HOME SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 22nd
acts 16:16-40 / persevere through worship
Instead of reading the Scripture passage, you can share it in a narrative form like this:
Paul and Silas were in Philippi. One day as they walked to a place by the river to meet for prayer, a slave girl started to follow them. As they walked to the river, the girl began to shout, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved!” She followed Paul and Silas around for many days.
This slave girl was not a believer and did not have the Holy Spirit living inside her heart. She had an evil spirit living inside her. The evil spirit enabled this slave girl to predict the future. Her owners made a lot of money from her because many people paid them to have her tell them their future. The Holy Spirit enabled Paul to realize that it was time to put a stop to what the slave girl was doing.
Try to imagine what it would be like to be in Philippi sharing the Good News with others. A person who is known as the town’s fortune teller is following you around as a shouting billboard telling others that you are servants of the Most High God. Was the shouting causing people to want to listen to the message Paul had to share, or was the shouting causing people to focus on the fortune teller? The Holy Spirit empowered Paul to command the evil spirit controlling the slave girl to leave and in Jesus’ name the evil spirit obeyed and left the girl. The Holy Spirit enabled Paul to stop this slave girl from being used by the evil spirit to distract others from coming to Jesus and being saved.
The slave girl had been set free and was no longer controlled by this evil spirit. This was a good thing but her owners were not happy with what Paul did. Her owners made lots of money from her with the evil spirit. Now that she was not able to be a fortune teller, they weren’t going to be able to make money. This made them very angry with Paul and Silas.
Enraged, they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place and brought them before the rulers of the city. They told the authorities, “These men are causing trouble for our city because they are Jews, and are telling others about things which we Romans are not able to accept or follow.”
The leaders tore off Paul and Silas’ robes and commanded that they be beaten. The crowd joined in the attack against them and beat them with rods. They hit them with these rods many times and then threw them into prison.
The leaders commanded the man in charge of the prison to make sure that they were secure and could not get out. When the jailer received the leaders’ orders he took Paul and Silas far back into an inner prison that had no outside walls and put their feet into blocks of wood called stocks. These stocks were two pieces of wood that would clamp down over the prisoner’s legs at the ankles. This type of imprisonment was meant for the most dangerous prisoners. Paul and Silas had not done anything wrong to be treated this way. They were not a danger to anyone except satan’s kingdom of darkness. If they were free to share the Good News people would be rescued from sin and saved to spend eternity with Jesus.
As humans we have many natural responses to difficulties. We don’t always react the way Jesus would in difficult situations. But as believers, we have power to respond in a supernatural way that is very different than what most people act like when they are facing difficulties. Believers have the power from the Holy Spirit to respond with faith and courage. Paul and Silas show us how the Holy Spirit enables believers to respond in difficult situations. Read verse 25... "Paul and Silas, undaunted, prayed in the middle of the night and sang songs of praise to God, while all the other prisoners listened to their worship."
Because both men were filled with the Holy Spirit, they chose not to focus on their unfair treatment but focused on God’s character. They knew that God was powerful. They knew that their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ had suffered far more than they had when He was crucified on the cross. Because they chose to worship and praise God in their difficulties, it caused the other prisoners to listen to them as they prayed and sang. The Holy Spirit enabled Paul and Silas to be a witness for Jesus to these prisoners.
While the prisoners who were in prison for committing a crime were listening to the prayers and praises of Paul and Silas, they felt the ground begin to shake. The tremble turned into a great earthquake and the whole prison began to shake. All the doors were opened and the chains fell off each and every prisoner.
The jailer had fallen asleep but the shaking ground and noises of opening doors awakened him. As he rubbed his eyes and looked and saw every door opened, fear struck his heart. His job was to make sure the prisoners were securely locked into prison. If one prisoner escaped, he would be killed. When he saw the doors open, he knew his life was over so he drew his sword and was ready to take his own life when Paul cried out with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, we are all here!”
The jailer asked for a torch so that he could see and when he ran into Paul and Silas’ prison and saw that they were still there, he trembled and fell down before them. He brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
God’s power had brought a mighty earthquake to shake this Philippian prison. The Holy Spirit caused this jailer to see and recognize that he needed to be saved. The Holy Spirit enabled Paul and Silas to know how to answer this man. They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.” Paul and Silas spoke God’s words to this jailer and all that lived in his house. The jailer believed in Jesus. This same jailer who had been rough with Paul and Silas earlier by throwing them into jail and locking their feet in stocks now wanted to do something kind for these men who had shared the Good News. He washed their wounds from where they had been beaten with rods. God’s power saved this man and changed his life. Now he wanted to be baptized.
This was an exciting night! Not only did the jailer get saved, but everyone in his family did, too. They were all baptized and went back to his house and had a meal. They all rejoiced that God had brought them the Good News through Paul and Silas.
The next day when the leaders had learned that Paul and Silas were Romans, they realized they had made a big mistake by having Paul and Silas wrongly beaten and thrown into prison. No Roman citizen was ever to be punished like that. If Paul and Silas had been treated as a Roman citizen, they would have not been put in prison. Even though they were wrongly treated, they chose to trust God. God used their difficulties to save the Philippian jailer and his family.
Additional Questions for Comprehension & Imagination
How did Paul and Silas worship the Lord in this story? (ex. shared the good news of what Jesus had done for us with others, prayed, sang songs of praise)
How did Paul and Silas’ worship help them make it through annoying, unfair, and difficult circumstances? (aka how did their worship help them persevere?)
Has anybody ever annoyed you? What was that like? How did you feel or react to that person? How was Paul’s reaction the same or different than yours?
Paul and Silas were treated very unfairly by the Roman government. Have you ever been treated unfairly? What was that like? How did you handle that situation?
Paul and Silas had open sores and blood on their bodies as they sat in their prison cell. If you were Paul and Silas, what do you think you would do as you lay there in the dark, cold prison cell?
Ways to Worship:
Brainstorm ways to worship in the midst of hard things and practice doing those things!
- When I get big negative feelings, I can take 3 deep breaths. When I breathe out, I say something I know to be true about God (i.e. deep breath in, exhale: "God is good." Deep breath in, exhale: "God is kind." Deep breath in, exhale: "God is with me.")
- Singing songs of praise
- Declare truths about God to your own heart and to others (you could print off some truths for kids to read out loud or read to each other)
Overcoming Challenges through Worship SKITS
- Brainstorm with the kids certain situations they’ve been in or could see happening in their lives that feel challenging & difficult. (ex. learning a new thing that doesn’t come easy, someone at school being unkind to them, tension moments with siblings, etc.) Come up with 5-10 skits.
- Have kids act out the scenario and practice doing it in a way where they “give up” or react in a way that isn’t worship-filled. Then, have the whole group talk about how they could change the situation by not giving up and worshipping God through it instead. Have them re-do the skit in this way!