When You Are Mistreated
By Dr. Charles F. Stanley
Have you ever felt like a victim? A victim is a person who has been harmed in some way, whether physically, financially, vocationally, emotionally, or otherwise. Just about everyone is treated poorly at one time or another. But many people never recover from mistreatment. Whether or not they label themselves as “victims,” they allow hurtful experiences to disrupt their lives permanently. They use negative incidents as excuses for sinful or irresponsible behavior.
Other people, despite being wronged, continue to let faith direct their choices. Instead of retreating in fear or lashing out in anger, they trust God for healing, wisdom, and an eternal reward.
Paul and Silas
Read Acts 16:16-40.
Why did Paul command the spirit to leave the slave-girl, when it had actually spoken the truth (v. 18)? By affirming Paul and Silas as “servants of the Most High God,” the demon seemed to align itself with their message. This had the potential to discredit their witness to fellow Jews, who knew God forbade fortune telling. It could also give Gentiles the impression that Christ was merely an extension of their pagan religion. Thus, they would have felt no need to listen to the apostle’s teaching.
■What charge did the slave girl’s masters bring against Paul and Silas (vv. 20-21)?
■What was the real reason the two believers were jailed (v. 19)?
The magistrate had them stripped, beaten, and imprisoned. They weren’t given a trial or even allowed to defend themselves (vv. 22-24), although they were Roman citizens (v. 37).
■How do you think they felt at this point?
■Notice that they weren’t able to sleep—they were still awake at midnight. How did they occupy their time (v. 25)?
■What miracle occurred (v. 26)?
To the modern reader, it may sound extreme that the jailer drew his sword to kill himself. However, under Roman rule, anyone who allowed a prisoner to escape was subject to the prisoner’s sentence. The guard wanted to save himself from the disgrace and torture of public execution.
Some have questioned whether the jailer meant his question, “What must I do to be saved?” (v. 30) in a spiritual sense. But because none of the prisoners had escaped, he wasn’t physically in danger. Paul and Silas’ answer indicates that the man was asking about his eternal state. He may have heard them preach in town or during their imprisonment.
■How do they answer the jailer’s question (v. 31)?
This verse is sometimes used to support the concept of “household salvation”—in other words, if the parents are believers, the children will be automatically saved. But each individual within a family has to make a personal decision to accept or reject Christ. (See Matthew 10:34-36.)
■How were the jailer and his family affected by Paul and Silas’s faithfulness to God (v. 32-33)?
■How did the family show allegiance to their new faith in Christ (v. 33)?
■The jailer took a risk by entertaining prisoners in his home (v. 34). Why do you think he did so?
■What happens in the morning (v. 35-36)?
■Paul’s response proves again that he didn’t consider himself a victim of circumstance. How does he reply (v. 37)?
■When have you been tempted to act like a victim?
■According to 1 Peter 5:8-11, what are two reasons that, despite suffering, we should be of sober spirit and resist the Devil?
■When people mistreat you, how can the concepts in Ephesians 6:12 and 2 Corinthians 5:10 keep you focused on the real battle?
Paul wrote, “We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).
■What eternal truths can comfort you in the midst of any adversity you face?
Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
■How does it make you feel to know you can approach God with confidence and receive what you need?
Paul and Silas’ godly response to persecution affected not only them but also the jailer and his entire family plus the other prisoners (Acts 16:25, 31-32). Similarly, others are blessed when you do the right thing—whether it’s standing up for truth, sharing your faith, or obeying God in some other way. Conversely, when you let fear, bitterness, or resentment control you, your disobedience harms others to some degree.
■How could others be blessed if you respond to suffering in the same spirit as Paul and Silas?
■What hinders you from responding to mistreatment in a godly manner?
Prayer: Is there a situation from your past that still stings? Or did someone offend you long ago, and you can’t seem to move on? Take that situation to God. Determine to forgive anyone who wronged you, and ask the Lord to reveal what He is accomplishing in your life through that difficulty. Seek Him when you are mistreated. He will show you how to respond in faith, not fear.