Comer: Faith and following the Holy Ghost leads to peace and miracles
Paul’s trip to Macedonia (in northern Greece) as told in Acts 16 in the New Testament was filled with miracles.
A woman named Lydia, described as “a seller of purple,” paid attention to his words and was baptized, along with her household.
Another woman, described as “a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination … which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying” followed Paul and his companions and declared them to be “the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.” She did so for many days, and eventually, Paul “turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” The spirit departed the same hour.
Perhaps the most remarkable miracle came after Paul and his companion Silas had been imprisoned. There was a great earthquake, which led to all of the doors being opened and all of the bands being loosed. The jailor, who had been charged with carefully guarding the prisoners and now worried they had fled, took out his sword and would have killed himself, but Paul stopped him, telling him to not harm himself because they were still there.
“Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,
“And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
“And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
“And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.
“And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.
“And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.” (Acts 16:29-34)
Each of these miracles is amazing, but what I think of the most when I read about them is not necessarily that they happened, but why they happened. They happened because of the faith of Paul and his companions.
The early verses in Acts 16 tell the story of how Paul and his companions wound up in Macedonia in the first place.
“Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,
“After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.
“And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.
“And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.
“And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.
“Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis;
“And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.” (Acts 16:6-12)
Paul and his companions were going from place to place, following the promptings of the Holy Ghost along the way, and when Paul had a vision which he believed to be from the Lord about going to Macedonia, they went “immediately.”
But, of course, things didn’t go perfectly, even after the miracles with Lydia and the certain damsel, because Paul and Silas ended up in jail. How did that happen? It was the result of Paul casting the spirit out of the damsel.
“And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers,
“And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,
“And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.
“And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.
“And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:
“Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.” (Acts 16:19-24)
I imagine this would be moment of frustration for most people. Paul and Silas were simply doing as the Holy Ghost prompted them, doing what they were called to do, yet here they were in a prison after being beaten.
How did they react? Of course, with faith.
“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
“And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.” (Acts 16:25-26)
Then came the conversion of the jailor.
What a tremendous reminder to all of us of the power of faith.
Some might say they aren’t capable of the kind of faith necessary to follow the Holy Ghost no matter what and praise God in any circumstance, even a terrible circumstance that came after doing what the Lord wanted.
Such sentiments remind me of comments given by Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf in the October 2015 general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He said:
“When you and I talk to people about faith and belief, don’t we often hear, ‘I wish I could believe the way you do’?
“Implied in such a statement is another of Satan’s deceptions: that belief is available to some people but not to others. There is no magic to belief. But wanting to believe is the necessary first step! God is no respecter of persons. He is your Father. He wants to speak to you. However, it requires a little scientific curiosity — it requires an experiment upon the word of God — and the exercise of a “particle of faith.” It also takes a little humility. And it requires an open heart and an open mind. It requires seeking, in the full meaning of the word. And, perhaps hardest of all, it requires being patient and waiting upon the Lord.
“If we make no effort to believe, we are like the man who unplugs a spotlight and then blames the spotlight for not giving any light.”
George Q. Cannon, former first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, provided this encouraging wisdom:
“No matter how serious the trial, how deep the distress, how great the affliction, (God) will never desert us. He never has, and He never will. He cannot do it. It is (against) His character (to do so). He is an unchangeable being. … He will stand by us. We may pass through the fiery furnace; we may pass through deep waters; but we shall not be consumed nor overwhelmed. We shall emerge from all these trials and difficulties the better and the purer for them, if we only trust in our God and keep His commandments.”
I know that is true because I have felt God’s presence throughout my life. I have felt him encouraging me and consoling me in circumstances tougher than I could have once ever imagined. I have felt him speak peace to my soul, just like he spoke peace to the prophet Joseph Smith’s soul while he was in jail in Liberty, Missouri.
“If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea;
“If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb;
“And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
“The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?
“Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.” (Doctrine and Covenants 122:5-9)
In terms of my eternal evolution, I know that I am far from a perfect product. My faith is not nearly as strong and as consistent as I want it to be. But I desire for it to get there because I have seen the fruits of the faith I have exercised, and I have faith that at some point it will. I hope for that for all of us.
Contact Ryan Comer at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @rbcomer8388 and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/