Monday, July 20

Acts 16:16-21: 
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 around 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. When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”

Ironically, living by faith—making decisions based on God’s will and his ways, and exercising spiritual authority in the Name of Jesus Christ—amounted to an “unlawful custom” in the view of the ancient Roman. Perhaps it is always so with this world, insofar as the world is opposed to Christ. What  is  lawful or accepted in this world are all kinds of attempts to discern the future, and profit thereby. On one end of the spectrum, there are superstitions: horoscopes, Tarot cards, palm readers, Ouija boards, New Age channelers, and other sketchy fortunetellers. On the secular end of the spectrum, corporate executives seek an edge from the latest futurist book while investors subscribe to newsletters selling predictions of the next economic trend or massive profit opportunity. 

Things weren’t much different in ancient times. From time immemorial, everyone has wanted to know what the future holds. In Philippi a slave girl had the claimed clairvoyance of the legendary oracle of Delphi, as if she were the next incarnation of that high priestess, on tour. The demonic spirit in her, which enabled her to glimpse fragments of human destiny, also recognized the light of Christ in Paul and Silas. The girl couldn’t help but announce it, as if obsessed. The situation reminds us of when demons immediately recognized Jesus to be the Son of God, and he shut them up. Such voices have no legitimacy in announcing the Kingdom of God. Their kind of satanic sensationalism and the self-interest of their handlers are opposed to the authority of Christ and his apostles. 

Nevertheless, evil imitates good. Divination by demons imitates prophecy by the Holy Spirit. The bottom line is that God desires to save people by a message that seems foolish to the world—God sending his Son to die for sinners. Impossible as it seems, behavior and character get changed by forgiveness and love, because the Holy Spirit is at work in God’s word. It results in people who walk by faith, not by sight. They trust in the God who holds the future even when they do not know what the future holds.

Prayer: Thank you, heavenly Father, that I can trust you. There are so many uncertainties. Each day does have enough trouble of its own. Yet each day also gives new evidence of your love and patient mercy toward this rebellious world. Open my eyes and heart to see how you are at work around me. I believe you will take care of me and all believers as we trust in you. I believe there is nothing that can separate us from your love. I believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting. So help me walk by faith today; moment by moment, experiencing the peace that is beyond understanding, through Christ your Son. Amen.