I don’t know about you, but when I read about Paul speaking so boldly about the Lord, he seems to be so brave, so courageous, so confident—so free of the fears and concerns and anxieties that keep so many of us from freely bearing witness to Jesus and all he has done for us. He almost seems like a different kind of person than I am, and maybe than you feel like you are too.
That’s why the last line of today’s reading is so interesting to me: That night the Lord stood near him and said, ‘Keep up your courage! For just as you have testified for me in Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also in Rome.’
Now why would the Lord need to take such a dramatic step as to stand near Paul? And why would he have to tell him to “keep his courage”? Paul must have needed the encouragement.
Maybe Paul wasn’t so different from you and from me. Maybe he was scared too. Maybe the conflict and the violence and the personal attacks were taking its toll and wearing him down. Maybe this whole bearing bold witness thing wasn’t so easy for Paul, either. “Keep your courage!” God says, and notice the exclamation point. Was he in danger of loosing it?
Is God standing near to you and me saying, “Keep your courage! You must bear witness for me in … (and here, you can fill in the blank. Sterling? At work? At home? At school? On a business trip? )”?
Maybe, just maybe, that’s the real secret to being a bold witness for Christ: knowing that God is near, sensing his encouragement , and in these things finding the courage we need to take a daring step out in faith.
God is near. Keep your courage. To whom will you witness today?