In Acts Chapter 23, Paul is being put on trial basically, and he’s testifying to the gospel, and as he does, the dissension around him becomes so violent that the tribune is afraid that Paul’s about to be torn to pieces by this crowd, so this tribune commands the soldiers to go down, take Paul away from among them, bring him into the barracks, and then Verse 11 says “The following night, the Lord stood by Paul and said ‘Take courage. For as you have testified to the facts about me and Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.'” I love this picture. Paul, he’s got dissension all around him to the point where he’s about to be torn to pieces. He’s wondering if he’s even going to live through this, and Jesus comes to him. The Bible says, “The Lord stood by him.” What a great phrase. He was not alone, and this is exactly what Jesus had promised. When he told his disciples in the gospels that they would face persecution, he said they would not be alone, that he would be with them, so the Lord stands by him and says, “Take courage.”
We can have courage in every circumstance because Christ is with us.
The presence of Christ brings courage in the middle of trials and threats, in the middle of unknowns. We have courage because Christ is with us. That’s the clear takeaway from Acts Chapter 23, Verse 11. I think about our brothers and sisters in the world right now who are persecuted, who are facing trials much like Paul was who are being threatened to be torn apart by pieces in some senses, and I think this text just leads us to pray for them, to pray that the Lord would stand by them and give them courage, and at the same time this text beckons us to pray that when we face trials, even threats against us, that we would have courage in Christ. We would remember that we are never alone.
God, we do. We pray these things. God, we pray for our brothers and sisters right now who are being persecuted. We think about our brothers and sisters in many different parts of the world, in different countries where they are imprisoned for following you and for proclaiming you. We pray for those who are facing threats against them from their families because they’ve become followers of you. We pray for those of who are facing threats in their communities, from leaders in their communities because they have decided to follow you, because they’re sharing the gospel. God, we pray that in the midst of the challenges around them, amidst the turmoil around them, amidst the threats against them, God, we pray that they would know that Jesus is standing with them. God, we pray for their courage. Please, oh, God, give them courage. Help them to stand, sustain their faith. Strengthen their faith. Satisfy their souls in the middle of this. Oh, God, show yourself strong we pray. Lord Jesus, show yourself strong, we pray, on their behalf.
God, we pray that you would give us that same kind of faith whenever we face trials and threats of any kind against us. Lord, help us to live lives and proclaim the gospel that even lead to this kind of thing, not that we seek this out, but God, we pray that you would keep us from hiding in the supposed safety of comfortable, casual Christianity. Lord, help us to live boldly for you to share the gospel with people around us and with people around the world knowing that many places in the world where we might go and share the gospel, it will be costly, but God, we trust that you will be with us. That Jesus, you will stand by us, and that you will give us courage. We pray that you help us to trust in you in those moments just as we pray right now that you would help our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted to trust in you right now. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.