Introduction: When I was a growing up, I sang hymns at school, in
church and at home. All that repetition burned the words (or at
least something that sounded like the real words) into my brain. I
sang about “throwing out the lifeline,” “volunteers” “for the rescue
of mankind,” building “my hope on nothing less than Jesus Christ” and
“cling[ing] to that old rugged cross” “on a hill far away.” The theme
running through many of the old hymns is what I will do. I will
throw, climb, volunteer, hope and cling. Those are fine things to
sing about, but I have a very strong preference for contemporary
praise songs because, in general, they praise God. They are focused
more on God than on me. Our lesson this week is about this idea of
living a life that focuses on praising God rather than focuses on our
problems. Is that possible? Can we look past our personal pain and
praise God? Let’s dive in and see what we can find out!

  1. Blocked and Disappointed

    1. Read Acts 16:6-10. Paul runs into a closed door! Why would
      the Holy Spirit prevent Paul from preaching in Asia? (God
      had a different preaching plan in mind.)

      1. If you made plans to open up a new territory for the
        gospel and God slammed the door shut, how would you
        feel? (Disappointed.)

    2. Read Acts 16:12-15. What is unusual about Paul’s audience?
      (They are all women! In Acts 16:9 it was a man who begged
      Paul to come to Macedonia, but when Paul and his
      companions get there, they find only women.)

      1. How do you think this made Paul feel? (The whole
        thing seems odd. God steers him in a different
        direction, and when he arrives he finds only women.
        According to The Bible Exposition Commentary, the
        contemporary attitude of the rabbis was reflected in
        this statement: “It is better that the words of the
        Law be burned than be delivered to a woman.” I’ll
        assume that Paul did not have this attitude
        ( Galatians 3:28), but it surely would not be an
        inspiring start for Paul to be speaking only to

  2. Annoyed and Frustrated

    1. Read Acts 16:16-17. Here is a woman with a “spirit” that
      can tell the future and promotes the kingdom of heaven by
      doing public relations for Paul. This spirit is right in
      the place the Holy Spirit has directed that Paul go.
      Consistent with his past fortunes here, it is a woman. Is
      this a good or bad thing? A good or bad spirit?

      1. If you say “bad” (as you will), how do you explain
        that this woman/this spirit was promoting the kingdom
        of God?

        1. What does this teach you about hastily making a
          judgment on whether a person is motivated by the
          Holy Spirit or Satan’s spirit helper?

        2. Adam Clarke’s Commentary has a great insight on
          the reason why this was bad for Paul’s ministry.
          He says that the Jews knew that they should
          steer clear of this woman because of the Old
          Testament warning against “familiar spirits.”
          It would ruin Paul’s work for the Jews if it
          appeared that Paul and his friends were in
          league with evil spirits. It would ruin Paul’s
          work for the Gentiles if they were confused
          about whether Paul’s work was just an extension
          of the work of this demon-possessed woman. So,
          things are getting worse, not better, for Paul
          and company.)

    2. Read Acts 16:18. Is Paul annoyed about the noise or is he
      annoyed about the dilution of the gospel? (Several
      translations use the term “annoyed” which seems to me to
      be more than just unhappy about the dilution of the gospel
      message. Paul is irritated by this woman.)

      1. Why didn’t Paul cast out this demon at the very
        beginning? Why wait several days? Why wait until his
        patience runs out? (The answer is in our next text.)

  3. Unfairly Treated and Beaten

    1. Read Acts 16:19-21. Analyze the charges brought against
      Paul and Silas. Do they “fit” the “crime?”

      1. Is there an attempt to prejudice the crowd? (Yes,
        they call them “Jews.” Acts 18:2 reveals that Emperor
        Claudius had driven the Jews out of Rome.)

      2. Are Paul and Silas disturbing the peace? (It seems
        “their girl” was disturbing the peace with her

      3. What unlawful customs were Paul and Silas advocating?
        (Most likely this charge is that they were promoting
        an unlawful religion. The Bible Knowledge Commentary
        points out that the local officials probably did not
        know the difference between Judaism and Christianity,
        but neither was an approved Roman religion. It was
        unlawful to try to proselytize Roman citizens.)

      4. Why not just say, “These guys interfered with our
        business by ruining our fortune teller?” (This was
        not ordinary commerce. This was “otherworldly.” In
        that context, the rulers might think this was a clash
        between two unapproved religions. If it got down to
        that, you would realize that Paul and Silas had the
        more powerful God. Why get into that mess, who wants
        to oppose what might be a powerful god?)

    2. Read Acts 16:22-23. Is this fair? (This is mob rule. The
      crowd joins in, and without any hearing Paul and Silas are
      stripped and whipped. So much for due process of law.)

      1. Read Acts 16:37-38. Compare Acts 22:25-29. Why didn’t
        Paul mention his Roman citizenship before the
        flogging, not several verses later? (No doubt he
        would have if he could have. The mob was taking

      1. How serious was their whipping? (The Bible says they
        were “severely flogged.” They were hurt very badly.)

    1. Read Acts 16:24. Is there any justification for this? (The
      whole thing is ridiculous from a human point of view.
      They have done nothing dangerous. They are severely
      whipped without a trial. They are then treated like
      dangerous criminals. The jailor, of course, knows nothing
      different. He is just following orders.)

    2. What would cause this whole terrible sequence of events to
      make logical sense? (Paul has attacked one of Satan’s
      demons. In that context, the rough punishment makes sense.
      Satan’s forces inspired the rough treatment.)

    3. Imagine having the flesh of your back and bottom severely
      lacerated. Then you get your feet put in stocks so you
      cannot move around. This might force you to lay in the
      dirt on your badly damaged back. How would you feel?

  1. The Power of Praise in Terrible Times

    1. Read Acts 16:25. Would you feel like singing? Praising

      1. Would you be blaming God for this rough treatment?

      2. Read Job 35:9-10. Think about this a minute. This
        whole trip is one big mistake. You wanted to go
        somewhere else. God lead you to this town. There, you
        find only women. Nevertheless, you are obeying and
        spreading the gospel. Completely false charges are
        brought against you. Your “trial” is very unjust.
        The punishment is worse. Why would God drop you in
        this terrible place and then forget about you?

        1. Would this be cause for praising or complaining?

        2. Would you be asking for God to execute judgment
          on those who hurt you?

        3. Would you be asking God about His planning?

      3. Why were they singing and praising? (A Commentary,
        Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New
        Testaments suggests, based on the Greek word used,
        that they were singing the same hymn as Jesus and the
        disciples sang at the Last Supper. This consisted at
        least of Psalms 113:1-118:29. Take a few minutes and
        read these Psalms. They are rejoicing to be suffering
        like their Master. They are looking forward to the
        victory of God.)

    2. Read Acts 16:26-28. Just when they are praising God in the
      worst situation, God comes on the scene. Why wouldn’t Paul
      and Silas take this as God’s sign they should run away?
      (They might have, but Paul is still focused first on
      saving souls. That includes the soul of this rough

      1. Why would the rest of the prisoners “be there?”
        (Notice in Acts 16:25 they were listening to Paul and
        Silas singing praises. Apparently, Paul had captured
        their attention.)

    3. Read Acts 16:29-34. Who else was apparently listening to
      Paul and Silas? (The jailer and his family!)

    4. Friend, think for a minute about how things would have
      turned out differently if Paul and Silas had laid in the
      dirt complaining! Will you determine that, whatever your
      situation, you will praise God?

  2. Next Week: Meekness in the Crucible.