Have you ever gone through Walmart or Target and felt that small nudge to go pray for someone? You see someone in the aisle and your heart starts beating. Sometimes, you feel like you should go talk to them or send a smile their way. All of these things can be the Holy Spirit guiding you to minister to those around you. Well, Paul can relate.
In Acts 16, he was guided by the Holy Spirit every step of the way. Verse 6 says that while Paul and Silas were traveling, they were prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching the gospel in Asia. Then, they decided they were going to go north to an area that is now known as Turkey to preach. But again, the Holy Spirit stopped them. This does not necessarily mean the Holy Spirit physically stopped them; although we can not quite be sure. It means they heard His voice, felt His promptings, and obeyed. Because they obeyed, they were in the right place and at the right time for a demon-possessed woman to notice them. She recognized the Spirit of God in them and followed them. Verses 16-18 say, “One day as we were going down to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit that enabled her to tell the future. She earned a lot of money for her masters by telling fortunes. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.” This went on day after day until Paul got so exasperated 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 instantly it left her.” A woman who had experienced bondage both spiritually and physically was now set free. It says that Paul was “exasperated” by the woman. Some versions say that he was annoyed. I love how God can use everything, even our annoyance to bring about His good plan. But, before that could happen, Paul and Silas had to listen to the Holy Spirit about not preaching in Asia in order to be where this woman was. Now, because of the demon-possessed woman losing her abilities, her owners were upset that they weren’t going to make money off of her anymore. They went to city officials and got Paul and Silas thrown in prison.
If I was Paul and Silas, I would be so confused about what God was doing. I would think something like, “God, we listened to the promptings of Your Spirit and now we’re in prison. How am I going to do what you called me to do?” But they weren’t so shortsighted. Verse 25 says, “Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.” They knew they were right in the middle of God’s will, even if they couldn’t see it. So, what do they do? They worshiped. They invited God’s presence into their trial. We can do the same. In literally EVERY circumstance. While they were worshiping, a massive earthquake happened so that the prison doors flung open. Once again, if I’m them, I’m making a break for it. Those doors open; I’m taking it as a sign that the Lord had set me free. That’s what the Roman guard was thinking. He thought they had to have all left so he took out his sword to kill himself. BUT, Paul and Silas were so in tune with the Holy Spirit that they stayed in the prison. The Lord knew that the Roman guard would be punished if he lost these prisoners. Paul obeyed. Because of their obedience to the Holy Spirit and their hearts of worship, the Roman guard and his entire family came to know the Lord. The fact that they stayed caused the guard to ask the question, “What must we do to be saved?” Paul explains it so simply. He explains it in the same way we can explain it to unbelievers today. He says in verse 31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.’”
In everything you do, be guided by the Holy Spirit. Just like anything, the more we do it, the stronger we get at it. The more we step out in obedience to what God is asking us to do at that moment, the more our confidence grows. This is how the kingdom of God advances through us. And, when it seems like you missed something because you keep going through struggle after struggle after you obey God...worship. Worship takes our eyes off of ourselves and puts them onto our heavenly Creator. It helps give us an eternal perspective that is so much better than living with our earthly one. So, obey the Holy Spirit. And, in every moment, worship the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.