(Acts 16:11-40) The second half of Acts 16 tells two stories. Paul and his missionary team, upon learning there was a place of prayer by the river, went there and met Lydia, a wealthy merchant, and those praying with her. After hearing Paul, Lydia believed and was baptized, along with those in her house, and a church was begun. In the second story, Paul and Silas were again going to a place of prayer, but this time the circumstances were very different. A slave woman, possessed by a spirit of divination followed them, and Paul commanded the spirit to come out of her. Her masters were upset because the girl had made lots of money for them as a fortune teller. They took Paul and Silas and had them beaten before they were put into the inner prison with their feet bound by stocks. That night, as they were singing hymns to God, God sent an earthquake, and all the prisoners were freed. The prison guard, thinking they had all escaped, was ready to kill himself before Paul stopped him. Paul told him, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31). The guard and his family believed, and another Philippian home became a center for Christian witness.
What can be learned from these two stories? In Lydia’s case, Paul was going to a place of prayer, he met Lydia, and she and her family were converted. All the circumstances and results were good. In the case of the Roman prison guard, Paul was again going to a place of prayer when he encountered the slave woman and ended up in prison. Despite this, the prison guard and his family were converted. This time, the circumstances were very bad, but the result was the same; the Philippian believers grew in number. A missionary team, a wealthy Jewish merchant, a slave possessed of an evil spirit, and a Roman prison guard; only God could put that together! The lesson to be learned: if one remains faithful to God and obedient to His call, God will use ALL circumstances to accomplish His purposes.