It had been building up for some time now, like a pot of water slowly reaching its boiling point. The man of God had restrained himself the best way he knew how, not wanting to give in to his old nature, not wanting to seem angry, or overreact, but it had finally reached the tipping point, and Paul couldn't take it anymore.
Finally, after many days, greatly annoyed Paul turned, steel in his eyes, and with a booming voice that brought the crowd to complete silence said: "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!"
No, Paul wasn't addressing some priestess in the temple of Diana, or some pharisee who goaded him or harassed him, he was addressing a slave girl who had nothing but nice things to say about him, and those who accompanied him.
For days on end, the girl followed Paul and those who were with him, crying out, "these men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of Salvation."
Now what could be so wrong in that? Surely everyone likes to receive a little credit from time to time, surely the girl was speaking the truth, Paul indeed was a servant of God and he was proclaiming the way of Salvation.
Why all the drama? Did Paul overreact? Did the pressure just get to him, and rather than deal with his own issues, project his feelings onto an innocent little girl? (Yes, the humanism buzz words in the previous sentence were intentional.)
The truth, is that Paul had a little something, an often overlooked and underestimated gift the Bible likes to call discernment. Although the Bible fills in the blanks for us, and explains that in fact the girl was possessed with a spirit of divination, and by fortune telling she brought her masters much profit, Paul's only way of knowing the truth behind the girl's words of exaltation was to possess the gift of discernment.
Yes, I am referring to that discernment, the spiritual gift through which one discerns the inner state of things. It is neither sharpness of mind, or cognitive perception as some have said, but the energy and grace of God, that moves within the hearts of His servants that they may know the nature and origin of a thing.
Any man with just a little more pride and vain glory, and a little less discernment would have let the girl be, would have even pointed to her and said, 'see, she confirms, she confirms.'
In fact, to the crowd that followed after Paul, and those who walked with him, the girl simply seemed to be a flatterer of sorts, who was enthralled with Paul and his ministry.
To Paul, the servant of God, who possessed discernment, her flattery amounted to nothing less than the devil's praise, because the sinister agenda of the girl's masters was to associate themselves with the man of God, and thereby create for themselves a certain sense of credibility that would lead to even greater profit to their already thriving fortune telling business.
One sentence wiped out their profits, their income, as well as any hope of making more shekels off the young girl's torments.
The servant of God who had seen through the charade, commanded the spirit to come out of the girl, and her torments, as well as her divination were no more.
The girl's masters were not at all pleased to see she had been freed, to see that the spirit which possessed her fled in fear upon hearing the name of Jesus, and quickly turned on Paul and Silas, dragging them to the authorities. When men approach you, praise you, or otherwise lift you up into the heavens with ulterior motives on their hearts, the minute you are no longer able to aid them in fulfilling their agenda, in reaching their desired goal, they will turn on you, and with even greater intensity than that with which they praised you, they will persecute you.
Paul had not only denied them the credibility they sought, he had taken away the means by which they made their money. No need to wear the mask any longer, no need to pat the servant of God on the back, take him to dinner, or whisper words of praise in his ear, they could now let their true colors show, for they had nothing more to gain from him.
Paul at least suspected, if he didn't outright know that there would be repercussions to casting out the girl's spirit, but he was unconcerned with the fallout, knowing in whose hands he had entrusted his life.
Being beaten with rods, until many stripes were laid on them, Paul an Silas were thrown in prison where instead of lamenting their current state, they sang hymns to God, knowing Him for the good Father that He is, and whether preaching to the masses, or being held prisoners in the inner prison, with their feet in the stocks, God had a plan.
The God who changes not, He who was, and is, and always shall be from age to age, the same and unchanged, has a plan for all His children no matter their circumstance in this present hour.
Whether men flatter you with serpents' tongues, or beat you with rods, our goal and purpose is to remain the same, to do His will in all things.
I have always appreciated the heart of Paul, for he remained unaffected by praise, or by rejection. His motto was, as our motto should be, "think the worst of me, but believe the best of Christ."
Rather than elbow each other in the throat, in their desperate dash for the limelight, some preachers might take a page out of Paul's life, and learn the beauty that is a life of humility before a sovereign God.
Whatever the task, God has already provided the means by which we can complete it faithfully. Victory in Jesus, through Jesus, and by Jesus, our merciful Savior.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.