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Feb 17, 2019

Courage: The Art of Stepping Up When Others Step Back

Passage: Acts 22:22-23:11

Preacher: Tim Badal

Series: Unstoppable

Detail:

Today we’ll be reading in Acts 22, where we will see Paul showing courage. We will also find through this story that the very things that gave him courage are available to us today. But these are things that won’t be true of all Christians worldwide. Paul was given advantages that don’t apply to some Christians in other places. This reality should cause us to be more courageous and confident than less fortunate believers—yet often their courage surpasses ours in spite of the greater hostilities they experience.

If you recall, last week we left Paul in the middle of a very difficult situation. He was in Jerusalem where he had been looking forward to visiting for some time. He had brought gifts from churches he had planted throughout the Roman Empire, which did not appear to have been greatly appreciated. Also, people in Jerusalem had spread rumors about Paul before he even arrived. So, the Christians in Jerusalem told Paul that the way to resolve some of the issues was for him to go with four other men into the temple and undergo a season of purification for seven days. Paul did what they requested, but all it did was create more trouble for him. Even though he was trying to please the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, the slanderous accusations against him continued.

As a result, Paul found himself in the middle of a mob uprising. Why would so many people be against him? Somehow the word had gotten out that Paul intended to defile the temple by bringing Gentiles into it. The rumor was not true, but it still had taken root to the extent that people were then seeking to kill Paul. While he was being mobbed, the Roman soldiers came and rescued Paul. They then planned to take him to their barracks to question him, but before that happened, Paul asked to be allowed to speak to the crowds. The soldiers agreed and amazingly, as Paul gave his testimony to the people, they listened to him in silence. When he reached the point where he told them God had called him to preach to the Gentiles, their response was different—and that’s where we pick up the story today in Acts 22:22:

22 Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.” 23 And as they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24 the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this. 25 But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?” 26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.” 27 So the tribune came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.” 28 The tribune answered, “I bought this citizenship for a large sum.” Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.” 29 So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him.

We see in this story three reasons Paul was able to show courage in this situation.

You can find courage by using your citizenship.

First, Paul was able to freely accomplish his calling because of his Roman citizenship. It’s also our responsibility as Christians to use our citizenship as he did. We saw in the story how Paul’s testimony caused the people in the city to freak out. After he was arrested by the Romans, he asked to speak to the crowd and was granted his request. As he shared how he had met Christ the people listened until he said, “Jesus has now called me to the Gentiles.”

At those words, the mob came after him again and the Roman soldiers had to forcibly remove him. They took him to their barracks, intending to interrogate him the way Romans did. He was put under the charge of a Roman centurion, a man who led an army of one hundred soldiers, who was tasked with extracting an explanation from Paul as to why he was causing such a stir among the people. The Roman method for gaining information from a prisoner was to beat him until he gave them what they wanted. So, they stripped Paul and put him against some sort of post to flog him.

Why was it called flogging? Unlike a whipping, a flogging had more to it. Think of the Indiana Jones whip, but with things added to the tails of the whip. You might compare the whip to my arm and the tails to my fingers. In those tails they would embed pieces of metal and glass so the whipping would be more damaging to the person’s skin. That nasty process was called flogging and that was what Paul was about to receive. You may have seen something similar in the movie “The Passion of Christ,” where Christ’s flogging was vividly depicted. That’s how the Romans dealt with criminals. You would imagine that a person facing this enhanced interrogation would start talking right away. In fact, it’s said that the soldiers would make bets about how long it would take for the person to release his information or to confess his transgressions.

But from what Luke tells us, Paul was not panicked. He allowed himself to be stripped and stretched out, knowing full well what would be next. Yet at the last minute, he calmly said to the guard, “Are you aware that you’re about to flog a Roman citizen?” At that point, everything stopped. Paul knew he had an ace in his hand that would get him out of his plight.

What did it mean for Paul to be a Roman citizen? First, it gave him the full right of appeal in a Roman court and provided him access to the due process of law. Second, it protected him from this sort of interrogation, torture, or undue imprisonment. Paul knew his citizenship was a “Get out of jail free card.” Third, Roman citizens had the protection of the Roman soldiers whenever and wherever they traveled.

Essentially, as a Roman citizen, a person would have an army of soldiers whose job was to ensure that he was not harassed or molested in any way. This is an amazing citizenship. There were two ways such citizenship could be obtained. Either it could be purchased for a large sum of money, which was how the Roman soldier Paul spoke with received his citizenship, or a person was born in the country of which he was a citizen.

This is similar to what we have in America. Either we’re born here or we have to go through a process of receiving citizenship. My father was an immigrant who has now become a citizen, and a result, he now has all the rights and opportunities of any person born here—with a few exceptions. My father could never be the President of our country, whereas I could. My birth citizenship gives me certain privileges that other kinds of citizenships do not have.

When Paul told the Romans he was a citizen by birth, essentially it meant that he represented Caesar. He had all the rights and opportunities afforded to the ruler himself. Why did this information frighten the Roman guards? They realized that in a sense they had Caesar himself stripped and up against a post, and they were about to beat him which could easily cost them their lives.

Why is this important to us? Since the Roman Empire, there has never been another country in which the citizens have had more rights given to them until 1776, when people in America were given the privilege of walking around and speaking like their ruler. A group of colonial men and women declared that they had the same rights as King George. He was not better than they were. They created a rule of law that gave American citizens a list of rights rivaled in history only by those of the Roman Empire. Thus, Paul gained his courage in part by appealing to his Roman citizenship. I could not preach this part of the sermon in North Korea, China, parts of the Middle East or Africa. But here in America, not only can I preach it, I can thunder it from the pulpit: we have great rights and freedoms that should be used for the glory of God.

Citizenship protects you.

Paul knew the second he pulled out his citizenship “ace card,” it would stop everything—and it did. The whip was put away. He was allowed to dress and probably even given food and drink. The interrogation stopped, just as he knew it would. He understood the rights and protections that were his by law.

But do we know these things? We talk a lot about how harassed we are as Christians and there is a level of truth to that, but it’s pretty low-key. I’ve been a Christian almost all my life—at least for the last 35 years. I should have done the math, but how many times have I gone to church? A whole lot of Sundays. And I don’t ever recall being stopped by the police and asked where I was going. I’ve been a pastor now for over 15 years and I’ve never lost an ounce of sleep worrying that the police were going to come and close us down. I’ve never worried that if I said I was a Christian or shared about Christ in public that it would bring me physical harm or threats or bullying. Maybe you have, but it’s not happened to me. Nor do I have people coming into my office, telling me of being bullied at work, or even losing their job, because of their faith. If it’s happening, you haven’t told me.

We have great freedom in this country that protects us. We can share our faith without fear of reprisal.

Citizenship creates clear parameters.

Paul understood his rights, and you need to understand yours, because it will build courage in you. It won’t be ultimate courage, but at least some level because our citizenship provides parameters. Paul knew exactly what his citizenship afforded him. He knew what was allowed by Roman law and he used that for God’s glory. What about you? Do you know what is lawful and unlawful for you as a citizen?

Could Paul do anything he wanted to do? He couldn’t break the Roman law. There were rules he was subject to. Later in history, believers would be badly persecuted in the Roman Empire, but it wasn’t true in Paul’s time. His setting was similar to ours—he had rights, freedoms, and opportunities that he could use to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ—and he did.

But do we? I want us to be careful. We live in a country where we’re told there’s separation of church and state—and in some ways, this is as it should be. But if you use this separation principle to say that you should not share the gospel with others, you really don’t understand your citizenship’s parameters. We’ve heard that prayers aren’t allowed in schools or that the Bible should not be read in school. Right here; not some distant place on earth.

Let me share with you from my experience. On three occasions I’ve been in Springfield, where I have confidently prayed Christ-exalting prayers in our capital, and nobody has protested or stopped me. I did have one guy who was angry, which was kind of fun, but he didn’t stop me. On one occasion, the governor invited me to pray for a dual opening of the House and Senate, for which Amanda and our boys received the red-carpet treatment. And for you political pundits, he was a Democrat. Now you’re really disappointed. He and his staff were incredibly gracious to us.

Moving closer to home, our church has been called on by our community—in good times and bad—to serve them. On at least a couple of occasions, we’ve been known as one of the best citizens in our community. How harassed are we if they’re giving us a citizenship award? We have had our village president here at the church, who will tell me, “I can’t thank you enough for what you do in our community. Keep doing what you’re doing. Let us know how we can help you.”

The Aurora community is being lifted up right now by churches and I don’t hear anybody getting bent out of shape about it. Prayer vigils are taking place. Government officials are there. These are opportunities we have because we’re citizens of a free country. Across our four campuses, every week in four public schools in our community, two of our youth pastors are in lunch rooms caring for students.

How much freedom do we have? We need to be careful when people say we don’t have freedom. They must live in a different part of the world, because Village Bible Church seems to have carte blanche when it comes to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. We have tutors with our Kid’s Hope program who are going into public schools and being the light of Jesus Christ to the students around them. No one is telling them to shut their mouths or threatening them if they come back.

What should this do? It should give us courage. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been given opportunities in our local high school to share the gospel of Jesus Christ—at one graduation ceremony and multiple other times—and never has anyone ever protested or told me to not return.

You might say, “But there are laws.” I’m a school board member in my local school district and every year I go to a conference. A year ago there was a workshop on the separation of church and state in public schools. I thought, “Oh, I want to see this.” It was being led by some attorneys, so I figured I would hear all the ways I was getting myself in trouble; or how our students might be in trouble for holding Bible studies in the schools. In fact, we were about to do an outreach at our local high school to share the love of Jesus Christ with people, so I figured these attorneys would tell me why Mario would be spending six to ten years in a minimum-security jail. What they did say? They said, “Don’t mess with religious freedom.” These weren’t believers, but they were telling the board members, “Don’t mess with religious freedom—you will always lose.”

Does that mean a teacher can get up and say, “We’re not going to learn about English today; we’re going to study the Bible”? No, this doesn’t happen. But to be honest, I wouldn’t want them to do that. I don’t want a person of another faith teaching my kids about their religion when they’re supposed to be learning a certain subject. Why would I expect others to listen to my idea of religion? Some of you are teachers and you understand the parameters you’re given. But let us not make a boogey man out of the great freedom to share Christ that we enjoy.

You might respond, “I heard about someone who lost their job.” One of the most well-known stories was about a lieutenant in the Atlanta fire department who lost his job because he had written a book that talked about Christ and also about the moral decay in our country, then shared the book with his fellow fire department employees. You might think this means we really don’t have freedom. But we need to remember the rest of the story. Recently, the court case was completed. The man got his job back, along with restitution of a couple million dollars. If I got a couple years’ vacation and then at the end I get a couple million dollars, that’s not half bad.

Let’s consider what we’re not talking about. I expect some of you will disagree with me on this, so let me say this outright. Out of the 300 million people in America, I don’t know anybody who has been killed this week for their faith. I don’t know of anyone who has been unlawfully imprisoned for sharing their faith. Sure, someone may have gotten fired, but if they go through the court process, they may well have a similar experience as the Atlanta fireman.

What then are we talking about? Harassment. Being made fun of. But this isn’t coming from government courts; it’s coming from the court of public opinion. You can endure that kind of hardship. But when the Scriptures talk about enduring tribulation, we must admit that our tribulation is really minor.

Citizenship provides opportunities.

All of this should provide an impetus for you to walk into work with a little more confidence and courage—to do what? To wreak havoc? “I’m a Christian, hear me roar”? No. We’re told we’re to speak with gentleness and respect, because we’ve been provided with opportunities. Paul used his citizenship not to protect himself, but for the glory of God and the advancement of the gospel.

I’m telling you, brothers and sisters, there will be a day when we stand before God and He will say, “American, you had all the freedom in the world. You didn’t have to worry about your safety or about hostility coming your way in the public sphere. You lived in the freest country in the world in all of human history. What did you do to use that freedom for My glory?”

Think about this. We yell and scream when we think our rights have been infringed upon. “How dare the government think they can do this? How dare they think they can do that?” But have you ever thought, “Am I even using the rights they’re infringing on?” We’re protesting about a right we aren’t even using. “They can’t tell me I can’t preach Christ, even though I don’t preach Christ in my school. They can’t take that away. How dare they?” If you’re not using a right, it doesn’t matter. “You don’t have the right to take away my ability to speak in my workplace. Who do you think you are?” Well, you’re not using it anyway, so why are you getting all fired up?

Let’s take the opportunities we have. This is where people like Mario, Jeremy, and our elders lead well. They’re not saying, “Do as I say,” but rather, “Do as I do.” Go get on the front lines. Grab opportunities. Yeah, you might get some pushback. Paul did. But Paul knew his rights and the parameters he had to exercise those rights—and we need to know them as well. Amen?

You can find courage by keeping a clear conscience.

Let’s see what happened to Paul next. Acts 22:30 tell us, But on the next day, desiring to know the real reason why he was being accused by the Jews, he unbound him and commanded the chief priests and all the council to meet, and he brought Paul down and set him before them.” This is really important. This is a jurisdiction issue. Paul was moved from the court of civil law to the temple, where he was to be questioned as a Jew by the Jewish leaders.

Let’s say you were caught for some minor infraction, maybe cursing up a storm at McDonald’s. The Sugar Grove police arrive and state, “You’ve got to stop cursing, but we can’t arrest you for that. You haven’t broken any civil laws.” But word gets out that you were cursing up a storm and at the end of your profanity-laden speech, you yelled, “I’m a member of Village Bible Church! Hear me roar!” Well, the church is going to have something to say about that.

The religious leaders in the temple knew they had jurisdiction over Paul’s religious views. The Romans realized Paul had not broken one of their laws, so they took him to the Sanhedrin—the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem.

Let’s continue reading in Acts 23, beginning in verse one:

And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” 2 And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” 4 Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” 5 And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”

Note that this was not the Ananias who gave Paul his sight when he first came to know Jesus, nor should he be mistaken for Ananias and Sapphira. Ananias was just a common name.

Before I focus on the matter of Paul’s conscience, as a pastor I need to address this fight that broke out. What’s going on? Paul came into the temple, stood before the leaders and told them he had a clear conscience. We’ll talk about that in a moment, but what he was saying is, “You can’t hold anything against me. I’m a man above reproach.” The high priest ordered someone to slap him, but Paul called out in anger and frustration, “What you’ve done to me, God is going to do to you.” He added, “You whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?”

Paul knew that even in religious affairs a person should not be struck. But for some reason he had no idea that the man who ordered this was the high priest. Had he known that, he would not have spoken in a disrespectful way, as he realized this was forbidden in the Old Testament. While it could be that Paul wasn’t aware of who the high priest was because he had been away from Jerusalem for five years, there are some commentators who believe it was due to Paul’s poor eyesight. We know from his writings that this was an issue for him. We also know that when Paul was converted, he was blinded for several days. While his sight was restored, it appears that it was never fully brought back. It could even be that poor eyesight was Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7).

There is no question that Paul lost his cool that day in the temple. We need to recognize that even great and godly people can lose their cool. Is that not encouraging to some of you who drove here today with young children? Sometimes you say things you wish you hadn’t said. Sometimes your mouth and actions will speak more quickly than your head or heart respond. Even the best Christian fails at times.

Paul might have had a good excuse, but it was a failure, nonetheless. What we should notice is that once he realized his failure, Paul immediately dealt with it and did not make excuses. “I should not have said that. The Scriptures say I should not speak evil of rulers.”

But there’s something more important that we see in Acts 23:1: “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience.”  Over the next five chapters, including this verse, Paul speaks of his conscience and why it is necessary for us to have a good conscience. What is the conscience? It’s an inner moral awareness. It’s what A.W. Tozer calls “the secret inner voice of the Lord in every person that either accuses or excuses them.”

You no doubt remember the TV characters Tom and Jerry, the great theologians of my childhood. There was one episode where the mouse, Jerry, wants to harm the cat, Tom. But Jerry has turned over a new leaf and no longer wants to have issues with Tom, so he faces a moral dilemma. “Do I hurt Tom or am I nice to him?” The creators then put a little angel “Jerry” on one of the mouse’s shoulders, who essentially tells him to be nice to Tom. Then on the other side we see a devilish “Jerry” who, with a sinister laugh, argues for the opposite choice. You see the back and forth as this little cartoon mouse tries to figure out which way to go. He smiles at the angel and then sticks out his tongue. He turns to the devil with a sinister look, as if to say that was his choice, then he beats Tom over the head with a mallet. That’s back when cartoons were cartoons, but that scene is being played out in the lives of every one of us.

From birth, every man, woman and child, believer or non-believer, has been given a conscience. It’s a moral awareness given to us by God to direct us in the way we should go. We can either live as Paul did, seeking to keep our conscience clear, or we can go our own way and pursue an evil conscience. Paul was able to say, “Before God, I have a good conscience.”

The Bible speaks of three different types of consciences. First, there is a good, or tender, conscience. A person with this sort of conscience is keenly aware of every infraction against the Lord. He recognizes sin for the ugly thing it is. Immoral deeds, although seemingly insignificant to others, are viewed by him as monstrous crimes against a holy God. Do you just push away your sins with the excuse, “Ah, everybody’s doing it”? Do you leave your sin unaddressed? If that’s true of you, your conscience is not tender. But that’s where God wants us to be. He wants all of His children to have a tender, clear, and good conscience. Later Paul will add that his conscience is clear not only before God, but also before his fellow man.

The second sort of conscience described in Scripture is a wandering conscience. This comes about when people with a tender conscience walk away from their first love. Their walk with God ceases to be a real relationship and dwindles into religious form. There is a hardening of that tender conscience where the world’s attractions regain their carnal luster, where old idols are re-erected and once-forsaken sins start to resurface. This is where many of us find ourselves today—and it’s not a good place to be. The Bible calls this a state of being “double-minded,” as though we have an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other, and we’re vacillating between the two, depending often on our circumstances. Today here at church, the angel might win the day. Your religious form won’t allow you to think or do anything evil around other Christians. But then when you’re alone, your flesh is hungry, and you find yourself in a situation where the devil on your shoulder wins out. This is the worst place, because you know what you should do, but you don’t do it, and the things you know you shouldn’t do are what you do. It’s a miserable place to be, because you’re unstable. You do one thing one time and another thing the next.

When you have a wandering conscience, it becomes easy to move to the third type of conscience, which is a seared conscience. This is a hardened determination to resist every spiritual impression. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church, called this “the drunkenness of the soul, a fatal numbness of the Holy Spirit in the Christian.” If a person remains in sin long enough, he can reach a point where he is no longer influenced in any way by the Holy Spirit. He has become so hardened that he will not listen.

There may be some here today who only hear me saying, “Wahmp wahmp wahmp wahmp wahmp.” “I’m not listening to him. He’s got nothing to say to me.” The sad thing is there’s nothing apart from a revival in this person’s spirit that will change him or her. The Bible calls this person apostate. He’s given up the faith.

Let me ask what type of conscience you have. Can you say before God this morning, “I have a good conscience”? Well, let’s understand what a good conscience means and doesn’t mean.

A clear conscience doesn’t mean godly perfection but godly patterns.

You might be thinking, “I’m not perfect, but Paul obviously was. I’m not like him, so I guess I land in the wandering or seared conscience camp.” Paul also wrote that he was the greatest of sinners, the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). In another place, he wrote, “The things I want to do I don’t, and the things I don’t want to do I do” (Romans 7:15–20). How can he also say—even though he’s struggling with sin and temptation—that he has a good conscience? It’s because the pattern of his conscience is to say, “When I do something wrong, when the Spirit of God convicts me, I agree with Him. Yes, I shouldn’t be thinking such things. I shouldn’t be saying such things. I shouldn’t be viewing such things. I shouldn’t be engaged in such activity. I agree with You, Spirit, and I confess that I am wrong and You are right. Please lead me, fill me, and change me so I don’t do that again.” Paul’s testimony reflects that pattern.

If confession is not part of your world, you are nowhere near a tender conscience. You cannot have a tender or good conscience before God if confession is not part of it. You’re somewhere in the wandering or seared group. If this week you have not confessed a sin before God, let me ask why not. What’s kept you from doing that? It seems when we’re casual about sin that it doesn’t really matter to us. We must always remember that my sin and your sin are what put Jesus on the cross. A pattern of our confession and God’s forgiveness is the key to having a good conscience.

A clear conscience gives good direction unless it is damaged.

We live in a world where people say all kinds of ungodly things, “Well, my feelings say it’s okay.” I’ve tuned into TV programs where my conscience has screamed, “This is not right,” but the entertainment portion of my brain tells me, “This is awesome.” Which one of these should I listen to? I could say, “Well, if my brain likes it, my eyes like it, and it’s got a compelling storyline, surely I can watch it.” But the Word of God tells us to flee such things. So we do have a choice. We begin to think that our conscience speaks for God, but we might not realize that a damaged conscience does us no good.

If you’re allowing your conscience to be damaged bit by bit as you give in to sin, then your conscience should no longer have moral authority in your life; it will lead you astray. Your feelings will be all messed up and your emotions skewed because your conscience has been damaged.

A clear conscience allows you to stand tall amidst scrutiny.

You’ll never show courage if you don’t have a clear conscience. If the police came in here and said I had murdered somebody, I can stand with a clear conscience and say I’ve never murdered anyone. I can share with them where I’ve been and what I’ve done. I can hand them my phone to show them my texts. I’ve got nothing to hide. They can talk to my neighbors or anyone who has seen me. The books are open. They can look at my life. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I did not kill anyone. They can scrutinize me all they want, but I’ve got nothing to hide.

But if someone comes in here and says, “You have not lived as a pastor should live in all ways,” then I would start to cover myself. There are things I’ve said and done that I know are not appropriate for a pastor. Now I have to determine how to make myself look good. But Paul was able to stand with courage in his heart because he had a clear conscience.

When you have a clear conscience, you will stand a lot stronger than if you’re covering up some sin. Listen, everyone is allowed to have a good conscience. The question is will you move in that direction? Will you allow the Spirit of God to convict you of your sin, and will you agree with Him when He does? Or will you continue to wander away from the truth? Paul wanted to be courageous, so he made sure that he and God were in good standing.

You can find courage by trusting your companion.

In Acts 23:6–10, Paul identified himself as a Pharisee, which stirred up an issue between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who started fighting amongst themselves. Paul was then taken from the religious court and brought back to the barracks, where he was kept probably more for reasons of safety than the need for him to be imprisoned. Then we read in verse 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.’”

Turn for a moment to 2 Timothy 4. What was Paul thinking about at this time in his life? In 2 Timothy 4:16–18, he tells Timothy about his defense that we read about in Acts 22:

16 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Here’s why we have ultimate courage. It’s not because of our American citizenship. It’s not dependent on whether or not our conscience is good. Those are important, but the most important reason you can have courage in your marriage, parenting, and engagement with the world around you as you proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ is that He is with you.

Jesus stands by you when you are at your lowest.

Paul told Timothy, “I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.” It doesn’t get any worse than that. Maybe you’re in the lion’s mouth right now. Maybe you’re between a rock and a hard place. Paul says, “Jesus is with you.” Jesus Himself said, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Jesus stands by you when others have let you down.

What if everybody leaves you? Paul told Timothy, “They all deserted me. But the Lord stood by me.” Maybe your friends or your family have deserted you. Maybe you’ve lost all human relationships. You need to realize that Jesus is there, if you just open your eyes to see Him.

Jesus stands by when you need to be lifted up.

Notice what the Lord wants to do for you as He stands by you in whatever prison cell you find yourself. He wants to lift you up and encourage you. Paul told Timothy, “The Lord stood by me and strengthened me.” Go back to Acts 23:11. What does the Lord say to Paul? “Take courage.”  This is Jesus speaking to Paul; it’s not an angel. How do I know that? That phrase “Take courage” is also translated, “Be of good cheer.” Every other occurrence of that expression in the New Testament up until this time was spoken by Jesus Christ. After this, the expression is only used by Paul himself. It is as though Christ gave him this message and he never forgot it. It was a message that sustained Paul, not only in Jerusalem, but all the way to Rome. When he got to Rome, he wrote his second letter to Timothy and what does Paul tell him? He says, “I think my life is coming to an end. I’m old and I believe I will soon be put to death. But here’s what I know: my God will safely bring me to my heavenly home.”

This is the courage we can have. No matter how difficult the situation we find ourselves in, you and I can have courage because Jesus is with us. Like the three Hebrew boys in the fiery furnace, Jesus enters the tormenting fires with us and protects us. He protected Paul in Jerusalem and later He protected him in Rome. When his time was coming to an end, Paul wrote, “And when I die, He’ll take me home.”

What more courage and encouragement do we need? If our God is for us, who can be against us? We are to be people of courage. God wants us to use our courage, not for ourselves, but for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let that be true this week, fully knowing we have freedoms to use, we have a conscience that can guide us if we’ll allow it to and we have a Savior Who walks by us every step of the way.

 

 

 

Village Bible Church  |  847 North State Route 47, Sugar Grove, IL 60554  |  (630) 466-7198  |  www.villagebible.org/sugar-grove

All Scriptures quoted directly from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.                                                                   

Note: This transcription has been provided by Sermon Transcribers (www.sermontranscribers.com