Copy of Are you Sure? Week - 5
God, when I feel like I’ve been seized by the enemy and dragged through it all, let me worship you so I and others can find hope in the darkness!
Think back over the last week. Which day was the worst? What made it a bad day?
How did you deal with feeling chained by those circumstances?
At some point our circumstances are going to seem overwhelming, either as a result of something we’ve done or something done to us. But there is hope. Freedom from the chains of our circumstances comes when we focus on Jesus, because Jesus is greater than what we are going through.
Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. 2 The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers. 6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. 11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district[a] of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days. 13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us. 16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her. 19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.” 22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” 29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
READ ACTS 16:1-15.
How do you think Paul might have felt after twice being prevented from carrying out his intentions (vv. 6-7)?
How do you think that experience shaped Paul’s faith? How do such experiences shape our faith?
The Holy Spirit led Paul to the town of Troas. Paul knew God had some purpose for it, but he had no idea what it was. Then, in the middle of the night Paul had a vision of a Macedonian man calling for him to come help them. From that vision Paul was directed to a new ministry in Macedonia (16:6-10).
What does Paul and his companions’ response to the Macedonian man’s request indicate about their basic ministry purpose?
Paul and his fellow missionaries’ quick response to the Holy Spirit’s leading reveals they felt compelled to share the gospel wherever and whenever God called them to do so. The vision occurred one night; they departed the next day and traveled to Philippi. Paul was able to locate a place of prayer beside a river outside the city gate where a group of women met on the Sabbath. One of them was named Lydia.
What qualities and characteristics do you notice about Lydia from these verses? How did Lydia evidence the changes in her life?
What does verse 14 reveal about our role in sharing the gospel with others? How does this truth impact your feelings about evangelism?
Why do you think Lydia invited Paul and the missionaries to stay at her home? How might she have felt if they had refused her offer?
The wording of verse 14 is important for our understanding of Christian witnessing. We are not responsible for the faith of others. We are responsible only for giving a faithful witness to the gospel. Lydia’s hospitality was proof of her new faith. She opened her home and shared everything she had in the spirit of the earliest church (Acts 4:32). Her home became the gathering place for Christians (16:40).
READ ACTS 16:16-24.
Have you ever been in a situation like Paul and Silas—when you did the right thing but people responded badly to it? When?
Has there ever been a time in your life when you chose to feel like a victim? Why does it feel good to play the victim?
Is there a circumstance in your life that makes you feel like Paul and Silas—thrown in jail and put in the stocks? What is it? How might you respond to those circumstances?
Paul and Silas were having a really bad day. It started with being annoyed and just got worse from there. They were seized and dragged, lied about, beaten, and eventually thrown in jail. They were victims of their circumstances, but we can learn from what they chose to do in prison.
READ ACTS 16:25-30.
What does the response of Paul and Silas to their circumstances show about them? If you were the jailer, what would you think of Paul and Silas singing? Of them remaining in the prison?
When you face the trying situations, how do you generally respond? How can Paul and Silas’ example change your perspective?
If you had been the jailer, how would you have reacted after the earthquake? What indications of the jailer’s fear do you see?
Why did the jailer’s mood change after Paul’s statement in verse 28? How did the jailer’s heart of gratitude affect his actions?
The jailer prostrated himself at Paul’s feet, a posture of reverence. At this point he was quite aware of the power of Paul’s God. Taking Paul and Silas from the prison, he asked Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” The jailer had seen the power of Paul’s God in the earthquake and the gracious nature of Paul’s faith by his refusal to flee and put the jailer’s life in jeopardy. He asked the ultimate question that everyone must ask who seeks the way of salvation.
READ ACTS 16:31-40.
What are evidences that the jailer’s faith in the Lord was genuine? Why do you think he performed specific acts of service?
The jailer was genuinely converted. He proceeded to wash the wounds of Paul and Silas. The Roman prison system was harsh and often inhuman. It was not unusual for scourged prisoners to be thrown into jail with their wounds untreated. The jailer had shared the callousness of that society; but now he viewed life through different lenses, through the mercy and love of the Savior to whom he had just committed himself.
What have you learned about how we can respond in difficult circumstances?
Who can you ask to walk with you and remind you to worship in the darkness?
God, when I feel like I’ve been seized by the enemy and dragged through it all, let me worship you so I and others can find hope in the darkness!
16:1-5 At Lystra, Paul invited a young disciple named Timothy—son of a Jewish woman and Greek man—to join him. Paul circumcised Timothy not because he was caving in to pressure from “believers from the party of the Pharisees” (15:5), but rather to show respect for Jewish law and identity given the fact that Timothy was half-Jewish. If Timothy had remained uncircumcised, it would seem to many Jews that he had rejected not just Mosaic law but also Jewish ethnicity. Paul’s continuing mentorship of Timothy throughout his ministry resulted in, among other things, the writing of two New Testament letters for his instruction. Besides evangelizing, Paul and his ministry partners conveyed the decisions of the apostles and elders in Jerusalem about circumcision and Gentile converts. Paul wanted to make clear that Gentiles could believe in Jesus without adhering to Jewish rites. No doubt one of the reasons the churches in this Gentile-dominated region were strengthened in the faith and grew in number daily was that the Jerusalem Council had decided to minimize the burden imposed on Gentile believers.
16:6-9 Paul and his companions passed through the region of Galatia (probably visiting Iconium and Antioch), and were prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching the message in Asia. They were also prevented by the Spirit of Jesus (i.e., Holy Spirit) from turning north into Bithynia. So they passed through Mysia and arrived at the coastal city of Troas in Asia. Luke did not indicate why the Spirit constrained Paul’s plans or by what method He made known the restrictions. Macedonia was not far in distance from Troas, an easy two-day trip by sailing vessel in favorable weather. Culturally, however, Macedonia was a far different world from Paul’s. It was Greek territory.
16:10-12 Luke is not named in the text, but he was the author of the Book of Acts and included himself in the “we” of 16:10. It is the first time in Acts that he used the first person pronoun to indicate his presence with Paul. Paul had concluded right away that the vision was God’s means of calling him to a Macedonian witness. Macedonia was a Roman province in northern Greece. Its eastern extremity was not far from Asia, just across the Dardanelles. Philippi was the main settlement in eastern Macedonia. The first stop on the voyage was Samothrace, an Island on a direct line between Troas and Neapolis. Paul’s party landed at Neapolis, the port city of Philippi. Philippi was about 10 miles inland on the Egnatian Way, a major Roman highway. It was a Roman colony. Thus it had a nucleus of Roman citizens, had a Roman style of city government, and was ruled by Roman law. Paul would find that his Roman citizenship would be significant during his stay there (Acts 16:35-40).
16:13-14 When Paul began work in a new city, his usual procedure was to seek out the Jewish synagogue for his first witness. Evidently Philippi did not have a sizable Jewish community, for it had no synagogue. Paul was able to locate a place of prayer beside a river outside the city gate where a group of women met on the Sabbath. One of them was named Lydia. She is described as a worshiper of God. In Acts the term worshiper of God (as well as “God-fearing,” 10:22) was used of Gentiles who attended the Jewish synagogue and believed in the one true God. They were not full converts to Judaism. Converts were called proselytes and lived by the letter of the Jewish law. Worshipers of God generally did not observe the full Jewish law, especially its ceremonial aspects. They did not undergo circumcision or keep the strict dietary regulations of Judaism. Nevertheless, they were often devout supporters of the Jewish synagogues. A number of them, such as Cornelius, became Christian believers (Acts 10).
Lydia came from Thyatira in the Roman province of Asia. Thyatira was located in a region of Asia called Lydia. Quite possibly Lydia was not the woman’s given name but the name by which she was known in Philippi—the woman from Lydia. Thyatira was noted for cloth dyed purple with a dye manufactured from the root of the madder plant, which was native to the Lydian region. This “royal” purple was reserved for finery, and Lydia was probably a businesswoman of some means. Unlike Philippi, which had no Jewish community, Thyatira had an extensive settlement of Jews. Lydia probably came to her faith in God under the influence of the Jews back home and brought her faith with her to Philippi. The other women who had gathered with her for Sabbath prayer were likely Gentile worshipers of God like herself. Indeed, she may have been the one who led them to their faith.
16:15-18 Lydia shared her Lord as well as her home. The text does not specify whether her household members responded to Paul’s witness or to Lydia’s testimony. The missionaries came in contact with a slave girl as they went to a place for prayer. Luke said the girl had a spirit of prediction. Emperors and military commanders in the Roman world sought individuals who had the slave girl’s ability to predict their futures. Before making a decree or going into battle, they wanted to know the outcome. Consequently, a slave who had clairvoyant powers was a gold mine (of knowledge and money) for his or her owners. Because of her marketable ability, this slave girl’s owners had figured out a way for her to engage in fortune-telling for a handsome fee. Their investment was productive because Luke said the slave girl’s work made a large profit for her owners. s
After the slave girl met Paul and his companions, she followed them as they walked to the place of prayer and cried out the truth about them and their mission. She identified them as slaves, but they didn’t belong to anyone in Philippi. The girl exclaimed that they belonged to the Most High God, an expression for the Lord common among Jewish people. The people in the Gentile city probably interpreted what she said in the context of their pagan culture, which made her words about the way of salvation even more perplexing for them. The girl had a spirit of prediction because of Satan’s direct control over her life. In order for her to stop, therefore, the demonic presence had to go. Paul knew that a command to the spirit in the name of Jesus Christ would liberate her from demonic tyranny. As Paul anticipated, the spirit promptly obeyed and left the slave girl. Luke added that the spirit left right away, indicating the complete authority of Jesus’ name. A mob formed immediately and attacked the two missionaries, beating them severely before throwing them in prison and securing their feet in stocks so they couldn’t escape. But as we will see, not even iron bars can hold back the gospel of Christ.
16:25-29 Paul and Silas’s expressions of worship served as testimonies about the Lord to the people around them. Luke indicated that the other prisoners listened as the two missionaries worshiped God. Later, God used them to keep the jailer from harming himself. In turn, the jailer went into his house and shared the message of the Lord that brought him new life. The transformation of the people in his household stemmed from listening to Paul and Silas as they worshiped God in their prison cell. A sudden and violent earthquake changed everything for Paul and Silas. The earthquake quivered the ground with such force that it shook the jail’s foundations. All the doors in the jail burst open, and the chains holding the prisoners came loose, setting everyone free. The remarkable turn of events liberated the missionaries. But they didn’t try to escape. Their decision to stay put made an eternal difference in the life of the jailer. The earthquake probably aroused him from sleep. Looking around, he assumed every prisoner had escaped because all the prison doors stood open. Responsible for what happened, he knew he had no other choice but to take his own life. Otherwise, he would be executed for allowing the prisoners to escape.
16:30-34 Notice the way Paul communicated with the jailer so he could be saved. The man’s respect for Paul and Silas moved him to fall down in their presence and to address them as Sirs. Then the jailer asked them the question that led to the transformation of his life forever—What must I do to be saved? Paul and Silas responded simply and clearly—he would be saved if He put his faith in Christ, if he would believe on the Lord Jesus. Only personal faith in Jesus Christ, the one Mediator between God and sinners, would result in his salvation. Also, Paul and Silas told the jailer the persons in his household could be saved if they too trusted Christ. When the jailer took the two missionaries to his home that same hour of the night, he washed their wounds, and Paul and Silas spoke the message of the Lord with everyone there. As a result, each person in the jailer’s family received Christ. Salvation always involves each individual’s repentance and faith in Jesus. Along with the jailer, all of them were baptized.
16:37 Paul knew the laws regulating punishment of Roman citizens. Having been illegally beaten and denied trial, he refused to be released and pretend nothing had happened. Paul’s Roman citizenship is mentioned here for the first time in Acts (see 22:25-29; 23:27; 25:11). Roman citizens were exempt from certain kinds of punishment (e.g., crucifixion) and were entitled to due process prior to punishment. The question arises as to how Paul would have proven his citizenship. There probably was a register in Tarsus that recorded his citizenship, but citizens also often carried small wooden tablets (some of which have been found), something like a modern passport, that they used to prove their citizenship. Perhaps Paul carried such a document.
16:38-39 The fear of the magistrates is understandable. Philippi was a Roman colony that followed Roman law. Many people in the town would have known about the rights of a Roman citizen. Though not obligated to do so, Paul and Silas chose to count the apology as amends for the wrongs they had suffered.
DAILY QUIET TIME GUIDE
HOW TO HAVE A DAILY QUIET TIME
The QT Guide is designed to help you MOVE with God through Bible Reading, reflection and prayer. It can be completed in about 9 minutes.
UPWARD: 1⁄2 Minute Preparing Your Heart: Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.
FORWARD: 4 Minutes Listening To God: Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!
INWARD: 2 1/2 Minutes Talking To God (Prayer): After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer.
OUTWARD: 2 Minutes Preparing your Action: Ask yourself this question: How can I take today’s Quiet Time and put it into action throughout my day?
If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you are so trusting, what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?
How do you handle adversity and great odds against you? Do you cower in a corner and hope it goes away? Do you operate in fear and worry, become fretful and overwhelmed? Do you break down and blame others making excuses? Jeremiah was dealing with adversity in his life. In short, what Jeremiah endured at the hands of the evil priests who were plotting his death because he remained faithful to the Lord was nothing compared to the persecution to come. If he couldn’t handle persecution in peace time, he was going to fall when the real adversity came. How are you responding to adversity and persecution now, because the real persecution will come to the believer.
Life is a set of mountains and valleys with a series of storms. You are either going into a storm, in the midst of it, or coming out of a storm, and there are various glimpses of blue sky in between. How are you responding? Do you really trust the Lord to see you through? Today, get on your knees and cast out all doubt and unbelief! Get rid of fear and anxiety. You need to prepare your heart now for that flood of adversity.
Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com
If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.
Adversity is a mirror. It’s a microscope. It’s the scalpel that opens us up and shows us what’s inside. Adversity, pain, and trials are what shake us. When things are comfortable, we’re like a tranquil pond. Lilly pads quietly float atop the crystalline water below. Things are good. But then, the rocks of trial come hurdling down. Our water gets stirred up and the silt explodes into an inky cloud. Our once-pure pond is ruined! All of the gunk that’s lain silent is riled up and exposed. Suddenly, we discover facets, depths, and wrinkles in our hearts we’d never known were there. Maybe anger or resentment. Maybe greed or lust. Or any other number of things that come crawling out when the pressure’s on. In trial, we find out who we really are, what’s really inside of us (Proverbs 17:3). In times like those, we have two choices: faint or faith.
We faint when we’re overwhelmed, when we’ve built the structure of our lives upon the sand. Finances can be shaken and shattered. Health can be gone before we finish crossing the street. Relationships can vanish with the wind—sweet for a moment, bitter the next. The problem is that the junk at the bottom of our pond is often the foundation we’ve built our security upon. But it shifts and shivers and shakes when adversity comes. We faint when we’ve nothing left to stand on. We faint when our faith has been entrusted in ourselves, our bank accounts, our relationships, our still beating heart—really, our anything… But we learn from Jesus that the wise man built his house upon the rock (Matthew 7:24-27), and when the storm came, it stood. He weathered the hurricane because he’d entrusted the very foundation of his life, his family, and his hope to the great rock. Jesus is that rock.
Our identity, value, and worth are both found and secured in him. Adversity is painful. It is daunting. It is uncomfortable. But we shouldn’t spend our lives running from it. If we want to grow, this is the path to sunlight. If we want a pure faith, this is the filter. If we want to be deepened, welcome to the dredge. Remember that adversity is the Great Gardener’s pruning, and faith in his ability and intention to care for us is our only strength in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Jesus knew what it was like to live with limited resources, to have others question His actions (Mark 3:21), and to be rejected by those He sought to serve (John 6:66). Yet in spite of such opposition, He didn’t let circumstances affect His trust in the Father.
We’re called to follow Jesus’ example by believing that God is able to do what He’s promised. For instance, Hebrews 7:25 assures salvation for whoever requests forgiveness in the name of Jesus—His death on the cross satisfied the demands of divine justice for all our sins. God will pardon everybody who has genuine faith in His Son and will make each one a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). No matter what trouble someone may have caused, the Lord invites that person to draw near in faith and receive the gift of everlasting life.
God also promises to establish in truth everyone who trusts in Him (Rom. 16:25). Through His Spirit and the Word, we start to see things as our Father does, which helps us understand what pleases Him.
By believing God keeps His promises, we grow stronger in our faith and gain peace. Hardships that would once have thrown us off course lose their power. Hope replaces discouragement, and trust overcomes doubt. Next time trouble comes, focus on God’s promises and ability to care for you.
Adapted From: http://intouch.org
Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. 2 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. 3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4 Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. 5 When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.”
We’ll face many types of hindrances in our life, such as a difficult boss, contrary family members, or financial trouble. But remember, nothing can touch you without God’s consent.
Consider how unlikely a victory seemed for Joshua’s army: Not only was there a great wall protecting Jericho, but God had also issued strange instructions to march around it. Yet the Lord had promised the Israelites the land, and Joshua believed Him. He wasn’t fazed by what seemed unconquerable. Instead, he acknowledged God’s power and complied.
Even before that, God had already been at work, preparing the city for destruction by instilling fear into the kings of that region (Josh. 2:8-14). It may have been an unlikely battle plan, but because Joshua obeyed, God’s people triumphed.
It’s tempting to wonder if God will help us when we face hindrances. But as was true with Joshua, God has gone before us and is preparing the way. No matter how He chooses to handle a problem, His solution is always in our best interest.
Whenever you face an obstacle, you may experience great heartache. But even in the midst of pain, you can have full confidence in God. The most important part of each day is the time you spend alone with the Lord. He’ll encourage you with His love and guidance.
Adapted From: http://intouch.org
But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.
The world watches with great interest when a Christian faces adversity. Every one of us faces hardship. Every one of us loses loved ones. Every one of us faces sickness. Every one of us encounters difficulties and hardships in life. But when it happens to Christians, nonbelievers watch to see if our faith is genuine. That is the time to show them what Christ can do, even in hard times.
Acts 16 tells the story of Paul and Silas, who were thrown into prison for preaching the gospel. Their backs had been ripped open with a whip, and at midnight, in the most unsanitary of conditions, in a filthy environment, with their legs stretched apart in shackles causing excruciating pain, Paul and Silas held a worship service. The Bible tells us that “at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God” (verse 25 NKJV). Suddenly an earthquake shook the prison, their shackles fell off, the walls came down, and they were free to go.
The Philippian jailer, assuming they were free, knew he would be tortured and then put to death. He took out his own sword and was ready to kill himself. But Paul said, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here” (verse 28 NKJV).
Then the jailer said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (verse 30 NKJV). Paul and Silas made impact on him. In the same way, there are people watching you right now. They’re developing an opinion about God on the basis of your life. It has been said that a Christian is an epistle, written by God and read by man. You are the only Bible that some people ever will read. They will be looking at you, and that may determine the course their lives will take.
Adapted From: http://harvest.org
One of the best ways to fight temptation and grow in your daily walk with Jesus is to memorize His Word. Begin to commit His words to your memory this week.
Memorizing may be as simple as repeating the passage aloud 10 times each day or writing it 5 times each day. It may be that you place a 3x5 card on your mirror to remind you each day. Whatever it takes you won’t be let down with His Word in your mind and heart. Consider this…
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.