Wherever we preach the gospel, we should not be surprised to encounter opposition—whether on the foreign mission field or in our own hometown. Jesus Himself faced hostility. And, as we see in the book of Acts, so did Paul.
Today’s story sits side by side with the joyful conversion of Lydia and her household (vv. 11–15). The two narratives are opposite in every way. While Lydia was a woman of wealth and status, this young girl was a slave, controlled by an evil spirit and exploited by her owners. The spirit of divination enabled her to predict the future, a skill by which her owners earned much money. This spirit also recognized the divine source of Paul’s message, so that the girl followed Paul around town shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God” (v. 17). Ironically, she wasn’t wrong.
Yet, while Lydia’s testimony resulted in her family’s conversion, this girl’s proclamation was only irritating. For three days, Paul tried to be patient, but this was not the sort of publicity that he wanted. So finally, on the third day, he called on Christ’s authority and ordered the spirit to leave.
Her owners were furious, seized Paul and Silas, and dragged them into court. The charge was “advocating customs not lawful for us Romans” (v. 21), a serious offense which required legal action. While Lydia had welcomed Paul’s team into her comfortable home, the magistrates ordered Paul and Silas to be stripped and severely beaten and thrown into a maximum-security prison cell without a trial (vv. 22–23). Humanly speaking, this was the direst of circumstances. But the rest of the story (vv. 25–40) reveals how God used it to display His glory and to reach even darker places with the gospel.
>> Are you facing opposition? When you stand up for Jesus, do not be surprised to experience mockery, criticism, or even anger. Be faithful to the message, knowing that God is on your side!
Lord, at this moment there are believers imprisoned for refusing to deny You. Assure them that they are not alone and that the global church grieves with them and prays for them. Give them lasting endurance and abiding joy.