May 22, 2009

Take Courage

Here's an interesting happening. Early this morning Mary and I were both writing blog posts to be posted today. We had not spoken to each other. We had not consulted in any way. But we are both filled with the same Holy Spirit who moves us in the necessary direction to accomplish the goals of Almighty God. I am going to post Mary’s post and mine together here, as I think God is saying much the same thing to both of us at exactly the same time.

Praise be to God!

Take Courage

Mary Fuller

Acts 27:21–25

No one had eaten for a long time. Finally, Paul called the crew together and said, “Men, you should have listened to me in the first place and not left Fair Havens. You would have avoided all this injury and loss. But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said. But we will be shipwrecked on an island.”

In my scripture reading this morning, I read about Paul’s shipwreck on Malta and the events leading up to it. A particular segment popped out at me as if it were a three-dimensional object against a two-dimensional setting. Beginning in Acts 27:21 (in the callout box)

Suddenly I saw Paul in a new light (no, I’m not on my own road to Damascus). Paul was terrified. His faith was in a weakened condition. Why? Because in the verse just before this Paul says, “until at last all hope was gone.” Even Paul despaired of his life. But wait, wasn’t he hoping for heaven? Wouldn’t that have been a good thing?

You see, I’m coming to realize something about the apostle Paul as I’ve been studying him recently. Paul had a “dream” to go to Rome. He’d been to some mighty cool places on his missionary journeys, but he really wanted to go to Rome, the center of the Roman empire. I don’t think this was a spiritual desire, but a physical, emotional one. I think that’s why even our dear apostle Paul had lost hope.

But what does God do for his faithful servant Paul? Does God rebuke him? No, instead, God sends a messenger to Paul to say, “Look, Paul, I know you have your heart set on Rome, and you will get there, but I have this Divine Delay right now. Don’t be afraid, BUT TAKE COURAGE, you will get to Rome.” WOW!!

Paul has been facing days of crashing, crushing waves—waves that certainly will destroy the vessel. In their despair of life, the crew cast all cargo and even the instruments overboard. All hope was lost. BUT GOD, (that's my favorite phrase in the Bible) says to Paul in the midst of this, “TAKE COURAGE.”

Interesting words, aren’t they? The New American Standard Bible says, “keep up your courage.” The greek word Euthumeo () is translated in the following ways: to put in good spirits, gladden, make cheerful, to be of good spirits, to be cheerful, to be joyful, be of good cheer, of good courage. All of these things involve an act of the will to “be” something. It implies an embracing of sorts—take, receive, hold onto courage. Boy, when your ship is about to go down, you hang onto anything solid you can get your hands on. So God gives His dear servant a life raft. He gives him courage and tells Paul to hang on to it for dear life. WOW!

Then, the most remarkable thing about this passage is what Paul does next. He shares this wonderful news with everyone on the ship. He doesn't hold onto it and hog it, he shares it!! Paul was so encouraged by this angel’s visit that he wanted others to have that same confidence, and he shares this wonderful news with an unbelieving crowd.

The end of the story is that the gale force winds did not stop, they pounded and pushed the ship right up to the rocks on the Isle of Malta, yet just as Paul said, not a life was lost. Paul began to understand that this trip wasn’t just about him, but about the other men on board with whom God was sharing the truth. I wonder how many of those shipmates we’ll see in glory someday because Paul took courage in the shipwreck.

Sometimes, the storm isn’t for us, it’s for the ones watching. Certainly, God had things for Paul to learn, too, but His greater good in this instance, I think, was demonstrating His existence to the men who were traveling with Paul. Perhaps one of them had asked Paul for “proof” of God’s existence. I think they probably got it!

So, take courage! You'll notice that this phrase occurs twice in this passage, along with “Do not be afraid.” Repetition implies importance. Again, with the apostle Paul I say to you, “TAKE COURAGE!”

Help Wanted

Rich Gelina

Matthew 9:35–38

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Jesus looked at the crowds following him and referred to them as a field ripe for harvest. Although it’s not easy to commit to personal evangelism, many people are ready to give their lives to Christ if someone would show them how. In Matthew 9, Jesus commands us to pray that people will respond to this need for workers. Often when we pray for something, God answers our prayers by using us. So I need to be prepared for this possibility.

As we prepare to move to a new community, I am praying that God will guide us to the people in that community who need to hear the message that Jesus died to save sinners. And I am praying that God will give me the boldness to share the good news with them.

It seems that many of the things I have experienced in my life have been a preparation for sharing in the sufferings of others. Having a special needs child has shown us that it is very hard for others to understand our situation unless they themselves are experiencing or have experienced the same sort of issues. That makes us feel quite lonely at times because most people cannot understand what we deal with on a day-to-day basis. But it also makes those few who do understand uniquely able to share in our difficulties and to encourage us through the tough times.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Our family is going through some serious things right now. Perhaps God is preparing us for someone who needs to be comforted. Perhaps we can comfort these folks and help them find their way through the difficult times because we have been helped with our problems by God and his laborers. It’s a good system, if we participate.

ADDENDUM (by Mary's request):


  1. Thank you so much, Mary, for your portion of this post. It is tremendously encouraging. A great reminder that God is in control even when the waves are crashing and the ship is sinking.

  2. Isn't God incredibly awesome? He is an INTIMATE God who reaches us where we are and lifts us up far beyond our own potential to the praise of HIS glory! If you haven't heard "Reckless Ride of Faith" by Phillips, Craig, and Dean, I'd recommend listening to it.

  3. We had a bad day over here today. Both your posts were just what was needed. Thanks.

  4. I'm sorry to hear that, Decadent. But I'm glad that God is able to use us for mutual edification. I will be praying for you.


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