Courage In difficult days

By MICHAEL J. BROOKS / Guest Columnist

Note: This is an opinion column.

Our church has studied the book of Acts in our mid-week Bible service for several months, and I’ve gained new appreciation for the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul.

I remember how confusing these were when I read them in the maps sections of my Bibles over the years. One Bible had a Morse Code-kind of thing using dot-dot-dot for journey one, dot-dash-dot for journey two and dash-dash-dash for journey three. I got lost somewhere in Galatia. Another Bible I had used plastic sheets that lay down in consecutive order over the map of Asia Minor, and one could view the appropriate journeys on the inserts. I suppose this was a step above the Morse Code idea, though still a bit bewildering.

In our study I’ve used only one map at a time, and I think the journeys are easier to follow.

I’ve also seen that Paul’s journeys weren’t carefully prepared like the auto club used to do it with maps in spiral binding, or as we’d do so today with computer apps. Paul let God lead him to a place, how long he should stay and where he should go next. Nor did he seem to worry about accommodations. He trusted God to provide willing hosts in every village.

Not only was Paul confident in God’s leadership; he was courageous.

The story of his treatment in Lystra is well-known (Acts 14). The townspeople thought Paul and Barnabas were gods in the flesh after a miraculous healing. We believe Barnabas must have been built like a linebacker since Lystrans called him “Zeus,” and Paul must have been the chief spokesman since they thought he was Hermes, the messenger with winged feet.

The fickle crowd soon realized their mistake and stoned Paul, dragging what they believed to be his corpse out of their city.

Some believe Paul actually died in Lystra and then experienced his mysterious vision of heaven (2 Corinthians 12:1-9). And his famous “thorn in the flesh,” or physical ailment, may have occurred in Lystra, too. He might have experienced internal organ damage or broken bones that never healed properly. But whatever the case, Luke said Paul revived, got up and went back into the city. The apostle had to be fearless to risk seeing his assassins later on the same day.

We also read that he went back to Lystra on journey two, this time picking up native son Timothy as a helper for the remainder of his life.

Billy Graham said, “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” Paul’s courage inspires us to persevere despite difficult circumstances. We learn to trust God no matter what we face.

Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church’s website is Siluriabaptist.com.