This chapter recounts the last moments of freedom that Paul will have in his earthly life. He says his farewells to the believers in Tyre and Caesarea, where he receives yet more warnings about what will happen to him when he travels to Jerusalem. When he arrives, he greets James and the elders there and makes his way to the Temple to face his fate. Ironically, he will be persecuted by the same people who were once his allies when he persecuted the church. Even if he didn’t have the benefit of numerous prophets telling him that this was going to lead to him being arrested, no doubt he could guess what their reaction would be.
I will confess that it is difficult for me to imagine how Paul would have felt. In his shoes, I would be terrified - I likely wouldn’t have gone at all. Yet Paul has prepared for this. He has faced death time and time again and has made his peace with the idea that he will eventually lose his life for his faith. If his letters and this account are any indication, he wasn’t worried at all. Instead, he views this as yet another opportunity to share the gospel.
Paul’s courage is evidence of a maturity that can only come from living out your faith to the fullest. There are many lessons about following Christ that we can learn through reading the word and through prayer. Fasting, meditation, and other spiritual disciplines can strengthen our walk and focus us on our Savior. But they are not a substitute for stepping out in obedience, sacrificing your comfort and serving the kingdom. If your faith never leaves the cozy trappings of your bedroom, there is a limit to how much you can grow.
Like the other virtues, Courage is developed through repetition. It is a spiritual muscle that strengthens through exercise. If one day you aspire to be able to bear the weight of the world on your shoulders, you will need to start practicing with the smaller dumbbells and work your way up.
At first, the risks you are able to take on will be small. Maybe the most you can do is to bring up your faith in conversation with friends who aren’t Christians. Perhaps your limit will be saying “no” to activities that you know are in conflict with your walk with Christ. But with every risk you take, you will find yourself more willing to take on more, because you are getting used to putting yourself in your master’s hands. And as you do, you will find that He is more willing to put responsibility into your hands.
How can you courageously stand up for your faith today?