“Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.” (Acts 18:9–10, AV)
Proclaiming Christ to a lost and dying world can be a fearful thing to many people. This is especially true as the opposition and rejection of our message is possible. Paul dealt with such rejection, yet he did not let it sway him from preaching. In the previous devotion we looked at his responses to the reviling of the Corinthian Jews to his message. He did not quit. In this verse, Paul receives an encouraging word from the Lord. The Lord’s encouraging words to Paul are to be a source of strengthening and courage for us.
The Lord commands Paul, “Be not afraid.” Fear is one of our emotions that can have a positive effect on one hand but a negative on the other. From a positive standpoint, it can be a warning of imminent danger that influences our response towards safety. An example is that of hearing a rattlesnake while walking through a field. The sound will alert a person to watch where he or she steps. However, the negative side of fear is when it is debilitating. This is the situation where fear alters our actions in such a way as to be detrimental to our mission. Such would be the case of the fear of proclaiming Christ. Thus, the Lord commands Paul to “speak, and hold not thy peace.”
Then the Lord gives Paul three reasons for courage. First, and foremost, the Lord tells Paul, “I am with you.” Perhaps the greatest promise and cause for courage in the Bible is this fact. Jesus is always with us. He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6). Remember the “Great Commission?” The last thing Jesus states is, “and, lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of world.” This is the great guarantee for us. We cannot fail in proclaiming the gospel, we have no cause for fear since it is Jesus’ mission and He always goes with us.
Second, the Lord promises divine protection for Paul. It is difficult for us to reconcile this promise of divine protection as it applies universally to believers with the martyrdom of godly saints. How could a group of the Waodani people in Ecuador murder missionaries like Jim Eliot and his team while on the Lord’s “Great Commission?” While we ask such questions, we cannot contend with God’s complete sovereignty. We must realize that His ways are higher than are ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Perhaps it is best to consider a statement a preacher made one time. “We are indestructible until we have completed our earthly mission for the Lord.” Thus, we should be courageous in preaching the gospel for God is sovereign and will protect us in accomplishing his purposes for our lives until such time that the Lord desires for us to go to our heavenly home.
Last, the Lord tells Paul that He has many people in the city. This refers to those whom the Lord has chosen for salvation. The point here is that Paul must courageously preach the gospel for his words were destined to fall on the ears of these people. While the threats of the opposition were intimidating, the mission of the Lord was infinitely greater than these threats. In our community, whether at work, the store, the neighborhood, etc., the Lord has many people waiting to hear our message.
Therefore, fear not. Continue to preach the gospel message. By the nature of our call to faith, He has made us witnesses. We should not fear, for the Lord is with us, He will protect us in fulfillment of our call, as there are many destined for salvation in Christ.