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Time To Deal With Trouble

Acts 16:16-18
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. 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.' She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned round 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. (NIVUK)

Paul, Silas and their team were in Philippi. The riverside meeting place, where God-fearers gathered to hear the gospel (Acts 16:13), also attracted a demonised woman. She may have been mentally disturbed or abandoned by her family, but she became a slave who made money for her owners by claiming to predict the future. She was a social curiosity who slandered the gospel messengers by claiming to validate their authority. The apostle was clear that her behaviour was triggered by a demon: as was proved by subsequent events.

What she shouted out was true, but the effect of her proclamation was to ridicule the missionaries. Demons can spur their victims into saying what is true and is false with equal conviction (although they do not know the future because only God is all-knowing). Indeed, their evil purpose in temptation is best seen when they insert little lies into a lot of truth, thus distorting the truth into a message that leads people away from God's path (John 8:44). That is Satan's intention: to discredit God's messengers, and stop people hearing about Jesus and responding in repentance and faith.

The missionary team were indeed servants of the Most High God; their message was all about salvation: but the demonised woman obstructed the gospel and Paul knew that her activities were stopping spiritually hungry people being satisfied by Jesus. This disruption made the work so much harder (the original word implies 'working against resistance' rather than emotional frustration as suggested by this translation's 'annoyed'), and it could never do any good. So Paul commanded the demon to leave her, in the Name of Jesus. From that moment, the woman was quiet and she lost her occult powers.

We live in an evil world, surrounded by people who have no time for Jesus. But there are times when the Holy Spirit will not allow the gospel to be defamed or ridiculed. No evil spirit can withstand the Name of Jesus and only by His authority will demons let go of their prey (Luke 10:17). There is a time to confront persistent, rebellious, unrepentant evil. Do not act impulsively, give enough time for the full situation to become clear; pray about it with mature believers and then submit the evil to Jesus' authority.

Sovereign Lord. Thank You for Your mastery over everything including the devil and every demon. Forgive me for not taking the problem of demonic evil seriously enough. Please help me to recognise evil for what it is and who sponsors it; and give me the confidence to pray in faith and declare Your sovereignty, so that Your will is done and Your kingdom will come. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams