Tag Archives: God’s Presence

What God Told Paul When He Was Afraid

Talk about post-traumatic stress syndrome, I guess we should have expected this:  Paul was afraid.  And it’s no wonder. Who wouldn’t be?  Think about it – he was…

…stoned at Lystra

…beaten with rods and jailed in Philippi

…attacked by an unruly mob in Thessalonica

…mocked in Athens

…reviled in Corinth

It seems that almost everywhere Paul went he was either verbally attacked or beaten, and all the while he kept preaching and discipling, and yes, in his “free” time, supporting himself by making tents. So, when he finally made it to Corinth, he was surely tired…and undoubtedly downright fearful. Stoning and whippings and beatings and vicious verbal assaults amidst a heavy load of work will do that to you every time.

Frankly, I think it’s amazing he made it this far. But this was no ordinary man, and of course, he had an omnipotent God moving in his life.  And it was a vision of this Great God which enabled Paul to get up and keep going:

And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” Acts 18:9, 10 (ESV)

It was this word that enabled Paul to dust himself off and keep going in the city of Corinth for another year and a half before sailing home and then doing it all over again.

But notice exactly what God told fearful Paul in this vision of the night: He told him what He has been telling His people since Abraham, a command followed by a promise:

  1. Do not fear.
  2. I am with you.

Psalm 234 [widescreen]God’s word to Paul followed a beautiful pattern in Scripture that we see again and again as the Lord’s remedy to help his children overcome fear…

  • When Joshua was about to take over leadership of Israel, the Lord said to him, “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (ESV)
  • When David was walking through the valley of the shadow of death, he purposed, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”  Psalm 23:4 (ESV)
  • When God wanted to comfort His people through the prophet Isaiah, He said, “Fear not, for I am with you…” Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)

Yes, the presence of God chases fear far away, for when He is near, so is His love, and that “perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18 (ESV)    And therefore the most important thing we can remind ourselves when we get filled with fear is that He is right by our side.  This may be also why we are commanded to pray when we fear (Philippians 4:6,7), because nothing brings us into His presence the way prayer does.

So I don’t know what you’re walking through right now – maybe it’s an upcoming exam, continuing unemployment or a wayward child.  Maybe it’s a scary illness, a bully at school or a difficult break-up…or divorce.  But whatever it is, if you have trusted in Jesus for salvation, then you are His child, and He has made a promise to you: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 (ESV)

This means He has more than enough resources to provide for you, more than enough emotional strength to support you, and more than enough love to give you a strong sense that you will never ever be alone.  And on top of everything, perhaps the greatest reason not to fear is that He has promised to make everything work out…for your good. (Romans 8:28)

He is with you, and that promise goes all the way until He takes us to heaven at the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)

So you know what to do, right?

That’s right…do not fear.


For tomorrow, Friday, March 6: Acts 19


Posted by on March 5, 2015 in Uncategorized


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The Promise

Statue to MacArthur on the grounds of West Point, NY

Statue to MacArthur on the grounds of West Point, NY

They warned me about Reorganization (Reorgy) week at West Point, but there was no way to have a real sense for what was coming.

The week before Reorgy was the last week of basic training or “Beast Barracks” at the Academy, and believe it or not, it was as close to any vacation as I had known thus far. It was hardly basic training, taking place about 10 miles from the West Point grounds at a camp on Lake Frederick. There were leadership exercises during the day, a little boating if I remember correctly, and evening rallies and movies and lots of time to write letters – overall, a general relaxed feeling. It was during this week that West Point Firstie Bob Maruna dropped by my tent and changed my forever.

But we were told what was coming – Reorgy – the week when ALL the sophomores (Yearlings), juniors (Cows), and seniors (Firsties) descended on the West Point campus  from their various summer assignments and made life for us Plebes a living hell. Previously, during the summer there were a few upperclassmen around who would haze us, mostly Firsties. The ratio was maybe 10 plebes to every 1 upperclassman. But now everything was about to change. The Yearlings, Cows and Firsties all had the right to haze Plebes, and most didn’t seem to hold back. That reversed the ratio: 1 Plebe to every 3 upperclassmen. Life was about to get tough.

We still had no idea.

I met my two new Plebe roommates at the start of the week: first, there was hapless Jamie, who had trouble labeling and putting his dirty clothes in the bag for the laundry service to clean (actually going to the cadet store to buy new underwear). The dear chap would flunk out at the end of first semester. But the other guy in our three bed room was at the opposite end of the spectrum – Rocky – who would go on to complete West Point and become an Army neurosurgeon. Thinking about it years later makes me laugh – the phrase oil and water comes to mind.

The three of us returned from our 10 mile forced march with dirty everything from bivouacking and set about to organize our room for the start of the academic year.

Before too long, our new assistant squad leader dropped by to introduce himself. He was a Yearling, a friendly sort, and I got the impression he was on our team. Before he left, he said nonchalantly, “You guys smell. You’d better keep the door open and air things out.”

And soon we had another visitor: A particularly nasty Cow, a member of our new company (and apparently our new neighbor down the hall), he had walked by our room with its open door and didn’t like the odor. “Hey, you plebes, you smell! Keep your door closed!”

Yes sir. We closed the door. (Maybe we weren’t too bright, but I can only say that speaking up to this guy didn’t seem to be the thing to do.)

And then there we two strong knocks at the door. “Enter sir!” one of us bellowed. It was Friendly Yearling, frustrated. “Hey you guys, I thought I made it clear that I wanted you to air things out. Keep this door open.”

Do you know where this is going?

The Nasty Cow came back, loudly and very unpleasantly from the hallway: “One of you Plebes, post out here pronto!” Of the three of us, I volunteered (never do that in the Army) and thus began a couple of weeks of required visits to the sadist’s room for an extra helping of hazing. It remains one of my worst memories of the Academy.

I share all this to give you a glimpse of a particularly terrible week in my life. And yet, God was at work in my life, moving and drawing me. I had just heard the gospel the week before, and had been invited to a retreat at the end of Reorgy for Cadet Chapel Sunday School teachers. And yet, as the end of Hell week approached, my attendance at said retreat was in serious question, at least according to another young man who was my new squad leader, again an unforgettable and seemingly unkind Firstie Cadet named Zunde.

To this day, I remember the three of us, Jamie, Rocky and me, standing at attention in Zunde’s room, waiting his word on the fate of our upcoming weekend. I so wanted to go on that retreat, but would Zunde give his okay?

And as we stood stiff in his room, waiting for his judgment, fearful of his final word, in one glorious moment, I sensed something wonderful. There were not just four of us in that room, the hazer and his three hazees. No…there was another.

Jesus was there. Really. He was. I could tell. I was not alone.

I was going on that retreat.

I’ve never had the same sense like I did that week some 32 years ago, but it doesn’t matter.  He has been with me ever since, just like He promised to be with all those who follow Him:

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20  (ESV)

Inspired Readers: Tomorrow, Tuesday, February 10  – we begin the book of Acts, chapter 1.


Posted by on February 9, 2015 in Uncategorized


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