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Lesson 9: A Life of Praise *

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 women.)

  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 shouting.)

      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 over.)

      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 God?

      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 jailer.)

      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.
* Copr. 2007, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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