Third in the COURAGE series
In the King James version of the Bible, the word Courage is found in 20 verses, 19 in the Old Testament and only once in the New. As noted in the previous post, most mentions hearken back to the command of Moses to the tribal leaders to Be of good courage as they went to spy out the Promised Land. However, in Acts, as Paul traveled to Rome to stand before Caesar, he took courage because of Christian love shown along the way. (Acts 28:15)
When he saw Christian friends in the Appius Forum, a town 43 miles from Rome, and again at the Three Taverns, a resting place on the Appian Way only 33 miles from Rome, he thanked God and took courage. (Acts 28:15) His Christian brothers had heard through the grapevine (pun intended) that he was nearing Rome. Yes, they would go to greet him! Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. (Heb 13:3)
The journey to Rome was a distance of 3757 km or 2344 miles. This interesting information is found on the OpenBible.info website, which used the ORBIS site that provides a “geospatial Network Model of the Roman World” which in Paul’s time spanned “one-ninth of the earth's circumference across three continents…”
Back to our post, Paul would not have taken courage if he were not apprehensive or somewhat discouraged. A journey across land and sea of some 2344 miles with only fellow prisoners for companions, would be enough for most of us to feel uncertain and lonely.
Perhaps this sense of foreboding had begun to root as he traveled to Jerusalem on his way home from his third missionary journey. Several warnings were shared and his imprisonment predicted along the way.
He had avoided arrest in Greece by returning to Jerusalem through Macedonia (Acts 20:3) He admitted to the elders of the church in Ephesus that he went to Jerusalem bound in spirit, not knowing the things that shall befall me there save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. (Acts 20:22-23) He knew that they would never see him again. (Acts 20:25)
Next, in Tyre, disciples told him "through the Spirit" not to go up to Jerusalem, (Acts 21:4) After that, in Caesarea at the home of Philip the evangelist, a prophet named Agabus took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. (Acts 21:11)
Yet Paul was not conflicted about his journey to Jerusalem. I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 21:13) His mind had been made up for many months:
Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome. (Acts 19:21) ...[he] had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost. (Acts 20:16) [NOTE: So, if Paul sailed past Ephesus, how did he meet with the Ephesus elders? In Miletus (Paul) calls the elders of the Church of Ephesus, to whom he preaches a most directing sermon, gives them the most solemn exhortations, kneels down and prays with them, takes a very affecting leave of them, and sets sail for Caesarea… - Clarke commentary on Studylight.org]
Then, in Jerusalem his final destiny began to unfold. To rescue him from being murdered by the Jews, he was taken to be guarded at the castle where the barracks of the Roman soldiers were. There, after a day in custody, the Lord himself stood by him and said: Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome. (Acts 23:11) By this we can envision that Paul was discouraged, worn out, in great need of a strengthening touch from his Master.
Next, he was taken to Caesarea where he chose to appeal to Caesar rather than return to Jerusalem to be tried by the Jews who would kill him. He was sent off to Rome by ship, and nearly died in a storm. Again he was comforted by the Lord through his angel who told him: Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. (Acts 27:24)
From these passages we see that Paul, like us, had need of a word from the Lord in times of great stress, and that the Lord understood his need for encouragement to be strong and NOT to fear.
As we meet with challenges along the route to our place of greatest testing, the Lord himself will stand by us and give comfort by his Word:
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:1-2)
…lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Mat 28:20)
…for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. (Heb 13:5-6)
Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. (Gal 6:18)