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.’
Acts 16:29-31 (NIV)
Read: Acts 16:16-40
Consider: You are probably aware that Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles and you might have presumed that it is based on second-hand accounts of what happened during the early days of the church. It is clear from today’s reading from Acts 16 that Luke was present and was an eyewitness of many of the events he recorded. Throughout Acts 16 Luke uses words like ‘we’ and ‘us’ when referring to particular things that took place. For those who doubt the authenticity of the Biblical accounts of the early church, Luke is saying: ‘I was there. You can depend upon my account because I witnessed these things’.
Acts 16 contains details of events that took place during one of Paul’s missionary journeys, as they sought to strengthen the churches they had previously visited (Acts 15:36-41). While Barnabas and Mark went to Cyprus, Paul and his companions went through Syria and Cilicia. We are told in Acts 16:6-7 that Paul was prevented from preaching the gospel in Asia and also in Bithynia, but a vision (dream) led them to conclude that God wanted them to preach the gospel in Macedonia (modern day Greece).
Paul’s redirection to Macedonia led to the conversion of Lydia in Philippi (16:11-15), a slave girl being freed from an evil spirit (16:16-18), Paul and Silas being flogged and put in prison (16:22-40) and the salvation of the jailer and his family (16:29-34). You might think that this was hardly enough for God to redirect Paul to Macedonia. However, we must keep in mind that ultimately this led to the establishment of the church at Philippi. This is evidenced by the fact that we read in Acts 16:40. – After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left. Further evidence is available in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, where Paul wrote to an established church (Philippians 1:1).
There can be many twists and turns in the Christian life, some of which we might think are taking us away from the future we have planned out for ourselves. However, God’s plans are more significant than our own. Paul could have resisted God’s leading to go to Macedonia. If he had would Lydia and the jailer have heard the gospel call in the way God wanted? Would the slave girl have been set free? Paul could also have avoided a beating and being put in jail, but he put his own personal comfort and safety as secondary to the proclamation of the gospel.
We can learn from today’s reading that it is important to be receptive to God’s leading and not to be afraid to follow God’s direction. Even if this takes us in a direction other than we might prefer, following God will lead to blessing on other people’s lives in ways we cannot always foresee.
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it (Isaiah 30:21)
Pray: Father, help us to be open and receptive to your leading. Show us the way you want us to go and the people with whom you want us to share the gospel message. Amen