More Missionary Journeys – Acts 16:1-20:38
It seems that conflict and violence follows Paul wherever he goes. Paul and Silas are jailed in Philippi, Jason is arrested on Paul’s behalf in Thessalonica, and Paul has to run from Thessalonian agitators in Berea. He is abused and accused in Corinth, and he causes a two-hour riot in Ephesus.
Most of us would be tempted to give up… over and over again! And perhaps Paul is tempted to give up as well. But one night in Corinth, Paul has a vision, and God says:
“Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”
I’m not a language scholar, but after consulting multiple translations, it appears as though there are two cause-and-effect statements in this vision:
- Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent
- For I am with you.
- No one is going to attack and harm you
- Because I have many people in this city.
What’s particularly interesting to me is that Paul isn’t told “don’t be afraid because nobody will harm you.” Neither is he told, “No one will harm you because I am with you.” Instead, he’s told “don’t be afraid, I am with you,” AND “no one will harm you because I have many people.”
Our lack of fear should never be rooted in the belief that we won’t be harmed or that things won’t go wrong. Our lack of fear should only be rooted in the knowledge of God’s abiding presence with us. Furthermore, our belief that God is always with us should never be confused with a belief that things won’t go wrong. Instead, we can be confident that He goes with us, even through difficult and trying times.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In ev’ry change He faithful will remain.
By still, my soul; thy best, thy heav’nly Friend
Thro’ thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
– Katharina von Schlegel (trans. by Jane L. Borthwick)