Matters of Faith: Recognizing the Enemy

By Reverend J. Loren Russell, BA, MDiv

 Acts 16:16-21 CEV

“One day on our way to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl. She had a spirit in her that gave her the power to tell the future. By doing this she made a lot of money for her owners. The girl followed Paul and the rest of us, and she kept yelling, “These men are servants of the Most High God! They are telling you how to be saved.” This went on for several days. Finally, Paul got so upset that he turned and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ, I order you to leave this girl alone!” At once the evil spirit left her. When the girl’s owners realized they had lost all chances for making more money, they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them into court. They told the officials, “These Jews are upsetting our city! They are telling us to do things we Romans are not allowed to do.”

Not everyone who appears to be for you is actually with you. There are times when your adversary is the one who is saying good things about you. Conversely, the opposite may also be true.  

In the text, Paul and Silas were finally receiving recognition for the good they were doing. They did great works in the Galatian country, places like Derbe and Lystra, Phrygia, Mysia, and Troas. They did great works in Philippi where they met, converted and baptized a businesswoman named Lydia and her whole family. None of that work garnered much fanfare. But now, Paul and his colleagues journey into the city of Thyatira were they are not only recognized as men of God, but they are being followed by a “female damsel,” a slave girl who walked behind them and cried out saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” What a wonderful thing it must have been to be recognized as servants of God and to have a local person follow them and cry out for all to hear that these men were were telling everyone the way of salvation. Although what this woman said was true, there was a problem.

There is a difference between people who are filled with the Holy Spirit and those possessed by demons. Her ability to recognize who Paul and his colleagues were and to tell futures was not a gift from God but was the result of her being possessed by a demonic spirit. Add to that the fact that her owners were making a great deal of money from her soothsaying or fortune telling, you can see why it’s important to be able to discern one from the other.

Paul recognized that this woman was not speaking for the Lord but was demon-possessed. After many days of her following them and crying out, Paul became increasingly grieved for the soul of this young woman. He decided that no longer was she going to be a victim of her possession or of her owners. He commanded that spirit to “come out of her!”  The scripture says that she was freed of that spirit that very hour.

For this liberating work, Paul and Silas were not commended, but where dragged before the authorities by the slaveowners, charged with crimes against the Roman government, beaten with rods, and thrown into prison.  

Not everyone who sings your praises are doing it with a sincere heart. As we see in the text, sometimes they can be your enemy. The challenge for us is whether we are open to the Lord’s leading and willing to recognize, rebuke and be a blessing to our enemy, especially when it appears that they are working for our good. “What shall we then say to these things? If god be for you, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

Be Blessed!

Rev. J. Loren Russell is an associate minister at both Goodwill and The Greater Universal Baptist Churches in the Bronx, President/CEO of The JLR Company for Church Financial &. Strategic Consulting, and hosts “Matters of Faith – The Radio Show” on Soul 1 Radio, Mondays 8:00 – 10:00 PM. Listen by phone” at 626-226-1448. Be sure to Friend “Matters of Faith” on Facebook and email us at Order your copy of Matters of Faith: The Book at Cash.Me ($22.88, includes shipping).

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