Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. ..
– Acts 16:16-40 (NIV)
Paul and Silas were in Philippi, and a girl with a demonic spirit (a spirit of ‘Python’) followed them around town saying that they were of God and were proclaiming a way to be saved. That they let her do this for days makes me wonder if they were weighing the advantages and disadvantages of this free advertising. The girl was proclaiming that Paul and Silas were teaching a way of salvation. Maybe someone who wouldn’t pay attention to a couple of Jews would listen to her. But Paul didn’t feel right about this. Even though she was saying this, she was still lost herself. Finally after many days he became so troubled that he cast the demon from her. For this, both he and Silas were beaten and thrown in jail.
If I were in Paul’s situation, I wonder what I would have done. Let the girl do her prophecying? it’s free advertising and everybody’s happy. Paul and Silas could declare the gospel message unhindered as long as they left the girl as she was. Or maybe, cast the demon out, but before getting beaten, declare my Roman citizenship so I can save my hide. (Paul did elsewhere in Acts 22:25-29.)
There’s alot of things that happened in this situation that could cause alot of mental uncertainty, but I’m sure Paul and Silas were convinced they did the right thing – even when they allowed themselves to be beaten. Their worship in the prison shows no hint of doubt that this was part of God’s plan. In fact, when you compare the situation before and after, you see some unlikely contrasts.
Before Paul rescued the girl, things on the surface appeared to be going smoothly, but Paul’s spirit was troubled. Afterwards, it looked like Paul and Silas’s situation suddenly took a turn for the worse. They were stripped, beaten severely and thrown in prison with their feet in stocks. But Paul’s troubled spirit was gone. He was at peace and, with Silas, starting singing praises to God. How many of us would have thought this an ideal place for a pity party? How many of us would have questioned the wisdom of doing the right thing?
Because Paul and Silas did what was right when they had plenty of reasons not to, God gave them peace and used the situation for good. Eventually, even the jailer, his household, and quite possibly many or most of the prisoners came to believe in Jesus.
How many of us are distressed because we put off doing what is right? We settle for something that looks right in men’s eyes instead of what is right in God’s eyes. There is no peace in that. Do the right thing, regardless of what you think or know the outcome will be. We get God’s help when we do right. And God is glorified.