Word@Work, Let God's Word energise your working day!

Take Courage

Acts 23:9-11
There was a great uproar, and some of the teachers of the law who were Pharisees stood up and argued vigorously. 'We find nothing wrong with this man,' they said. 'What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?' The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks. 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.' (NIVUK)

Paul's speech to the Sanhedrin Council was cut short. He had just declared that he was brought up as a Pharisee, and that he fully believed in the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:6). Now, the Council was composed of Pharisees who believed in eternal life, a bodily resurrection, angels and heaven; and Sadducees who believed that this life is all that exists, there is nothing beyond death, according to them (Acts 23:8).

Paul's declaration divided the Council. The Pharisees were delighted: Paul may have been misguided about Jesus but maybe an angel had spoken to him, vindicating their stance on the after-life. They concluded that there was no problem with Paul, implying that he should be set free. But the Sadducees were furious. Having lost their essential religious argument, they resorted to violence. Once again the military had to intervene to prevent serious public disorder; and once again, Paul was confined in the barracks for his own safety (Acts 22:23-24).

But Paul was not alone. The Lord was with him (2 Timothy 4:17). That night in the jail, Paul sensed the presence of Jesus so close to him; once again he heard His voice. It was a command to be strong in the face of argument, division and violence. This was no time for despondency or despair. "Take courage", Jesus said to him. And then the Lord explained why: Paul's work was not over. It had been God's will for the apostle to preach about Jesus in Jerusalem and to experience some of the hatred which was poured out on his Lord (Acts 9:15). But he would not be crucified, nor killed by a mob like Stephen (Acts 7:54-60). No, it was God's plan for Paul to preach about Jesus in the heart of the empire; testifying in front of Caesar in Rome. So he needed to be strong in the Lord (Ephesians 6:10).

We are never alone. Whatever the problem, the Lord is with us. If He has allowed trouble, He will see us through it. Like Joshua, we need to learn to take courage (Joshua 1:7-9). The Lord will give it to us but we must choose to accept it, take it and wear it as our armour (Ephesians 6:10-18). He may not remove the difficulty but will give us an endless supply of grace. But we must stop being frightened victims. We must choose to accept that only He has the right to determine our future: not the powerful world, the scheming devil nor our own weak flesh. As we wear the courage He gives us, He will use us, and much more than we might imagine. So hear His command, don't give up, don't hide away, don't run away. Obey, and "Take courage" (Mark 6:50).

All powerful God. Thank You for giving courage to Your people who keep trusting in You. Forgive me for my weakness and despair in the face of what seems to be overwhelming opposition. Please help me to obey Your command to accept the strength You give so that I can be useful to You, praising You despite many difficulties. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
Bible Book: 

© Dr Paul Adams