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:
- Do not fear.
- I am with you.
- 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