Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Acts, Chapter 21

I like to define the term courage as having the strength to do something that you otherwise would not be able to do. Various other definitions have been offered up throughout history, many of which can be found here. It is a virtue that often comes not as a result of our own strength, and can sometimes be seen as foolhardy. What would cause a person to willingly face something they could easily hide from, knowing that the consequences will not be positive? I find myself uttering a phrase of encouragement when I am in need of courage, because I know sometimes consequences must be faced before a reward is realized. That phrase is, "this is going to get worse before it gets better."

Here in Chapter 21, we see courage in action as Paul knows what he is going to face once he arrives in Jerusalem, but he still continues onward because that is what Christ asked of him. I have faced a similar situation many times in my life when I knew going into a situation things were not going to be pleasant. I felt that God was asking me to go, however, because I needed to pass through such trials in order to learn what He needed me to learn. To me that is the measure of courage, and it is not a coincidence that people often equate courage with strength from God.

10After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11Coming over to us, he took Paul's belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, "The Holy Spirit says, 'In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.' " 12When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. 13Then Paul answered, "Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." 14When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, "The Lord's will be done." – Acts 21:10-14

This is such a dramatic example of Paul being warned about what exactly he will face, yet he still could not be dissuaded. This is because Paul was thinking from a Godly perspective and not a human perspective. In human terms we of course don't want to be beaten and face death. God had a different plan in mind for Paul, however. Paul knew that he had a mission: he had to go to Jerusalem and face the music. As a Jew, he also knew the Old Testament, and therefore he likely knew the story of Jonah. In that story, God makes it quite clear that is if He wants you to do something, He will find a way to make it happen. God wanted Jonah in Nineveh, but Jonah did not want to go. Guess what ended up happening in the end? Since Paul likely knew this story, he knew he must go and face what he had to face in Jerusalem. Paul also knew that there would be glory given to Christ in doing so, so he had no choice.

27When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28shouting, "Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple area and defiled this holy place." 29(They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple area.) – Acts 21:27-29

Here is what Paul had to face. The funny thing is that much of what the keepers of the temple were stirred up about was an assumption. My father once told me that the root of the word "assume" is broken down into ass u me, as in an assumption only makes an ass out of you and me. Here Paul is doing what God Himself asked of him, but the keepers of the temple are trying to kill him based on an assumption rather than facts. This is a further lesson in courage, because it does take a ton of courage to face those who would persecute you based not on fact, but a mere assumption.


  1. Where do you see your own courage coming from?
  2. Why would other believers not have the faith that Paul did for his mission?
  3. Why were the keepers of the temple so protective against Paul?

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