Suffering in our life can be an opportunity for unbelievers to witness God at work in us.
16 And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:
17 The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.
18 And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.
19 And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers,
20 And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,
21 And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.
22 And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.
23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:
24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.
27 And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.
28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.
29 Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,
30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
32 And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.
33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.
34 And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.
One way we tend to judge whether we’re walking in God’s will is by the outcome. The assumption is that when we’re doing what the Lord wants, life will run smoothly. But if all sorts of problems and heartaches occur, we often assume we must have wandered away from His will.
But Paul teaches that is not always the case. In 1 Corinthians 16:9, he writes, “For a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” And that’s exactly what happened when God closed one door and opened another on the apostle’s second missionary journey. (See Acts 16:6-10.) After Lydia and her household received the gospel, this new opportunity must have seemed hopeful. However, a short time later Paul and Silas, having been stripped and beaten with rods, found themselves sitting in a Philippian jail.
We don’t like to think God’s will for our life might include pain, suffering, or persecution, but that’s what Scripture teaches. The Lord uses affliction to test our faith, teach dependence on Him, develop godly character and spiritual maturity, and equip us to comfort others (Rom. 5:3-4; 2 Cor. 1:4). But He also uses our suffering to draw others to Christ. It’s doubtful the jailer would have been so ready to accept the gospel if Paul and Silas had not responded to their unfair treatment by singing hymns of praise to God.
When the Lord opens a door of suffering in our life, it’s an opportunity for unbelievers to witness God at work in us. Instead of trying to escape, let’s learn to respond in a manner that draws others to the Savior.
In Touch Ministries