“And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.” (Acts 16:16–18, AV)
Often things happen to us as we serve the Lord that do not make any sense. About six months after Jesus saved me, I went to an Evangelism Explosion Teacher Training Conference in Omaha Nebraska. There, I learned to share my faith and also how to teach others to do the same. I came back with this great zeal to witness to others. The next time I was home to visit my folks, I sat down in the living room with my sister and her husband one evening. As I sat with them, the opportunity came about to share the gospel with her and her husband. So, I went through the gospel. Sensing that they were not yet ready to make a decision for the Lord, I challenged them to consider the message.
At some later point, my wife who was in the kitchen with my mother and the rest of the family while I was witnessing, told me another part of the story. It was a part to which I was apparently oblivious. She wondered if I noticed the chaos going on in the house at the time. I was actually puzzled as I thought everything was quite calm. She said that everything was going crazy. Fuses kept blowing, the lights were going on and off, there was all kinds of commotion and shouting, and profanity. Frankly, I did not notice a thing. Looking back on it, I think the distractions were connected to a spiritual distraction and the Lord in some unknown way protected us in the living-room from it.
Often in ministry, there will be spiritual opposition of various forms to distract people from hearing the truth of the gospel. In this passage, we see one such experience in the Apostle Paul’s ministry. While in Philippi and heading to the place of prayer, a slave girl met his team. This girl had a spirit of divination and kept shouting, “These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.” Now you might think that her exclamation would have been a positive, seeing that she proclaimed a truth. However, it was a significant distraction that went on for days. Eventually, Paul casts out the spirit from the girl and the distraction ceased.
Distractions often come our way when we are doing the work of the Lord. Sometimes they may be very overt in nature and we can recognize them as a spiritual effort to oppose the work. On other occasions they can just seem as natural occurrences. Sometimes, the Lord may somehow encompass us with peace so that we do not even know of the chaos going on around us. On other occasions we know what is happening and He gives us the strength and persistence to press on in spite of it.
When we are serving the Lord, we first must remember that it is a spiritual work and we are engaged in spiritual conflict. There are things going on in a spiritual plane that we cannot see, which are very real. So, we should not be surprised when distractions occur. Second, we must prayerfully persist in the midst of the distractions, trusting that the Lord will empower His servants for the task. Every situation will be different, but our approach is always the same. We must understand the reality of spiritual conflict, be fervent in prayer, and be persistent in our work, faithfully proclaiming the truth of God’s word.