The story is in three brief verses in Acts 16:16-19. There’s this big story about Paul and Silas and tucked right in the middle of it, there’s this three verse mention of a slave girl who told fortunes. Just three verses, but I learned two very important lessons from her story.
As Paul and Silas are going down to the place of prayer, they meet a slave girl who has a spirit that enables her to tell the future. She earned a lot of money for her masters by telling fortunes. She followed Paul and Silas shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.”
She did this day after day until Paul was so frustrated with it, that he turned and said to the demon within her, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it instantly left her.
This cost her owners a lot of lost income. She could no longer tell fortunes and they weren’t happy about it. They dragged Paul and Silas before the authorities in the marketplace. A mob gathered, and Paul and Silas were beaten with wooden rods and thrown in prison.
This was terrible for Paul and Silas, but there is no further mention of the girl. I can almost see her, standing in awe and wonder, while the crowd pushes past her to get to Paul and Silas. What wonderful things has just happened to her? How is it she feels so different, so liberated? Did she wonder who was this Jesus Christ that Paul spoke about?
This girl was being exploited by her owners. She was a slave, not only to her owners, but also to a demon! They still owned her body, but now, she had possession of her own mind. Paul did not entirely change her circumstances, but he definitely changed her life.
This girl had an ability that was not a gift; it was a curse. I’m glad Paul set her free. I hope she recognized the true source of supernatural power; that of the Most High God. I hope her deliverance from demonic possession allowed her to follow her heart to faith in Jesus Christ.
Her value as a slave and clairvoyant were diminished, but her value to herself was greatly increased. I wonder what became of her? Don’t you?
Lesson # 1: Like this young woman, God may not change our circumstances; but He might just start by changing us from the inside out.
Perhaps there is a circumstance in your life over which you feel you have no control. I am not referring to demon possession, but you may feel trapped or helpless to change the circumstances of your life. Maybe you have prayed, and prayed, and prayed for answers, and for release.
God was listening and God is listening still. Until God makes a way out of your situation, it might help you to pray for a change of perspective. Ask God to reveal to you any patterns of thinking or behaviors that may be holding you back from the life you want to be living. Let God change you from the inside out.
I took note of this story because what she was saying about Paul and Silas was the truth. Paul and Silas were servants of the Most High God, and they did come to tell people how to be saved. I kind of didn’t expect Paul to turn on her like that.
Lesson # 2 A little bit of truth might just be the bait on the hook.
Paul knew the source of her ability was demonic, and he would have no part of anything coming from the realms of Satan, even if what she was saying was true.
Satan is a deceiver. Those who believe they have super natural powers are the first ones who are deceived. Their ability may seem genuine but it does not glorify God as much as it lines their pockets and brings them a certain amount of notoriety. When we allow a little bit of truth and a lot of coincidence to draw us in, it is actually drawing us away from the one who holds our future in his hands.
Remember, 2 Corinthians 11:14 tells us that Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light.
We all know that there are people who believe they can tell fortunes. There are palm readers and clairvoyants. There are Seances, Ouija boards, and other means people use to claim the ability to speak for, and to the dead. What they have to say might even have an element of truth to it.
Some believe they can glimpse the future with Tarot card readings and horoscopes. IN reality, they all come from demonic places and a little truth mixed with a bit of coincidence can lead any of us down a crooked path.
It may seem harmless, but we have to consider the source. Satan comes to kill, to steal and to destroy. (John 10:10) His plan wasn’t to help Paul and Silas. He only wanted to create a diversion, or perhaps just an annoyance to Paul. Ultimately, this incident caused Paul and Silas to be mobbed, beaten and thrown in prison.
That little bit of truth that convinces us that something like this can be a good thing is actually the bait that traps us into following people and resources that do not come from the throne of God, no matter how sweet, sincere, or helpful they may seem at first. It may seem like harmless fun, but that is the second level of deception. These things offend God.
So much to learn from one little bit of the story! Don’t be too quick to pass over these little side stories. If it’s in the Word of God, there’s a reason. When you raise an eye brow and wonder what that means, you might just be on your way to something wise and wonderful.