“And there was great joy in that city.” (Acts 8:8, AV)
We have just lived through an unprecedented time in the history of our nation. The Covid pandemic essentially shutdown our country and the major cities were heavily impacted. We saw the uprising of riots in some of our major cities, the burning of cars, injury to people, the looting of stores. In our cities, violent crime increased significantly as municipalities cut funds for the police. People have begun fleeing from the cities due to the problem. What is the problem? There is no true joy in the city.
What a contrast we see here in this passage. The Scripture teaches us that there was a city in Samaria, that experienced “much joy.” Reading this, we must recognize that prior to this time, the city did not experience “much joy.” So, what was the difference and what factors led to the transformation?
In the previous devotion we saw that Philip went to Samaria and began preaching the gospel in the cities. Luke records one city in particular here where there was “much joy.” The primary reason for the joy was the movement of God in the city as He did mighty works among the people through the ministry of Philip. When God manifests His presence in a city, there is “much joy.” Here He manifested this presence in mighty works of deliverance for people. People were delivered from various ailments, physically and most importantly spiritually.
So, what were the catalysts of such a movement of God that led to such great joy in the city? First, there was the catalyst of a faithful Spirit filled believer proclaiming the truth of the gospel to people. The miracles and signs that we see were those that God did that accompanied the proclamation pf the good news. Philip was another of the original deacons, a Spirit filled man who was ready to evangelize where he saw the need. Perhaps today, one of the reasons we have not seen much joy in the city is that we are lacking Spirit filled people who are committed to the purposes of God in evangelizing the lost.
In the previous devotion, we looked at another catalyst that was responsible for Philip being in Samaria in the first place. It was the severe persecution of the church. It is amazing that persecution has never stopped the church. In fact, the church sees to have always prospered in the midst of persecution.
A third catalyst is the receptivity of the people or the city. The Scripture states that the crowd of the city were of one mind in paying attention to Philip’s words and the mighty works that were done. Why were they so attentive? We might attribute their attentiveness to the signs and wonders alone. However, this would be theologically shortsighted. There is a mysterious movement of the Holy Spirit of God that we often overlook. The movement of the Spirit to grant understanding to the word spoken and to do the inner work of healing cannot be denied, for to do so would make this a merely human endeavor.
The point is that there was joy in the city because of what God had done. He took one man and chose to work through Him in a field that He had prepared through the ministry of the Spirit. Can we see the same joy in the city today? Yes, we can. However, we will not bring it in and of ourselves. Only God can bring this true joy to the city. Our part is to follow the leading of His Spirit. We must boldly go in obedience to His will, proclaiming truth. In this, God will touch hearts and deliver people from their deepest problem of sin. In this, He will bring “much joy” to the city.