There are a few common threads in this chapter- Persecution and Boldly speaking the truth.
How do we stay bold in our belief, influential in truth, confident in our faith, all without fear of persecution? The truth is, we can’t avoid persecution, and we can’t shrink back because of the pressure. Since Paul’s conversion to Christ, he is either loved or hated. I can actually relate to this. Celebrated one day, tolerated the next. But I decided a long time ago; I wouldn’t be moved. But it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. It just means I’ve learned to keep moving forward.
No matter how bold we can be, some will not hear. Paul was welcomed then rejected. He moved on, and then he is accepted and rejected again. Oh, how Paul wanted to reach his people for Jesus. He has skin in the game. He was pelted with a few huge rocks that nearly killed him. He knew the other side of what he believed. He used to think what his persecutors believe. Perhaps he felt because of his old life of hunting Christians, he deserved what was coming. Maybe part of him just called it hazards of the job. Whatever it was, it got to him. We can see it here in these verses “One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me. ” Acts of the Apostles 18:9-10 NLT
This reminds me of God speaking to Joshua repeatedly, telling him the same thing he is telling Paul “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go…Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:7, 9 NIV
It also reminds me of how The Lord comforted Elijah, telling him he wasn’t an alone prophet. I heard it said, when God was speaking to Joshua “Do not be afraid,” it was because he was afraid. Could it be that the Lord was doing the same with Paul? Was Paul weary, discouraged, or even fearful of being harmed? Was he considering be silent? Was he worried he would be stoned or attacked? I personally believe he was, and it's why we read in this chapter God encouraging him. Like he did with Joshua, Elijah, and many many others; God wants to enable us to be bold with speaking the truth. To not be silent. Be fearless in our beliefs that we are not alone. To not back down. We can’t shrink back when we are called to take territory. Success doesn’t come with running away nor does it come with being silent in important matters. We are empowered to be bold. And when we feel afraid, we have a Lion hearted Father that builds our courage up. It strengthens our frame and gives us the nerve to hold fast when persecution comes.
I have played it safe a few times and regretted it. Not just regretted it, felt sick over it. I hate that feeling. I would rather risk death being brave, than live a long cowardly life. We need to grab hold of the Lion's mane and feel His fur in our hands, let His presence solidify our courage, and take the risk of speaking HIS truth BOLDLY, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go!