- Encouragement for God’s Peopleby Pastor Tim Gibson
Just because we are Christians doesn’t mean that life never discourages us! The Apostle Paul was God’s chosen man who had an unshakeable faith, and yet he experienced discouragement. On his second missionary journey Paul found himself lonely, lacking funds, sensing failure, experiencing physical hardship, and being rejected by many (Acts 18:1-17). With that kind of load, many of us would have abandoned ship and thrown in the towel. As strong as Paul was however, the Lord Jesus knew that he needed encouragement. So, in a glorious way, God provided for Paul as He always does for His children. One night as Paul was in Corinth, the Lord came to him in a vision and spoke directly to him. The Lord said to Paul, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people” (Acts 18:9-10). There are five principles in the words of Jesus that were not only for Paul but are for all of God’s people even today. These principles are designed by God to provide encouragement for us.
Fear Not: First, Jesus encourages us not to fear. After all that Paul had experienced one would think that he was a fearless man, and yet Jesus knew Paul’s heart. Maybe Paul was afraid of being stoned, or put into prison like before. Just like Paul, we struggle with the unknown. When Jesus tells us not to fear, He is reassuring us that He is in control. Since He is in control of all things, it is irrational for the Christian to fear. No wonder this command is given to us in Scripture over 350 times. For whatever you are facing in life as a believer, the Lord Jesus says, “Trust me, rest in me, hope in me.”
Persevere: Second, Jesus encourages Paul to “go on…” When fear attacks us, the tendency is to retreat or to quit all together. But God’s children are not to be quitters. God called Paul to preach the Gospel and because he was not experiencing the results that he thought he should, it is possible that Paul was considering another tactic. But Jesus says to him, “but go on speaking and do not be silent.” Essentially Jesus is encouraging Paul to continue in his calling to preach the Gospel. When we get weary in our calling we must remember that Jesus is encouraging us to “go on.” Whether you are a parent raising kids or an employee in a hostile work environment, Jesus is encouraging you to press on.
Presence: Third, Jesus promises that He is “with you.” Loneliness is one of the most debilitating conditions in life. It’s hard to live life alone. But while believers may be without human companions, we are never left alone. Jesus promises to always be with us (Matt 28:20) and the Holy Spirit is always indwelling in us (Jn 14:15-17). This promise should strengthen us to persevere and give us joy in this life. We must learn to have fellowship in our hearts with our Savior and seek His encouragement on a daily basis.
Protection: Fourth, the Lord promises to protect. Jesus told Paul, “and no one will attack you to harm you.” This is an interesting promise, because Paul had already experienced prison and a stoning that left him for dead (Acts 14:19, 16:24). But in his current situation in Corinth Jesus was promising Paul that He would sovereignly protect him while Paul finished his ministry in that city. This is a great principle that should encourage us. We don’t have to worry about our lives. God promises to protect us “according to His will.” While Jesus lived on the earth, God protected Him. But when “the hour had come” for Jesus to go to the cross, God removed His protection. We should be encouraged in the same way. God will never allow anything to happen to us that is not according to His sovereign plan. Nothing can harm us until the Lord allows it.
Working: Last, Jesus promised Paul that He had “many in this city who are my people.” At the moment of this promise there were not many Christians yet in Corinth. Essentially Jesus was telling Paul that his future ministry was not going to be futile, because Jesus was still working in the hearts of people, and that there were going to be many in the city of Corinth who were going to believe. This should have been so encouraging to Paul. And it should encourage us. When we get frustrated and don’t see the results that we desire, we must remind ourselves that God is still working.
In one of Paul’s darkest hours, the Lord Jesus came to encourage him. And these words should be an encouragement to all believers today as well. For those who tremble, God says, “Do not fear.” For those who are weary, God says, “but go on….” For those who are lonely, God says, “I am with you.” For those who are worried, God’s says “no one will attack you to harm you.” For those who are frustrated, God says, “I am still working.” For those who do not have Jesus as their friend and savior, these promises are not for you. But they can be if you will repent of your sin and trust in Jesus today (Rom 10:9-10). If you need spiritual counsel in any way, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected]. I would love to pray with you and encourage you with God’s Word.