Text: Acts 18:1-28, James 4:13-15, Isaiah 51:1-2
“There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
They were lying. I had plenty to be afraid of.
I had just climbed up a steep lakeside embankment with nothing more than a swimsuit, Chaco sandals, and the intent of jumping off a 50-foot cliff into the water. My brother and his best friend were doing all they could to convince me everything would be fine, that there was nothing to fear.
What if I slip as I’m jumping and hit my head?
What if I hit the water at a bad angle?
What if this water isn’t as deep as we think it is?
What if I land on a floating tree branch?
Fear. It’s a big deal. It can keep us from doing things we’d really like to do. It can also keep us from doing exactly what God has asked of us. It can even cause us to live our lives in ways that leave us no room for faith; we become so seemingly independent that we begin to believe we don’t need God or anyone else.
I don’t know if you’re like me and have every “Do not fear” in the entire Bible circled, underlined, and highlighted. It makes sense to see it in the Old Testament, when the heroes of Israel are heading into battle. But Paul? Is this the same Paul who had already faced oppression, persecution, and imprisonment for the gospel? That Paul was afraid?
Then the Lord said to Paul in a night vision, “Don’t be afraid, but keep on speaking and don’t be silent. For I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to hurt you, because I have many people in this city.”
Do not be afraid. The Greek phrase used in verse 9 means “you must not be afraid any longer.” Literally, stop being afraid!
This is confirmation that yes, Paul was, in fact, already afraid. The text doesn’t give us much more context for Paul’s fear. Was his fear the “thorn in his flesh” that would always plague him (2 Corinthians 12)? Was this a one-time situation where he was especially afraid? The Jews had opposed him and abused him before, but that can’t be something one gets used to.
Regardless of the details, we can be sure of one thing: Paul was afraid and God commanded him to not be afraid any longer.
Like Paul, I’ve faced some crippling fears (yes, even more terrifying than that time I jumped off a cliff). God has called me to things and I’ve stood frozen, still paralyzed by a fear of failure or defeat. Instead of embracing the strength and victory He promises (1 Corinthians 15:57), I’ve let fear dictate what I believe and what I do.
Even in the most intimidating situations, God is faithful. He gave Paul the assurance that He would protect him. Just look at how perfectly God provided for Paul:
He brought him fellowship and friendship with Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:18).
He provided for his physical needs, allowing him to continue working as a tentmaker (v. 3).
He allowed him to spread the gospel in Corinth for another year and a half (v. 11).
Our God provides for us too. Despite the moments we feel crippled with fear, He knows exactly where we are and what we’re feeling. We can trust that God is bigger than all our fears.