Ministry can be a lonely place. Sometimes there are very few people that could understand what you re going through, and there aren’t many that you can share your thoughts and struggles with. Ministry partnerships and fellowship can definitely help alleviate this, but there is still the reality that the road of ministry leadership is sometimes still fraught with times of isolation and discouragement.
In the last four parts of this series, I have been laying out six areas of the Lord’s provision for those in ministry. These have included the provision of co-workers, financial support, focus, boldness, and souls saved. You can read the first four parts of this series here: The Lord’s Provision for Ministry (part 1), The Lord’s Provision for Ministry (part 2),Part 3: https://always-reforming.com/?p=1834, and Part 4: https://always-reforming.com/?p=1842
Finally, The Lord Provides for ministry when he gives us encouragement.
He Gives Us Encouragement
“And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.” (Acts 18:9-10, NASB95)
Think about the English word, “encouragement.” It has the word “courage” right in the middle of it. This English word originally was, in-courage, and it meant “to give courage.” And that is what the Lord is doing in verses 9-10. In a vision one night, the Lord reminded Paul what he often told his prophets in the Old Testament, “do not be afraid!”
In Exodus 3:2, as God called Moses to redeem his people from Egypt, He told him that He would be with him. In Deuteronomy 31:6, Moses told Israel to trust the Lord as they entered the promised land. In Joshua 1:5, 9, the Lord encouraged Joshua that he would be with him as he was with Moses and that he needed to be strong and courageous. In Isaiah 41:10, the Lord told the prophet Isaiah that he is not to fear or be dismayed, because the Lord God will strengthen him, help him, and uphold him. And in Jeremiah 1:8, when Jeremiah was called to go out as the prophet of the Lord, God told him that he was not to be afraid of them because the Lord was with him to deliver him from all dangers.
Paul needed that kind of supernatural encouragement as he faced the daunting task of the ministry the Lord had given to him. And so he gave Paul these instructions:
“Don’t be afraid any longer”…When we react in fear we are lacking faith in the Lord our God who is our strong tower. In our fear we must trust the Lord and turn to him by faith to accomplish his will.
“Go on speaking and do not be silent”…Fear of persecution often silences the faithful witness. Paul needed to be courageous and keep on speaking the truth, in spite of the high probability that he would continue to suffer greatly for the gospel.
And then he gave him three encouragements:
“For I am with you”…Paul was never alone. God was always with him. Just as he was with Moses, Joshua, Israel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Habakkuk, and so many others.
“No man will attack you in order to harm you”…No one can touch us if God’s protective hand is upon us. This would be limited to the time that Paul was evangelizing in Corinth until those God would save had been saved. It wasn’t a promise that Paul would never be attacked again. But it was an assurance that for a while, Paul would be able to do the work of the ministry without violence breaking out in Corinth for a while.
“I have many people in this city”…The Lord was saying to Paul, “there were many people left who would be saved. Go find them!” When the time to move on had come, the Lord would let Paul know. He was to be encouraged with the fact that there was a good harvest of souls right there in that city.
We know how the Great Story ends, don’t we? No matter how dark things get, no matter what twists and unforeseen trials we encounter, in the end, Jesus has already won! Therefore, we need to be encouraged and see with the eyes of the Ascended Christ. He is not dead and in the tomb. He is seated at the right hand on high. He is coming again. And he has given us work to do.
Let your hands be strengthened with this truth and carry on with the Lord’s work. Look at our last verse, verse 11: “And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.” (Acts 18:11, NASB95). Do you see the result of these provisions? God had provided co-workers, finances, focus, boldness, souls saved, and words of encouragement. And Paul continued on and so we must carry on as well.