison, God caused a massive earthquake busting them free, but it was not for their escape; it was for the jailer and his entire household who were saved as a result. If we truly have a heart for God to use us, we may have to go through some things to get His love to others. What was a terrible place for Paul and Silas, became the greatest place for the jailer and his family. When we go through difficult times, we need to look around; there is someone that needs to know God loves them, and they are paying attention to how we handle things.
Finally, we have to realize that if we are going to the top of the mountain, we are going to have to do some hill training. Acts 19:11-12 11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. The journey of Paul is essential to understanding what God would do with Paul. Paul was a smart guy and he was determined for sure. Time and time again, Paul would have to deal with extremely difficult situations, and time and time again, God would deliver. Do you see the pattern? Paul’s faith became stronger because he had to exercise it to do the will of God. God did miraculous things through Paul because Paul’s faith was strengthened by experiences. If we want to make it to the top of God’s will for us, we have to be willing to make the climb.
God has a unique and awesome path for you! It may not always look the way you think it should — praise Him anyway. When you find yourself on a tough road, look around for someone who needs to know that God loves him or her. If you are tired from the journey, remember that God has something to show you a little further up the mountain, so trust the path.