Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 9 March 20:
Acts 23:11 – “The following night the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.’”
It hasn’t been an easy road for Paul: He was persecuted and driven out of Antioch (Acts 13); he was almost stoned at Iconium and fled (Acts 14); he was stoned and left for dead at Lystra (Acts 14); he was attacked, beaten, and imprisoned at Philippi (Acts 16); he was evacuated out of Thessalonica and Berea to escape an angry mob (Acts 17); he was beaten and arrested in the temple (Acts 21), nearly flogged by the tribune (Acts 22), nearly “torn to pieces” by the council (Acts 23); and soon Paul will discover that forty assassins have committed to kill him, vowing by oath neither to eat nor drink till they have. (Acts 23:12) And Paul knows his journey is not going to get easier, culminating with his death. No one could blame Paul if he started feeling a bit discouraged, even defeated.
But the Lord stood by Paul and said, “Take courage.” The Greek word used here is Tharséō – be bold; be of good cheer; radiate confidence; be firm, resolute, and steady in the face of trials set before you. This word is used seven (7) other times in the New Testament, all by Jesus (Matthew 9:2; Mathew 9:22; Matthew 14:27; Mark 6:50; Mark 10:49; Luke 8:48; and John 16:33), either when Jesus was healing a person through His miraculous power or to comfort the disciples who were gripped by fear when He walked on water. In all cases, the message is the same – “Take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
– 1 John 4:4 — Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
– 1 John 5:4 — For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
– 1 John 5:5 — Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
We will all face great life challenges, not just the persecution that comes from being a Christian, but also the pains that come from living in a fallen world, including sickness and death. But through it all, Jesus stands beside us and says, “Take courage, take heart, I have overcome the world, and in me, you have the victory that has overcome the world.” And, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:28, 29)
Sometimes, we face life challenges because of the consequences of our own sins, but this too is intended to draw us closer to Jesus in repentance and reconciliation as we learn to trust in the sufficiency of His grace and to walk in grace closer to Him with each new day –
– 1 John 1:9 — If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
– Romans 8:31-39 — What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 9 Mar 20: Today, no matter what happens, take courage, be of good cheer, radiate joyful confidence, and press forward boldly, trusting not in your strength or righteousness but in the strength and righteousness of Christ and in your victory in Him who has overcome the world. Trust God, His sovereignty, His love, and His grace especially as you deal with the consequences of your own mistakes and sins. Remember, Nothing can separate you from the love and salvation of God, and when you rely upon Him and seek His purposes, He will work even these things together for and ultimate good as He further reveals His faithfulness to you and conforms you further to the image of His Son, Jesus.