Today I read through a section of acts 16 and found it rather encouraging and challenging. Here's some things I picked up (by the grace of God).
Firstly, we have a demon possessed girl proclaiming that "these men (Paul and Silas) are servants of the Most High God". What a wonderful reminder! We have one of Satan's minions proclaiming that God truly is ruler over all. This shows that God is completely in control and all powerful, Satan cannot defeat him, and even proclaims the truth where he is trying to defy God. Satan has no true power compared to God, and we can trust God fully to defend us and protect us - he is the most high God. It's also worthwhile to note that we are God's servants - I believe the word in Greek is 'dulos' which is better translated slave - We belong to him, he created us, sustains us and saved us. Therefore as Christians who acknowledge this, we are called to completely submit to him and to obey him fully. But this isn't a bad thing - its an honour. We deserve his wrath yet he uses us to bring him glory, and we are not only his slaves. Through Jesus we are adopted as children!!!! What a blessing!
Aside from this point, we have the men who completely reject Paul and persecute him and Silas because they have lost their way of making money. Paul casts the demon out of the girl, and that demon had allowed the girl to tell the future, which was used by her owners to make cash. As a result these men go and take Paul and Silas to the local magistrate. They refuse to believe the gospel, which they had just heard proclaimed, even by their demon possessed slave, and can only think of their money. Love of money and material goods is so common in our culture. We have so so much, yet we always want more. But it blinds us from the truth and so easily stops us from serving God. As a result Paul and Silas are accused of teaching the people to disobey the government and are verbally abused, then stripped and severely beaten and thrown in the inner cell of the jail. As Christians, we will suffer if we live as we should and if we share the gospel. But we must not fear man - trust God, even through trials and suffering he makes us more like him and will protect us. We can completely trust him no matter what situation we are in. The remainder of the chapter goes on to tell of the faith of Paul and Silas, and Gods deliverance and work through this situation.
They are thrown in prison, locked in stocks, but they praise God. They spend the night singing hymns!! They have every reason to blame God, but instead they worship him. Why is this? They know that God has a plan and is accomplishing it. They know that he is in control and that even suffering for God is something to rejoice in. What a contrast to us, who are scared even to say that we are Christians!
While they are praising God there is and earthquake and they are freed, which eventually results in the conversion of the jailer and his family. Read it for yourself! God is in control and will do his will through us! Even when we suffer, he has a good, pleasing and perfect plan which he is working to completion. Nothing we go through is in vain, we can trust God our Saviour and have no reason to doubt. He is forever faithful and all powerful and he never forgets his people.