Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

Living Fearlessly
Acts 26:12-23
Vs. 16 But get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me[c] and to those in which I will appear to you.
Acts 26 recounts Paul’s defense before King Herod Agrippa II. Paul was brought before the Roman governors and Emperor Caesar by the Jews, because he preached repentance and forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ. Finally, his case was appealed before Festus and now King Agrippa who was especially familiar with Jewish customs and traditions. Due to the unique nature of Agrippa’s knowledge, Paul mounts a defense recounting his past experiences with Christ from a Jewish perspective. 
Firstly, Paul reminds all those in attendance at the court that he is a Jew by birth. Paul admits he is highly educated in Jewish customs and was a devout Pharisee, who persecuted Christians with special ambitions prior to his confrontation with Christ. From his experiences bringing Christians from synagogues and condemning them to death, Paul reminds the court that he was like them. However, on his journey to Damascus, his entire life changed as he met Jesus in the form of a bright light, blazing brighter than the sun. In his vision, Christ uses a Greek proverb to tell Paul, who is well educated in Greek ways, that he is only hurting himself by persecuting Christians. Instead, Jesus invites Paul to take part in his ministry and serve the needs of the Jews, Gentiles, and all others in darkness. Paul not only says he has followed this commission throughout his ministry, but also uses his defense testimony to call forth anyone in attendance to Christ, including the King himself!
Paul had the confidence and assurance of the Holy Spirit within him. He knew that God would protect him wherever he went, and thus, was able to speak boldly against the King and his accusers without flinching or refuting his faith. This model is especially meaningful to us, because we often backslide on our faith when faced with the slightest of problems. Instead of blaming God or turning away from Him, we ought to grow closer to Him in faith and trust that He will guide us through our difficulties. Paul leaves us with the message that no matter what difficulty or persecution we face, God will be there to protect us and lead us through if we earnestly put our trust in him. 
So how can we live like Paul and stand firm through even the most intimidating of trials? The answer lies within our ability to trust God and His plan, regardless of how strange His ways may seem. Paul knew that God would guide his life and ministry no matter the circumstances. Even in the most frightening moments of his life, Paul was able to stand brave before his accusers and preach the Gospel as he was told. We can only find this same courage within ourselves if we follow God’s plans for our lives. Like Jonah, we often make our own plans to do as we please, but neglect that God is in control of our lives and that his omnipotence determines where we will go. Putting our own selfish ambitions and desires aside, we ought to trust God’s Spirit and allow Him to lead us in all walks of life.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Paul knew of this promise, being a scholar of the Jewish scriptures, and earnestly trusted it. Now it is our turn to live, not on our own, but as part of God’s body of believers. By living in faith and hope, we can stand before our accusers and live boldly, courageously, and wholly within God’s mighty hands. 
Oh Lord, help us to live boldly and courageously with you. Strengthen us to trust your ways and stand firm through our fiercest trials. Amen.
How can we live fearlessly in a modern society full of trials and difficulties? How can we put our trust in God even when our desires don’t go as planned or remain completely unfulfilled?
Christopher Baby, St. John's MTC, NY
Christian Education Forum, Diocese of NAE of the Mar Thoma Church