Unbelievers persecute Christians throughout the world, and an unbelieving worldview is capturing America and bringing opposition to the doorsteps of our churches. In spite of the difficulties we as Christians face today, I simply want to say this: take courage and take heart.
How, you ask? Consider the Lord’s dealings with Paul in Acts 27:1–28:16.
In Acts 23:11, Jesus commanded Paul, “Take courage” (tharseō) and promised him that he would “testify also in Rome” concerning “the facts about Me.” This idea of “taking courage” is similar in concept to “taking heart” (eutheumeō) as it is found in Acts 27:1–28:16 (cf. Acts 27:22, 25, 36).
As the story goes, Paul and 275 other passengers found themselves in a “tempestuous wind, called the northeaster” (Acts 27:14). An angel appeared to Paul and promised that the only loss would be the ship itself (Acts 27:22–26). The passengers would live, likely something God “granted” to Paul in response to his prayers (Acts 27:24). As Jesus promised in Acts 23:11, so also the angel repeated in Acts 27:24: “you must stand before Caesar.” For these reasons, Paul twice told the men to “take heart” (eutheumeō; Acts 27:22, 25). After encouraging them again that God would save their lives, “they were all encouraged” (Acts 27:3). “Encouraged” here is the adjective eutheumos, related to the verb eutheumeō. It seems these men now shared Paul’s confidence that Paul’s God would save their lives despite their looming shipwreck.
And save their lives He did. Just as Paul promised that eating food would give the men “strength,” or better, “deliverance” (sōteria, a word often translated “salvation”), the food gave them strength to swim and float to the Malta shore where they were “brought safely” to the island (Acts 27:44; 28:1). “Brought safely” is from diasōzō, another word from the family of words for “salvation.”
But Paul’s trials were not over. A viper bit him, and the shipwreck left him and the rest without any provisions (Acts 27:41–28:4). But Paul miraculously survived and even healed many others (Acts 28:6–9). As a result, the islanders happily honored Paul and his companions with the provisions they needed for the journey ahead (Acts 28:10).
Paul sailed along the Italian coast and finally made it to Rome by land. Just before getting there, however, fellow Christians came down to Paul in order to escort him to Rome (Acts 28:11–15). As a result, “Paul thanked God and took courage” (Acts 27:15). “Courage” here is from tharsos, a noun related to the verb tharseō that Jesus used to command Paul to “take courage” in Acts 23:11. From salvation from shipwreck to the faces of fellow Christians, Christ kindly provided Paul with what he needed to possesses the courage He commanded him to have.
While Paul’s situation was unique, we can still learn something from him today: when we trust in the promises of God, we take courage and take heart to persevere. That may sound too simple to grab your interest, but it can be difficult to do in a world run by the devil, especially when the devil is in the details.
Consider just two promises for now. Christ promised that He will build His church, and He promised that our souls are secure in Him. Whatever this world may do to oppose the church and each of its Christians, like Paul, we should take courage and take heart that God and the gospel will always prevail. The church will go on, and come what may, we will one day be in heaven. Whatever you face today, and whatever the church faces as a whole, trust in the promises of God, and take courage and take heart.