Godís Way or My Way

Acts 16:16-34

Rev. 22:12-14

 

This slave girl day after day followed Paul, Silas and the rest of the preaching crew. †She drew a good crowd though. Everyone likes a psychic. And she certainly had the spirit Ö the gods had stolen her mind to fill her head with their thoughts. And here she was proclaiming the one true God that Paul and friends had been talking about Ö But they werenít as interesting as this woman.

Paulís annoyed. Sheís stealing his thunder Ö but people have stopped and listened to him and his friends. For sure, her owner works the crowd while they listen, but at least they are listening. Paul thought, maybe sheís a gift from God after all. Godís taken pity on his lame efforts and sent this psychic to bring in the crowds.

Let her follow his group Ö indeed, sheís welcome to join them! And if her owner makes some money Ö well, why not?

That evening Silas approached the psychic woman. He wondered if she understood what she was saying and promoting. After all, she should at least know what sheís doing. So he starts evangelizing her. But her owner catches him doing it and is livid. How dare this Judean confuse my slave and take her from her ordained role as my profit center.

He calls the constable and accuses Silas of promoting anti-social customs and freedom for slaves. Silas is hulled off to jail with a good flogging to make the point. Paul advocates for Silas before the judge, that he was just innocently talking to the woman, but the judge would have none of it and off to jail went Silas Ö in the darkest dungeon with the meanest jailer.

All night Silas prayed to God Ö the slave girl was a gift from God to help Paul and he had overstepped. Is that why God cast him into jail and nearly killed him of a flogging? He prayed for forgiveness and swore heíd never misuse Godís gift again. The jailer just laughed at him.

Then God sent that earthquake and the jail broke open and his chains fell away. Thank you God for answering my prayers. Thank you for freedom. Silas flees the jail Ö thanking God that the pagan jailer would be facing the one true God soon.

What wonderful gifts God had given to Paul and Silas: free advertisement from the psychic and natureís restlessness.

 

Now isnít my version more reasonable than the version in Acts? In Acts Paul doesnít think about himself at all Ö heís willing to sacrifice not just himself, but his friend and the whole movement by rotting in jail. Doesnít it make more sense that God wanted him to succeed and thatís not going to happen in jail? Yet Paul chose to focus not on the success of the movement, but on the well-being of a slave girl, a pagan jailer and yes, even Silas.

 

God had given Paulís group many gifts. But it was up to them how they would use them. Unlike my version, Paul chose a strange, almost irrational, path.

He saw that this psychic slave was being exploited. Even though her owner had set her up to proclaim Paulís authenticity, Paul knew that he was being used also to exploit this woman. And if he didnít do something, the owner would exploit the new Way of Jesus. But most of all, what was important was the well-being of this woman.

Indeed she was a gift from God. But she was not a gift to help Paulís success, but to offer Paul a chance to do Godís work of healing. Paul knew this. Since his call by God on the Road of Damascus, he had been traveling a spiritual journey of learning to understand and to do what God wanted. God wanted him to heal this woman Ö thatís why she came. And so he did.

And off to jail with him. He and Silas were chosen as a lesson to any other healer to leave the slaves alone. They were Jews and easy marks. But what the magistrate and the constable didnít know was that Paul was a Roman citizen. Roman citizens were not to be flogged or put in the worse jails. But Paul did not tell them this. He knew God wanted him to care for his friend Silas, so he kept that bit of information to himself and suffered with Silas.

They didnít spend the night bemoaning their fate. They were messengers of God. Every moment of their lives were lived for the sake of God and for the upbuilding of this wonder Kingdom that they preached. Even in jail, they were doing Godís work and there could be nothing more precious and more worthwhile than doing Godís work. If itís in jail, so be it. Then it is the best place for them. So they sang and praised God throughout the night.

And the jailer was hearing this wonder praise all night long. Who knows how much that affected his soul in its depths?

Then the earthquake comes and Paul even thought of the well-being of the jailer. Isnít he also a child of God and doesnít God care for him? So must Paul and Silas.

 

Paul over the days, weeks, and months had developed a close relationship with God. He was able to separate his need for achievement and his concern for the success of the Christian Way from what God wanted him to do in this instance. He knew that no matter how many people heard him and how far the Christian Way, eventually the Christian Church, would spread, if people, particularly the outcast, the victims, the hated and the spiritually lost are not care for, it simply wouldnít be Godís Way or Godís church. It would be Paulís Way, not Christís Way.

Indeed, it was important that Paul let go of the need to build up the church and the kingdom. That was Godís job. No one can do it better than God. Paulís job Ė and ours Ė is to do what God requires of us, even when it seems unreasonable or foolish.

But what about us? How are we to going on Paulís and Jesusí work here in this life?

As we see in the story in Acts, the jailer joined Godís Way as a result of Paulís God-centered concerned for him. He wasnít threatened or coerced. He wasnít misled. He simply responded to Paulís act Ė probably much more so than to Paulís words.

The world will know us by our acts. We need not declare ourselves Christians Ė as so many church people feel they must. We are to act the way God expects of us. We are to care where no one else cares. We are to look past immediate gain to the wonderful vision of the Kingdom and act for the Kingdom, not for the gain.

We can look to Paul for how our acts will be the acts of God. Paul advised us to pray always. He was instructing us in a way where we can be tuned into God constantly. There is no list of rules to learn that will guarantee we will do what God wants.

But if we are tuned into God constantly, then in a crisis we have a far better chance of responding within Godís will and expectation. We would have already been acting on our faith. Eventually our will and our wants will come so close to Godís that Godís will and wants will become a natural response for us.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul admonishes us not to be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we may discern the will of God (Romans 12:2).† It is this that Paul achieved and that we can achieve also by daily prayer and daily attention to the Holy Spirit around us. As we strive to be aware of God in our lives, and to be intentional about how we behave and act as a disciple of God and an ambassador of God, we find that we see the world differently and we see ourselves differently. We will sense that the world, including ourselves, is thriving within a divine web of love and relationship. This connection to all of creation and to God, transforms our lives such that we see and feel and sense the Spirit all around us.

So as we journey through life, we have the opportunity to grow towards God and become closer to God each day. In doing so, our acts and our behavior will be images of Godís acts and will. We will be living a transformed life of love and righteousness.

Think about it.

Godís grace and love be with you Ö

Amen.