“Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you.”
Can you remember a dark time of loneliness, hopelessness or alienation in your life? That darkness can be physical, emotional or spiritual. For authentic followers of Jesus Christ there’s a light at the end of their dark tunnel. A time of refreshing. Relief. Light washing over our darkness. God makes sure that His intervention and our period of refreshing comes at just the right time. Our darkest moments often open the door to our brightest opportunities.
The Apostle Paul faced such a dark moment on his mission trip to Corinth. He felt frustration when he left Athens, but Corinth didn’t offer him any light or refreshing. Paul found Corinth to be one of the most corrupt, sin-filled cities he would ever visit.
God was about to change Paul’s life and ministry. When God intervenes in our lives, something amazing happens. When Paul reached Corinth God brought Aquila and his wife Priscilla into his life. Like Paul, they were tent makers. “Gosh! That’s some coincidence,” you might say. But God intervened in Paul’s life with two new friends to encourage him and befriend him in Corinth.
God further blessed Paul by bringing Silas and Timothy back into the apostle’s life and ministry. Silas and Timothy were both faithful followers of Christ. They were consistent, dedicated disciples of Paul God used to further encourage Paul and give him confidence in his work. Surrounded by good friends who brought light into Paul’s darkness, Paul devoted himself completely to the Word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.
But the Jews weren’t buying Paul’s message. They refused the Gospel Paul was preaching. They turned their backs on him. His own people, snubbed their noses at this new way of thinking and believing.
Have you ever tried to convince someone of something you knew was right and the other person, or group didn’t buy in? Instead, they rejected all your efforts to persuade them? Were you frustrated? Discouraged? Angry? Don’t you think Paul felt that same frustration and discouragement when his own people rejected him?
How did Paul respond to their blasphemy and unbelief? Acts 18:6 tells us his answer. Paul shook out his garments (In Jesus’ day shaking out garments or shaking the dust off one’s sandals was the same as saying, I’m through with you, I don’t want to associate with you any more. We’re done. It also said to them, “Your blood is on your own heads! I am clean.” At their refusal to believe Paul’s teaching, his entire ministry changed. Paul said, “From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
Think about that. for a moment. Can you imagine the implications of Paul’s decision? He stopped sharing the Gospel with the Jews and turned to the Gentiles who, at that time, were much more receptive to Paul’s message. God’s intervention, then, transformed Paul’s life and secured for us the life changing messages in Paul’s letters. Do you think Paul would have written even one letter if God had not intervened in his life at just the right time?
Paul then went to the house of Titus Justus, a true worshiper of God. Later, when the Jews in the city came against Paul seeking to have him punished, Gallio, the proconsul of the Roman district Achaia, shook the dust off his feat and told the angry Jewish crowd that he refused to punish Jesus and turned the Jewish crowd away.
At least three times in a single chapter of Paul’s missionary journey, God intervened to remove Paul’s darkness. Paul felt engulfed, but faithful friends and followers of Christ that God put in his life, Paul chose to trust God and to keep speaking and do not be silent. This passage reminds us of God’s provision for us in our darkest hours. God told Paul no one would attack him to harm him. God convinced Paul He would protect Him and always be with him.
As we read Paul’s story and see God intervening with friends to encourage him, we recognize something. Just as God intervened in Paul’s life to encourage him and give him an 18-month period of refreshing, He will do the same for us. We certainly need encouragement. We live in an eroding, pagan culture. Satan attacks daily.
If we are sensitive to the voice of God, if we stay in His word, fellowship with Him, listen to Him and acknowledge His sovereignty over our lives daily, He will bring people and events into our lives at just the right time to give us the peace and love we need to overcome our own darkness. God will speak at our most critical moments with the most comforting words. He will remind us that no matter when or how our darkness engulfs, He will always be with us. We need to remember, like God told Paul, He will always be with us. God’s light and love will eventually replace the darkness. And we will experience a time of refreshing, just like Paul. That’s a promise from God Himself.