7th Sunday of Easter
May 20, 2007
Keep The Main Thing The Main Thing
The arrival of Paul in Philippi began well. Lydia and others found the truth of the gospel inviting and followed the way of Christ. But after a while things turned ugly.
The apostle and his companions met a woman who was a slave and who had a “spirit” that enabled her to predict the future. The term is literally “a python spirit.” It goes back to the legend of Apollo killing the python dragon at Delphi. In New Testament times the term was applied to one who could seem to speak in unusual ways, perhaps using ventriloquism.
This slave woman followed Paul and kept saying, “These men are servants of the Most High God who are telling you the way to be saved” (v. 17). That seems to be a good thing. Who wouldn’t want a “public relations” spokesperson? Apparently, though, this spectacle interfered with Paul’s preaching of the gospel so he commanded that the spirit come out of the woman. From that moment she could tell the future no longer.
Her owners were furious that Paul would interfere with their business since they were accustomed to making money off her fortune telling. When they realized their “cash cow” had run dry they had Paul and Silas arrested for causing a disturbance.
When we are faced with the pressures of following Christ, what can keep us on course? How can we keep the main facts of life central in our faith?
I. Remember Your Main Objective
Paul and Silas landed in prison for their faith. They presumably could have apologized and even paid the owners of the slave woman for their loss of income. But they remembered what they were about – not protecting themselves but projecting the cause of Christ. Their objective kept them moving in the right direction and not veering off course.
II. Understand That Not Everyone Believes As You Do
Why wouldn’t everyone rejoice that the slave girl was freed from her spiritual bondage? Because cold hard cash was involved!
Even today many parts of the world do not welcome the liberating message of Christ. For example, Christians in India’s northern state of Himachal Pradesh entered the New Year on 2007 with fears of persecution for their faith. Lawmakers there had introduced legislation banning what they called “forced” religious conversions. A major advocacy group in the country, The Global Council of Indian Christians, said it is concerned the law could be used to appease radical Hindus at the expense of Christians. The new legislation called for punishment of anyone who forced or “induced” others to change their religion. The Global Council feared the Christian missionaries and others who preached the gospel of Christ would be targeted under the new law.
III. Live In God’s Grace In the Meantime
Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into jail because they were accused of causing a disturbance in Philippi. We might expect to read of their anger but instead we read, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God” (v. 25). Singing! Praying!
These men knew that our plans do not always bring the results we want. But they also realized that God’s providence does not always include avoiding difficult situations. When we get into situations for doing the right thing, live in God’s grace and accept the circumstances. The reactions of other people should not dictate how we live.
The man in charge of the jail where Paul and Silas were kept must have been amazed at their reactions of singing and praying. He was doubly surprised when they did not escape after an earthquake threw open the doors of the prison. The jailer was going to kill himself over the incident but Paul and Silas assured him they had not escaped. The calm assurance of these Christians caused the jailed to ask one of the great questions of all time: “What must I do to be saved?” (v. 30).
Paul and Silas explained how faith could bring salvation. After that the jailer believed. In one of the ironies of the gospel, the keeper of a jail was himself set free.
When we live in faith and trust, everything that we encounter can be means of God’s grace. When we keep the main thing the main thing we won’t get pulled off course by life’s unexpected circumstances. (Don Aycock)