Walking in Joyful Obedience {Acts 16}

11:00 PM

By Mari Sandoval

Today we continue to see the Missionary work of Paul and some of the disciples: “So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they continually increased in number day after day.” These people were faithful to their calling, (Acts 1:8) and nothing was going to stop them! The Holy Spirit continually encouraged and empowered them as they continued to spread the Word of Salvation!
As we read today’s chapter we find Paul trying to take the Gospel to certain locations, but we find our God in His sovereignty forbidding them to go there (16:6-10).  I mean, hasn’t God chosen to use His people to help lost learn the way of salvation? Why wouldn’t He allow them to go? But, they waited… their EARS were always eager to HEAR His voice for directions!

Then Paul had a vision, he saw this man from Macedonia appealing to him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (16:9). When we walk in obedience to Christ’s Commission, whether it is to talk with a lost neighbor or to a stranger we happen to meet here in town, or to cross cultural or national borders, we experience great joy as God is pleased to save some from their sins and bring them to His Saving Grace.  There is joy in when we walk in obedience to God’s sovereign call to proclaim the gospel, even if we don’t understand the circumstances at the moment! He ALWAYS has a Perfect Plan and Purpose!

When Paul got to Philippi (a city in eastern Macedonia), all he had to start with was a small group of women who had gathered to pray : “ and on the Sabbath day we went outside the city gate to the bank of the [Gangites] river, where we thought there would be a [c]place of prayer, and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had come there.14 A woman named [d]Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a dealer in [e]purple fabrics who was [already] a worshiper of God, listened to us; …” (Acts 6:13-15)
How can you start a church with just a few women? Where were the men? But Paul faithfully spoke to them, God opened the heart of Lydia and of the rest of her family, and that is probably how the first church in Europe began!

Satan could not tolerate this happening here, so all of a sudden the disciples found opposition. In this case, it was a demon-possessed slave-girl who brought her owners much income through her ability to tell fortunes. This demon recognized Paul and his companions and cried out, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation” (16:17). This went on for many days, but finally Paul grew annoyed and cast the demon out of the girl. Now the girl’s owners had lost their source of income and they were furious, so they dragged Paul and Silas before the authorities, had them beaten and thrown into jail, where their feet were fastened into the stocks.

 "These stocks had more than two holes for legs, which could thus be forced apart in a such a way as to cause the utmost discomfort and cramping pain." (Bruce) But even in their pain, God was not far from Paul and Silas! "The legs feel nothing in the stocks when the heart is in heaven." (Tertullian) “But about midnight when Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them;26 suddenly there was a great earthquake, so [powerful] that the very foundations of the prison were shaken and at once all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.”(16:25-26)

Some people have the false idea that if we obey God we will be exempt from trials. But such an idea is never taught in the Bible. In these few chapters in the book of Acts we’ve seen how God’s obedient messengers suffered as they proclaimed the gospel. But Paul had joy in the midst of these circumstances. His joy came from a total surrender of loving-obedience and faith to our God! After all these painful circumstances our Father showed HE was still in charge! God used the earthquake and the testimony of these faithful disciples, to bring the jailer and his family to His Saving Grace!

When the jailer and all in his household believed, they all “rejoiced greatly” (16:34-36). This is the same joy our Father wants each and every one of us to experience with our families! So let us be of testimony as we witness to their lives in love and obedience to our God and He will one day “open their hearts to pay attention and to respond to the Gospel”. Amen to that!! 

After the jailer ministered to Paul and Silas, they returned to the prison, and were set free by the magistrates the next day. “40 So they left the prison and went to Lydia’s house; and when they had seen the brothers and sisters, they encouraged and comforted them, and left”.

 “Whenever people are genuinely saved, there is demonstrable evidence in their changed lives. Lydia and her household members who believed were baptized and then showed hospitality to Paul and his companions (16:14, 15). If the slave girl was converted, you can be sure that she abandoned her occult practices and joined with the other Christians in following the Lord. The jailer was delivered from suicide, washed the wounds of Paul and Silas, was baptized, and joyfully showed them hospitality (16:31-34). The gospel is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16).” (Bible Org. Steven J. Cole)   Imagine all these people gathering in the days to come as a Church, sharing their testimonies with joy and praise!

But, what about you? Do you still remember the first day of your conversion to Christ and the joy you experimented? Are you still sharing that testimony to others so that they too, will know the joy that comes from being reconciled to God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?  Some of us might have gone astray in our Walk with Jesus, instead of walking in obedience… but you know something? Our God is a God of Grace, and if you have lost your way and are willing to return to His paths… He is always willing to start over again! Isn’t that awesome?

Before I close: Remember, there is joy that comes from walking in obedience to His Great Commission!


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