Our text for this morning is a great example of how Satan works to deceive us and how God uses the deception to grow the kingdom.† Thus the message for this morning can be summed up by saying, never turn away from an opportunity to share the gospel no matter how complex or how unfruitful it might seem at face value.
This very first lesson we need to learn here is that Satan, in all his deceptive efforts to overthrow Godís power and presence, will not win.† The second lesson we need to learn is that attempts to look into the future most typically bring with them a deception that will mislead.
As one reads the story about the demon possessed girl that has the ability to reveal the future please understand that it is not an affirmation of the fact that some people are gifted with this special gift.† Psychics like slot machines are not always wrong but in the end they bear no reward.†
The case that Luke writes about here was one that must have driven Paul crazy because the more he preached about the evils of the world the more Satan sought to confuse those who might have been listening.† Not so much different than much of what happens to day.† We talk about the merits of maintaining the faith yet as we look about us we see so many who seem to be benefiting from the sin by which they live.† Note how Paul brings it all to an end, in verse 18 he turns to the girl and commands that they evil spirit come out of her and the text tells us that immediately the spirit left.
This certainly isnít how the movies portray exorcisms but I would suspect that this is really how it all happens.† An exorcism isnít anything other than the release of a soul from the clutches of Satan as the promises of Christ are evoked and claimed in oneís life.† When you make a profession of faith in your life it is nothing other than a mini exorcism as Satan is put out and Christ enters in.† The healing comes as the Holy Spirit is invited in to dwell within the heart of those who believe.
So the little girl received her freedom and promise of new life in Christ but this left those who had taken advantage of the situation angry and so they sought to have Paul and Silas arrested.
This is the tricky part for those of us sitting in the pews this morning because it comes to us as an example of what can happen when you seek to serve the God of your calling.† Without the proper preparations you will often find that not everyone is ready for what happens to them when the grace and presence of God fills their lives.†
The first thing that happens when we are filled with the Holy Spirit is that we are called to question the actions we are involved in.† ††In the case of those mentioned in our text for this morning it would seem that the loss of a very easy income far outweighed anything else going on.† But then didnít Jesus teach that one cannot serve God and Money at the same time for whenever it is attempted there will be a conflict?
Sometimes I wonder about the easy access money that we have in Lyon County from the Casino.† The Riverboat foundation distributes thousands of dollars every year to many differing concerns and so should the church apply?
That is an interesting question to debate!† I would be interested in hearing your opinions on that option sometime but I will warn you ahead of time, I would find it very difficult to take money gained at the expense of others to support the cause of Christ although there are many who see it differently!
Up to this point in our text the only one who had gained anything is the slave girl because she has been set free.† The previous owners have lost a livelihood and Paul and Silas got a beating and were sent to jail.
But in the miraculous ways of our God, if we look on, it seems that He has opened new doors into the lives of the jailer and his family.
Because of the events which God brought about in the jail, the Jailer and his family were brought into contact with Paul and Silas and as the result they were given the message of salvation. Point here, God works in mysterious ways and even when we canít see the method of His seeming madness, God is always at work seeking to attract those who have been lost to sin and separation.
How far will God allow things to go so that His word can be heard?† Take time and read the book of Job, it has nothing to do with patience and everything to do with Godís testimony of what happens when believers allow Him to work through them.† In Jobís case he lost everything except his life so that a nation might see blessing in misery.† I think of Jim Elliot and the 4 others who flew their airplane into the jungle in 1956 and as they got out of the plane they were slaughtered by the Auca Indians in South America.† Today the entire Auca tribe is open and serving God in the Amazon Jungle.† Before the massacre no one even knew of Jim Elliot and the ongoing mission work that was taking place. Following the massacre the entire world had opened its heart to hear the word of a God who allowed His servants to be killed so that others might be saved.† But then isnít that what He did to His own Son?
This is the message that comes loud and clear to us this morning, the fact that God weighs the cost and He is never beyond allowing His servants to die so that others might be saved.
How unfair you might say or how could He allow this to happen? But think about, God doesnít see it as we do, for once weíve accepted Him as our Lord and Savior our task is to share the faith and get ready to come home.† We sing the lyrics that say, ďThis world is not my home, Iím just a passing throughĒ but if we are not ready to die so that others might live then what we say is separated by a great chasm of deceit.
Maybe this is what keeps so many from accepting the faith that will save them from eternal damnation.† They are not willing to lay their lives on the line so that others might be gathered into the kingdom also.
Open your eyes brothers and sisters for the faith is not about Godís provisions in your life but rather about His provisions so that others might escape the second death of eternal hell and damnation.
The life of Paul is but one of many examples that God grants us each and every day of how life really works.† We are born, we are called to serve and God uses us until we are called home to be with Him for an eternity.† The things that happen to us during that journey are both good and bad but in the midst Godís hand will never allow more to come upon us then we are able to deal with.
The bottom line begins with our own salvation and from that point on we are no longer our own but we become a servant of a greater and more blessed one, the God who not only creates but loves us to the point of redemption.
Rejoice and give thanks, seek in all things to be used by God to bring about salvation to all who will respond.