As I read through Acts chapter 16, it became very evident that God spoke to Paul and those with him. That, in itself, though, is not enough. God speaks to His believers daily, but the trouble lies in the fact that we are often too preoccupied or self-centered to hear him.
In Acts 16, God told Paul, Silas, and Timothy when to preach, where to preach, and even where not to preach. They listened to God each step of the way, and they preached the Gospel daily. At one point, they met a girl with a spirit by which she predicted the future. She was a slave, and her owners were making money off of her fortune-telling. For many days, the girl followed Paul, Silas and Timothy proclaiming that these men are servants of the Most High God who are speaking of the way to be saved. Paul, later became troubled, and commanded the spirit out in the name of Jesus. It is awesome to think that we serve a God so big that even the evil spirits proclaim His name and majesty.
At this point, the owners realized that their ability to make money off of this girl was lost. They had the men taken to be beaten and thrown in jail. For me, being beaten and thrown in jail would seem to be a reasonable excuse to be frustrated and to stop listening to God. I might even think that I was justified in that decision. These mighty men of God, however, did not once get down on themselves or their God.
In prison, they sang praises to God and proclaimed His holy name. The other prisoners listened as they praised God through this difficult time. At midnight, there was an earthquake so violent that even the foundations of the prison were shaken. All of the doors in the prison flew open and the chains that bound the prisoners were loosed. I don’t know about you, but as soon as the doors opened and I was no longer in chains, I would have a hard time not running as far away from the prison as I could. Had the men done that, they would have missed an opportunity to share God’s love and forgiveness with a man and his family.
How hard must it have been to have seemingly been delivered from prison and yet stay knowing that there was still work to be done? Had the men left, the jailer would have killed himself. Instead, the men told the jailer not to harm himself as all of the prisoners were still in their cells. The jailer must have had a difficult time buying into that concept as I know I would have. When he turned on the lights, all of the men were as they had been before the earthquake. Upon discovering this, the jailer asked them what he must do to be saved. I often think to myself, “How many times have I missed an opportunity that God has placed before me because I get too caught up trying to make sense of things?”
You see, had these men tried to make sense of things, I am sure that they would have left the prison immediately believing that God had delivered them from all harm. Not only would they have missed an opportunity to see an entire family choose to follow God, but they would have missed what would have likely been the last opportunity that anyone had to witness to the jailer. Sure, it wasn’t conventional for God to work like this, but our God works in mysterious ways.
Today, let’s make a decision to begin looking outside the box, to stop trying to explain or justify things, and to simply listen to the God who wants the best for us. It is not always easy to hear from God as we so often get caught up in other, often meaningless, things, but that does not mean that He isn’t speaking to us. Sometimes, hearing from God requires us to just be still and listen which, for me, is easier said than done. Let’s stop concerning ourselves with what others may say or do and start concerning ourselves with what the Lord would say to us and have us do. It would be awesome to see what God can do with a church that listens to Him and seeks his will in everything that they do.