Today’s reading is Acts 23. During the previous chapters, Paul was on his journey to evangelize Christianity and spread the Gospel to the Gentiles. In chapter 21, Paul was urged by the disciplines not to travel to Jerusalem due to the danger he would be in. Paul was convicted and knew he needed to go there. Paul was eventually arrested in Jerusalem for taking Greeks into the temple and was attacked by a Jewish mob. Chapter 23 brings us to Paul’s trial before the Sanhedrin, where he is professing his belief in the Risen Christ, and he is not backing down. The Sanhedrin wanted Paul to be punished and likely, put to death.
The verses take us through the story where a group of Jews banded together and set a plot to kill Paul. As a point to remember, Paul was a Jew, a Roman citizen, and a Pharisee. He was well known and connected.
In the book of Mark, he provided direct insight from Jesus about the persecution and future struggles of those who would spread Christianity.
In Mark 13-9-11, Jesus said the following:
9 “But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to the councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for the testimony to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. 11 But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.”
In many parts of the world today, Christians are still persecuted and murdered for their faith. Although we might not face the threat of death in our day-to-day life, the conviction of living by Christ’s Word can be a challenge. Many times, Christians are judged harshly for holding strong convictions and beliefs. Neighbors, friends, and even family may ostracize you because they do not like or agree with your beliefs. Maybe you don’t get invited to parties, co-workers avoid you, or perhaps being a Christian feels lonely.
We can be assured that although we will endure struggles in this world, Christ is with us. Christ is with us in the moments we are being challenged and will provide us the courage and words to stand by our convictions. The “difficult road” is to live a life according to the Gospel, yet we will endure persecution and strife.
Some great verses to remind us of Christ’s presence in our lives.
James 1:2-4 When troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
1 Peter 1:6-7 So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.
Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Paul was ultimately saved and sent away from the mob who wanted to kill him. While Paul was being held captive, Christ came to Paul and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.”
Christ is with us also and encourages us to continue the fight to spread His Gospel, and most importantly defend the teachings and guidance in the Bible. Because we disagree with someone based on Biblical guidance or reference does not mean we are hateful, discriminatory, or hostile. We can deliver the message and teachings of Jesus with a kind word and compassionate heart. Standing by our convictions and beliefs may lead to more difficult situations, uncomfortable conversations, and perhaps increased sacrifice. But we can know with our whole heart that God will provide solace and rest for us in those moments. We can stand tall with conviction and know that our God is with us.