"The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, 'TAKE COURAGE! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.'" Acts 23:11
Paul was an incredible witness for the Lord! However, he lived much of his life persecuting Christians, opposing the name of Jesus Christ. Paul says in Acts 26:10, "On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord's people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them." But at just the right time and in just the right way, the risen Lord appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus. Jesus saved Paul and called him to be a witness to both the Jews and the Gentiles. In Acts 1:8, Jesus promised His followers that the Holy Spirit would come upon them and empower them and enable them to be witnesses. Jesus told Paul in Acts 18:9-10, "Do not be afraid; keep on speaking; do not be silent. For I am with you." The Holy Spirit constantly warned Paul that he would face opposition and persecution...the possibility of beatings, prison, and even death. Paul had to make a choice each time: he could obey the Lord and go where He wanted him to go and to say what He wanted him to say, or he could disobey and only go where he wanted to go and only say what he wanted to say. One way was difficult, while the other was easy. One way was uncomfortable, while the other was comfortable.
Paul obeyed the Lord, and that is why he was an incredible witness! The Holy Spirit gave him power and authority and wisdom, and Paul preached the message of Jesus to many, many people - Jews and Gentiles alike. When Paul was wrongly accused and wrongly arrested, he could have tried to escape. He could have cowered down. He could have quit. Acts 23:11 tells us that Jesus stood near to Paul when the opposition was fierce, when the persecution was mighty. And Acts 23:11 tells us the words that Jesus spoke to Paul in this intense circumstance: "TAKE COURAGE! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome." Jesus encouraged Paul. He gave him a blessing for his today and for his tomorrow. Paul just had to embrace it. Take means to "to get into one's possession by voluntary action." It means "to seize or to capture." Courage means "the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, and/or pain without fear." Jesus promised Paul the courage to keep on keeping on. Jesus promised Paul life today and life tomorrow. Paul just had to embrace it. Paul just had to take it! And he did.
As Christ followers today, we are not promised the easy way and/or the comfortable way in life. As a matter of fact, the Bible tells us that the world hated Jesus and that the world will hate us, too, because of our identity in Jesus. We will face opposition and persecution if we stand for and with Jesus. But just like Paul, we will have a choice to make each and every time. Will we obey the Lord or will we disobey? Will we go where He wants us to go and say what He wants us to say? Will we embrace the courage He freely gives us or will we reject it? It's hard for us to take hold of one thing if we are holding on tightly to something else. If we want to TAKE COURAGE from the Lord, then we have to let go of whatever else we are holding on to...fear, doubt, worry, pride, etc. Let's be the witnesses Jesus has called us to be and empowered us to be and enabled us to be. Let's embrace the power and the authority the Holy Spirit of God gives us each and every day. Let's TAKE COURAGE and face the opposition and the persecution, knowing that Jesus is with us today and tomorrow, according to His perfect will. Believe it! Claim it! Live it!