He Took Courage

Friday, September 12, 2014, 6:00 a.m. – the Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “In Faithfulness He Leads Me.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 28:11-31 (NASB).

On to Rome

The ship Paul was on as a prisoner ran aground. All the people on board the ship were brought safely to land, including all the prisoners. Then they found out that the island they were on was called Malta. The natives there showed “extraordinary kindness” to those on the ship who had landed on their island. Paul ended up healing the father of a man named Publius. After this happened, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases came to him to be cured. As well, the natives of the island showed Paul and the others great honor and respect, and they supplied them with all they needed to set sail again. At the end of three months on the island they did set sail again, and eventually they arrived in Rome.

When Paul and the others arrived in Rome, many followers of Christ came to meet them. “When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.”

I cried when I read this. I thought about all that Paul had just been through. Paul had been arrested in Jerusalem on false charges. A plot to take his life was afoot, so the commander had him transferred to Caesarea. There he was put on trial before Governor Felix. Two years passed, and then Felix was succeeded by Festus. Then Paul was on trial before Festus. When Festus asked Paul if he would be willing to stand trial before him in Jerusalem, Paul appealed to Caesar. So, Festus said, “To Caesar you will go.”

Some more time passed, and then Paul was placed on a ship headed to Rome, along with some other prisoners. The winds were against the ship, so they ran into much difficulty and eventually ran aground in Malta where they stayed another three months. So, when Paul finally got to his destination, and he was greeted by his fellow Christians, who had come distances to see him, he thanked the Lord and he took courage.

Perhaps you can identify. I know I can. I have never traveled a ship that had difficulty on the waves of the sea and that ran aground, and I have never been arrested on false charges or held in prison for long periods of time. Some of you may have. Yet, I do know hardships, trials, persecutions, rejections, being ostracized, mocked, abandoned, and lied against, etc. I know, too, what it is like to go long periods of time without much in the way of genuine Christian fellowship with other believers, and during this time, suffering much loneliness, hatred, and misunderstandings, and missing those close friendships of years gone by. And, I also know the joy of those times when the Lord Jesus sends someone along my way to encourage my heart and to refresh my spirit, and I am so thankful and I do take courage.

In Rome

When we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him.

After three days Paul called together those who were the leading men of the Jews, and when they came together, he began saying to them, “Brethren, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. And when they had examined me, they were willing to release me because there was no ground for putting me to death. But when the Jews objected, I was forced to appeal to Caesar, not that I had any accusation against my nation. For this reason, therefore, I requested to see you and to speak with you, for I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel.” They said to him, “We have neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren come here and reported or spoken anything bad about you. But we desire to hear from you what your views are; for concerning this sect, it is known to us that it is spoken against everywhere.”

When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening. Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe. And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word, “The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers, saying,

‘Go to this people and say,
“You will keep on hearing, but will not understand;
And you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive;
For the heart of this people has become dull,
And with their ears they scarcely hear,
And they have closed their eyes;
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
And hear with their ears,
And understand with their heart and return,
And I would heal them.”’
Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen.” [When he had spoken these words, the Jews departed, having a great dispute among themselves.]

And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.

What is standing out to me here, especially in relation to this song, is how absolutely sovereign God is over every aspect of our lives.

I look at Paul’s life, and I see the hand of God on his life every step of the way. I think about how God hand-picked Paul for this assignment, and that he was even preparing him before he was saved. When I read about how Paul continually reasoned with the Jews and how he tried to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, I realized that God gave Paul all that training, knowledge and experience from early on in his life for a reason. The reason was that he would be given the task of trying to convince the Jews that Jesus Christ was indeed their promised Messiah, and that he was the fulfillment of the prophets.

Also, I think of Paul’s testimony, and how he was a persecutor of Christians before his conversion, and how he was now on the other side of that situation in that he was now the one being falsely arrested, dragged into court, thrown into prison, persecuted and even beaten nearly to death. Having been on the other side of this situation, I believe he was perhaps more sympathetic to his persecutors since he had once been in their shoes. I also believe he was more passionate about them seeing the light of truth, too, because he knew what it was to be blind, and he knew what it was to see the light.

Another aspect of this that comes to mind is that, because Paul was once a murderer of Christians, and he had a past, and now he had come to Christ, so that he was now an enemy to those who were once his comrades, I think it gave him greater determination to stay the course. He was not so easily persuaded or threatened by his opponents, because he was once one of them, nor was he afraid to be hated or even put to death. He knew the seriousness of the task before him, and he was willing to endure whatever it took to get the gospel of salvation out to as many people as possible.

Lastly, what comes to mind is that God had a plan and a purpose for Paul’s life all through his persecutions, sufferings, beatings, arrests, imprisonments, crash landings, and length of time and the freedoms he was given in the various places where he was held prisoner. He used him to share Jesus Christ wherever he went, and he used him to encourage his brothers and sisters in Christ, too, through his circumstances, as well as God provided him with much encouragement. I believe it was during some of these imprisonments that he wrote some of his letters which we now have as scripture, and it continues to encourage and strengthen human hearts and preach Jesus as Savior and Lord nearly 2,000 years later.

Greatly Encouraged

I am greatly encouraged by this lesson today, as I see how God is reminding me here of how his hand has been upon every aspect of my life, and that everything he has allowed in my life has been for a purpose. I can see how all of my life has been training for me for where I am right now.

Several years ago, for instance, I attended a local college after being away from school for 30 years. I didn’t do so well the first time through college, so I was not sure how I would do. Though I remember little of what I learned in those classes, what the Lord Jesus taught me there was that I could learn, and that helped me to believe that he could teach me things way beyond what I would have ever imagined I could learn in my life, which has then been instrumental in helping me to do what I now do.

The Lord Jesus also had me brought up in a church with a very strong emphasis on holiness and on missions (the same denomination as A. W. Tozer), so I had a wonderful foundation in the Word of Truth. I was also blessed with a pastor who was humble before God, who listened to the Lord, and who walked the walk that he taught. He was a great teacher, and so practical in how he applied the word of God to our daily lives. He not only taught us the word, but he taught us how to study the word for ourselves, and how to teach it to others, too. Yet, I, like Paul, sinned greatly against my Lord, but the Lord delivered me from those sins. God did not lead me to sin, but because of my past, I am much more compassionate towards others who sin, and also am much more passionate about seeing them set free.

And, lastly, I, too, have experienced much rejection, persecution, difficulties, false accusations, and have been kicked to the curb more times than should have been because of my faith and testimony for Jesus Christ, and because of my walk of faith and my obedience to my Lord in being his servant and witness. Yet, in all of this, or through all of this, the Lord has been faithful to me in giving me all that I need to keep me going, and for me to keep pressing forward in sharing his gospel to the ends of the earth. Praise his name!

In Faithfulness He Leads Me / An Original Work / March 20, 2013
Based off Various Scriptures
(Ps. 26:3; 86:11; 91:4-5; 111:7-8; 119:73-76;
Is. 25:1,4&9; 42:6-7; Hos. 2:16-20)

Teach me Your ways, Lord, and I’ll walk in them.
Give me a pure heart. I’ll fear Your name.
Your love is always, ever before me.
Continually I’ll walk in Your truth.
You will cover me with feathers.
Under Your wings I’ll find refuge.
My Lord’s faithfulness will be my
Comfort and my shield.
The works of His hands are faithful and just.
Trustworthy are all of His precepts.

Your hands have made me, and they have formed me.
Give understanding of Your commands.
I have put my hope, O Lord, in Your word.
Your teachings, O Lord, are righteousness.
Lord, in faithfulness You have
Afflicted me so I may learn of
Your unfailing love and comfort
And Your truthfulness.
You are my husband; You have betrothed me
In love, compassion and faithfulness.

O Lord, You are my God, I’ll exalt You.
In faithfulness You’ve done wondrous things.
You’ve been a refuge for those who’re needy;
A shelter in storms; shade from the heat.
This is the Lord, we trusted in Him,
Let us be glad and rejoice
In His salvation which He
Provided through the Lamb.
Open the blind eyes; free all the captives.
Tell them of Jesus: “Be born again!”