READ: Acts 21:1-36
THINK: Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was one of the legendary generals of the Civil War. He earned his nickname, Stonewall, in the first major battle of the war, Bull Run. While many of his fellow Confederate officers were retreating and collapsing in the face of intense Union pressure, Jackson refused to call for a retreat. And he stood his ground right alongside his men, prompting Confederate General Bernard Bee to remark in amazement, “Look, there stands Jackson like a stone wall.” And he was Stonewall Jackson from that point forward. Many were struck by his courage and his seeming obliviousness to danger and so, after the battle, someone asked him why he seemed so unafraid. Jackson replied, “My religious belief teaches me to believe that I am as safe in battle as I am in bed. God is in control, and I do not concern myself about death but to always be ready no matter where it may overtake me. That is the way all men should live and they would be equally as brave.”
Jackson wasn’t perfect, and we could rightly criticize the side he chose in that war, but he understood something incredibly profound: that knowing Christ completely changed his identity and purpose in life. Paul understood this too. When the prophet came and informed him that if he went to Jerusalem he would be captured and imprisoned, many of his friends and fellow believers tried to dissuade him from going. They thought that this was a sign that Paul shouldn’t go to Jerusalem. Even Luke, the writer of the book, admits he thought this. But Paul knew better. He knew that God had called him to go. So he was gonna go. No matter what.
The crazy thing about Paul’s determination, I think, is that he was far more concerned with the consequences of not doing what God called him to than he was with the certain consequences of doing it. He was more afraid, by far, to avoid his mission than he was to be jailed and even killed. He trusted that God was in control and that, though following God wasn’t always the easiest path it was absolutely the best path.
Do we have that same attitude? Are we even close to it? As you think about the things you’ve done for God’s kingdom over the last few weeks or months – and especially about the things that you haven’t done – is your Christian life marked more by boldness or fear? What would it look like if you were more terrified of not doing what God has called you to than you were of how the world would react when you do?
My prayer for all of us is that we will embrace Paul’s spirit. That we will embrace Jackson’s notion that if all people believed that God is in control and that his ways are best – even if not easiest – they would be equally as brave as he was. We were not created for fear, but for boldness. Believe that God is in control and that whatever he calls you to is the absolute best path for you to take. We are hear to bring change, and that requires bold faith!
PRAY: Thank God for his sovereignty and for the incredible blessing of being used by him to make a difference in this broken world. Confess the times when you’ve let fear cripple your faith and you’ve chosen not to follow him because you were afraid of the way the world would react. Ask him to help you, like Paul, be bold!