A domino effect or chain reaction is the cumulative effect produced when one event sets off a chain of similar events. The term is best known as a mechanical effect and is used as an analogy to a falling row ofdominoes. More metaphorically, the term is used to talk about how one thing can trigger other events, and this seems to have been the case for Paul and Silas in Philippi, when confronted with a slave girl whom they delivered from an evil spirit in the name of Jesus. (Acts 16:16-40)
Paul, troubled and annoyed by the girl’s persistent crying out testifying to their allegiance to the Most High God, recognised that she was being used by an evil spirit and commanded this spirit to leave her, which it did. This meant, however, that she was no longer able to earn money for her slave-masters by predicting the future, and therefore what could have been seen as a simple act of deliverance actually set in motion a train of events with political and financial implications and consequences which ended up with Paul and Silas being thrown into prison on grounds of sedition. Their one act of kindness – which set the girl free from demonic influence – had the effect of redounding on them, leading to being brought before magistrates and resulting in imprisonment. As Tom Wright remarks, ‘the combination of religion, money and politics is asking for trouble.’ (Tom Wright, ‘Acts for Everyone Pt 2’, P 65)
The domino effect in the natural world ends when all the dominoes have toppled over and could therefore seem to have an entirely negative effect. In this instance, however, we see how God is able to bring good from every situation, even that which involved severe flogging and imprisonment. (Rom 8:28) The apparently negative consequences did not cause Paul and Silas to fear or be troubled; instead, they spent their time praying and singing and praising God! (Acts 16:25) Ultimately, God sent an earthquake to shake the prison doors open and not only were they delivered and vindicated by the authorities, they had the opportunity to share their faith with the Philippian jailer and see salvation brought to his household. In God, they knew that every setback and disadvantage can be turned to good – and the same remains true for His people today.