Sometimes, we tend to think of the apostles and other people in the Bible as superheroes. That they always faced death courageously and without fear. And certainly there were times they were like that. (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego certainly seemed that way, among others).
But I don’t know if that was always the case. They were human just like us, after all. And as I read this passage in Acts 23, I wonder what was going on in Paul’s heart. He had just been involved in a situation that had become so violent that the Roman commander got him out of there thinking Paul was going to get torn to pieces by his accusers.
As Paul lay in bed that night, what was he thinking? Was he experiencing doubt? Fear? Was he worrying about if he could accomplish the things he had thought God desired him to do.
Whatever he was thinking, it says in verse 11,
The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”
A few things strike me here. First, the Lord stood near Paul. And it’s a reminder to me that even through our darkest times, through our trials, and through our doubts and fears, the Lord is always standing by us.
Second, the Lord told Paul, “Take courage.” Why would you tell someone to take courage if they already had it? And perhaps because of all his circumstances, Paul was wavering a bit. But the Lord steadied him and said, “Take courage.” Sometimes we too waver a bit in our faith. We waver concerning the path God has put us on. But God gives us the same message he gave Paul. “Take courage.” Why should we take courage?
Because God will accomplish his will in our lives and no power on this earth can stop him. He told Paul,
As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.
In other words, “Don’t worry about all those opposing you. You will fulfill the purposes I have called you to. Just stand strong and keep trusting in me.”
How about you? Are you starting to lose faith because of your circumstances? Are you starting to give in to fear because of the opposition you’re facing? Take courage. Know that the Lord is near. And keep trusting and following him, knowing that he will accomplish his will in your life. Let us remember the words of Paul himself, who said,
The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:5-7)