“And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.” (Acts 23:11, AV)
Years ago, I was a church planter pastor in Savannah Georgia. I began a new church on a college campus with a vision to reach college students with the gospel and introduce them to how churches functioned. The Lord was blessing the ministry. College students were coming to faith and dealing with the new issues of life they faced in college when living away from home.
Then, after six years of successful ministry, we were forced to move out of our meeting place on the campus. In an effort to revision and find a new meeting place, we experienced conflict in the leadership and eventually were forced to shut down the ministry. This was quite disheartening, but I thought I will just have to find another place of ministry. So, I began the search and viewed over 200 various pastoral opportunities. It took over a year of searching. During this time, I thought that perhaps my time of pastoral ministry was over just as fast as it had begun. I began to lose confidence that I had a true calling to pastor a church. Yet, I just could not let go of the calling.
How would you respond to a situation where you began to lose confidence? It often happens in life due to a variety of circumstances. It can come from failures, fears, trials, etc.
Here, Paul finds himself in a situation that could cause him to wonder if it was the end of the road for his time of ministry. The ministry of the gospel was his God ordained passion. It seemed to be the drive and passion of his life. Now, he is in Jerusalem and the ruling Jews in the area, the Sanhedrin, apprehends him. They put him on trial. The trial breaks down into tremendous dissension between the Sadducees and the Pharisees with Paul caught in the middle. In fear that the group would harm Paul, the Roman commander has Paul taken to the barracks.
It is to this situation that the Lord commands Paul to take courage and confidence as he would go to Rome and testify there. The Lord God has a sovereign plan and his plans are unchangeable. He works providentially to fulfill all of His glorious purposes. It is in God’s sovereignty that Paul can have great confidence and courage.
In our lives, many things can cause us to lose heart. Emotions in and of themselves are not a sin. God has created us as emotional beings. They have a purpose. However, they can become sin when they master us and control our actions. Courageous confidence does not necessarily eliminate negative emotions. However, in this passage the Lord’s exhortation gives Paul what is necessary to overcome any fears or doubts that may set him back.
In ministry we encounter things that can bring fears and doubts to us. It can be persecution, such as Paul experienced in Jerusalem. It might the fears of failure or the future. It can be adverse circumstances that we do not understand. For us who are the children of God, like Paul, the source of our courageous confidence is the Lord who stands by us revealed in the word of God, the Bible. We never walk alone into any situation. Jesus is always with us to fulfill in us His wondrous purposes. Just as the Lord had a plan for Paul to preach in Rome, He has a plan for each one of us. Just as He guaranteed Paul the fulfillment of that plan, He will accomplish His plans for us. So, be confident, the Lord’s plans are unstoppable, and He will continue to use us even if it looks like we are at the end of our road.