When looking at a story recorded in Scripture, we … okay, I’ll just speak for myself … I often go into it with the mindset of identifying with the story’s protagonist (the good guy). After all, I am a Christian, so that’s what I should be, right? Most of the time, I’m completely oblivious of how this poisonous attitude is working behind the scenes to direct my conduct and my conversation. Last week we watched Paul and his missionary cohort meet a slave girl who was possessed by a spirit – not the Holy Spirit. Luke (the author of Acts) told us how this girl’s owners weren’t troubled by this spirit/demon. In fact, it was their “hope of profit” (Acts 16:19, Amp). Acknowledging how we can relate to the girl and/or her owners, we considered the ways in which we, too, allow demons to take/keep a place in our lives. Why do we do that? I can think of two reasons – either like the slave girl we feel powerless to banish it from our bodies and minds or like the slave owners there is something about the demon that gives us a hope of profit. [For more on this, look at last week’s post, “Let Him have the things that hold you.”]
This week we continued on in Acts 16 with verses 19-26. In these verses, we witnessed the desperation of the slave owners after losing their hope of profit. Like a drowning man, they grabbed for whatever could. In this case, that meant Paul and Silas. These Jews had taken the slave owners’ hope, so the slave owners would do whatever they could to take theirs (i.e. Paul and Silas’s, Luke and Timothy seem to be excluded because of their Gentile background).
Paul and Silas were drug to the town marketplace, which basically served as the city’s courthouse (Acts 16:19-22). It didn’t take very long for a mob mentality to take over. Paul and Silas were stripped and severely beaten. When the mob’s blinding rage subsided, Paul and Silas were handed over to the town jailer, who was given the strictest of instructions regarding their incarceration (Acts 16:23-24).
A few weeks ago, one of the characteristics of our identity in Christ we talked about was that we “are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). We are all one in Christ because we are clothed with Him (Gal 3:27). Like Paul and Silas, we may be stripped of our clothes … our dignity … even the skin on our bodies, but we can never be stripped of Christ! You have to read on in Acts 16 yourself … go to verse 25-26.
Being in the innermost cell, every other prisoner would have been within earshot of Paul and Silas, but instead of hearing the sound of excruciating pain, they heard heartfelt prayers and songs of praise. The slave owners tried to strip Paul and Silas of their hope, but instead it abounded – overflowing to men who had probably lost theirs long ago.
The truth is that, any time we put our hope in something other than our Lord and Savior, it will be taken away. I don’t want that to make you sad; it should make you rejoice. God is faithful, and He loves us too much to allow us to keep our hope in something false.
“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 15:13, NLT, emphasis mine).