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.” And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the Word of God among them. Acts 18:9-11
If you read the book of Acts, you see a pattern develop in Pauls’ missionary work. He would enter a place and declare the Gospel. There would be some who would respond to the Gospel, and Paul would gladly begin to disciple them and build into them. Then, inevitably, other folks would rise up who were hostile to Paul and the Gospel message, and cause trouble. This would usually result in Paul being run out of that town, sometimes in fear of losing his very life!
Place after place after place of getting “run out of town”, I am inclined to think there was some level of discouragement in Paul. Sometimes we view Paul as some kind of “super-saint”, but the truth is that he faced times of real discouragement in his life, as we do. Just one example of that is in 2 Cor. 1:8-9, when he said, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”
The Lord knew Paul was discouraged and in the midst of despair, and He wanted to bring him a strong word of encouragement. And so the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision (Acts 18:9-11 shown above) and gave him this encouragement. Here is what Warren Wiersbe shares on this:
It is just like our Lord to speak to us when we need Him the most. His tender “Fear not!” can calm the storm in our hearts regardless of the circumstances around us. This is the way He assured Abraham (Gen. 15:1), Isaac (Gen. 26:24), and Jacob (Gen. 46:3), as well as Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. 20:15-17), Daniel (Dan. 10:12, 19), Mary (Luke 1:30), and Peter (Luke 5:10). (1)
The God Who Sees and Responds
What God is showing us in Acts 18 is this: The Lord sees us. He knows our situation and feels our discouragement. He desires to respond by speaking personally and intimately to breathe encouragement into us. Do you believe that? Do you truly believe the Lord wants to breathe encouragement into you in your moments or seasons of despair?
I think one of the main challenges we face in following Christ is our lack of faith that moves us to respond. Ney Bailey once defined faith as “taking God at His Word.” When God says something in His Word, will we believe it? And if that is true faith, shouldn't that faith move us to action? That means not just intellectually understanding the promises of God in His Word but showing our faith by acting on them.
The same God who spoke those words to Paul, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is speaking to you. The Creator of all things, who spoke to Jehoshaphat, Daniel, Mary, and Peter is speaking today. And He really is speaking personally and intimately to you and to me as “His kids”.
So if you believe that the Lord truly is speaking to you, how do you get started or re-started in hearing Him? Wiersbe goes on to share this:
The next time you feel alone and defeated, meditate on Hebrews 13:5, Isaiah 41:10, and Isaiah 43:1-7. Claim by faith the presence of the Lord. He is with you! (1)
I think that is great advice for you and me when we get in a place of discouragement. In fact, let's take a minute to look at those verses now. Write out the verses below and any comments about them:
· Hebrews 13:5
· Isaiah 41:10
· Isaiah 43:1-7
Why are we doing this? Think of meditating and/or memorizing verses like these as storing up treasure. You are laying up reminders of God’s encouragement, faithfulness, and goodness that you and others will need in future days. So please find a way to recall these verses that works for you. Let's not lose the treasure the Lord wants us to have, remember, and share with others!
As I finish up sharing, I wanted to make a few overall suggestions as we read our Bibles each day. These can help all of us on the journey of following Christ:
· As you read, look for things God reveals about Himself and His desires for His people.
· As you read, also look for promises that remind you that God is with you and that He wants to connect deeply and personally with you. And that He will not abandon you in those seasons of despair or discouragement.
· Write down what you find so that you can come back to it in the future or share it with others in their times of discouragement. This could be some type of journal you keep, some type of electronic document you have, or any other way you can keep track of these things.
Let’s take a look at how God spoke encouragement to other folks in the Bible. Here are just two examples of many in the Scripture:
a) Read Genesis 46:1-3 about God's promise to Jacob. Use the space below to write out part of the verses and/or your thoughts on them:
b) Read 2 Chronicles 20:1-17 about Jehoshaphat. Use the space below to write out the promises God made and/or your thoughts on them:
c) If you are married, share what you have been seeing in God’s Word with your spouse. Also consider sharing it with a same-gender Christian friend. Then we strongly encourage you to take a moment or two to pray with them, that you both would not only understand what God is saying, but respond in obedience and faith.
One of the Lord’s Names is Jehovah Roi - which means “The God who Sees”. Check out this online article by Proverbs 31 Ministries or this post on the Names of God from the Jesus Film Project.
Image by RachH from Pixabay
Source: (1) Warren Wiersbe Be Series Commentary on Acts 18
Written by Glen Solberg, Abiding Marriage, 2021. Send comments or questions to info@AbidingMarriage.org