The Others Were Listening

Tuesday, September 24, 2013, 3:16 p.m. – Around 12:30 p.m. I was on my way out the door to have my car checked out for a noise it was making, and then the Lord Jesus had the song “Blessed Are You” playing in my mind. I already had Bible, pen and paper with me to spend time with the Lord while I waited on my car, so I quick grabbed the lyrics to the song, and then I was out the door.

When I got to the car dealership, and gave them my car, I sat down at a table in the waiting area with my Bible, pen and paper, and a drink of water, and I asked the Lord Jesus to speak to my heart. I read Acts 16:16-34. I will quote it in the NIV.

Going to the Place of Prayer

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. 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.” 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.

The apostles were going to the place of prayer when this evil spirit began mocking them by shouting the truth about them, but in a way that was disruptive to their time with God and to their ministry. This continued for several days. Satan sometimes tells the truth if it serves his purposes to do so. He is especially good at mixing truth and lies together so that it has the appearance of truth when, in reality, it is deception.

What jumped out at me about this first part of this passage of scripture is that the apostles were on their way to a place of prayer. Have you ever noticed that Satan will attack you most when you are getting ready to pray? He doesn’t like it when we pray. He will find all kinds of ways to disrupt our time with God, provide all types of distractions, whisper stuff in our ears to get us sidetracked, and remind us of other things we need to be doing, etc. He may taunt us, accuse us, or do whatever he can to try to keep us from praying. We need to know this so that when we go to prayer, we are ready to pull out our spiritual armor against him, and so we are not caught off guard and thus become vulnerable to his attacks.

The slave girl followed the apostles for days, so now Satan was attacking them while they were out sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, too. Although the girl was telling the truth, she was shouting, and it appears it was continuous. I am surprised Paul let it go on for days. Yet, he had a point where enough was enough so, in the name of Jesus Christ, he commanded the spirit to come out of her. At that moment, the spirit left her.

Into the Marketplace

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. They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”

The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
Satan will pull out all the stops to try to interrupt our witnessing for Jesus Christ and our service to him, in obedience to him, and he will use human instruments to do his dirty work, too. He will try to fill us with fears, or to put false thoughts or doubts in our minds, or he will send people to attack us, because we teach people the awe and respect of Almighty God - that they need to believe in Jesus Christ alone for salvation; that they need to turn from their sins, and that they must turn to God to walk in obedience to him.

The business owners dragged the apostles into the marketplace to face the authorities, and the crowd joined in on the attacks. The word “marketplace” stood out to me here. The institutional church of today is a “marketplace” because they operate like a business and they use secular and humanistic marketing gimmicks and schemes to attract people to their churches. So many of them follow philosophies and teachings of humankind over and above scripture, and they follow marketing books as their Bible, many times, to tell them how to grow their churches (their businesses) into successful organizations.

Because of this, the gospel is diluted to make it more appealing and acceptable to the masses, to make it non-threatening and inclusive, and to make it easy for most people to “believe.” So, if you are a servant of the Lord Jesus, preaching the true gospel of salvation, calling people to turn from their wickedness and to turn to walk in faithful obedience to Christ, then you, too, may be called into the “marketplace” before the church authorities, and you may be accused of teaching what is intolerant, hateful, unloving and even bigoted. They may not throw you in prison, yet, but they may ask you to leave and to not come back. And, the reason they may do so is because they are a business, and we are hurting their business when we tell people the truth about Jesus and his gospel of salvation.

About Midnight
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 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. 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. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 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.
The midnight hour is often a phrase used to describe these final days before the return of Jesus Christ and/or the time of tribulation to come upon the earth. Not that believers in Jesus Christ have not been severely persecuted like this down through the ages, but this final time of great persecution against followers of Christ will be unequaled, and I believe it has already begun. Satan has declared an all-out war against the saints of God who hold to the testimony of Christ, unlike any other time in the history of the world. We can read about it in the book of Revelation, in many of the New Testament writings, and in the Prophets.

Yet, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Amen! What is our first reaction to being treated unfairly? How do we respond to unjust treatment? Do we whine and complain? Or, do we sing praises to God? Do we get depressed and despondent? Or, do we trust in God’s sovereign grace over our lives? Do we listen to Satan’s lies? Or, do we listen to the voice of truth? Do we worry and fret? Or, do we increase in our faith? Do we give up and give in? Or, do we hold fast to our testimony for Jesus Christ? If we have not already, one day we will find out what our response will be when our faith is put to the test through severe persecution and even the murdering of our brothers and sisters in Christ, just because they bear testimony to his name and his gospel of salvation. Will we curse God? Or, will we sing praises to him?

Because Paul and Silas did not grumble and complain, but they prayed and sang hymns to God, the other prisoners heard them and they were able to bear testimony to Christ’s saving grace, even in the midst of severe trial. And, because they did not flee when they could have, they were able to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the jailer and his family, and they all believed in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Amen!

What a wonderful example this provides for us to go and do likewise. I pray that my response to severe persecution, false accusations, injustice, unkind treatment, and the like, will always be to respond with love and kindness, the joy of the Lord, and with a forgiving spirit that prays for my enemies, and that seeks no retaliation whatsoever. People are watching us and they are listening. Our response can make the difference in their lives between them accepting God’s invitation to salvation, or them rejecting it. May we all be in tune with God always so as to respond to our unjust treatments with God’s grace.

Blessed Are You / An Original Work / August 29, 2012

Based off Luke 6:20-49 NIV 1984

“Blessed are you;
Blessed are you who are poor
For God’s kingdom is yours.
Blessed are you;
Blessed are you who are hungry,
You’ll be satisfied.
Blessed are you;
Blessed are you who weep now,
For you will laugh with joy.
Blessed are you;
Blessed are you when men hate
And reject you because of Christ.”

“Rejoice in that;
Rejoice in that day and
Leap for joy; great your reward.
But I tell you;
But I tell you to love those
Who hate you; do them good.
Pray for those who;
Pray for those who treat you wrong
And say kind things of them.
Do to others;
Do to others as you would have
Them do; have them do to you.”

“If you love those;
If you love those who love you,
What praise is there for you?
Because Christ is;
Because Christ is kind,
Be merciful, just like He is.
Forgive others;
Forgive others their offense
Against you; be ye kind.
Hear My words and;
Hear My words and put them
Into practice, then you’ll be fulfilled.”