the courage of conviction comes from knowing god and his call and trusting his power to do it
"And see, now I go bound in the spirit (or Spirit) to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me (divert me); nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God." (Acts: 20:22-24) "Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 21:13) "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (2 Tim. 4:7-8)
"By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward." (Heb. 11:24-26) Paul, like Moses and all the faithful saints in the Old and New Testament, grasped the revelation of long-term permanent spiritual gain over short-term temporary pleasures of this world, ultimately the joy of pleasing the Lord.
The book of Acts is a history of God's people serving and strengthening His church through the power of the Holy Spirit. (The same Holy Spirit that empowered Paul is in us today. We are not called to be Paul, but we are called to be as committed to Christ as Paul was. "In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." – Luke 14:33) Through men and women like Peter, Philip, Stephen, Lydia, Paul and many others, we can learn from a person's life, from their example along with their teachings (e.g., Paul's epistles) how we are to follow Jesus in serving and strengthening His church, the family of God, all born again brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul backed up his words in his epistles with his life's example.
I am using a four point outline by John MacArthur regarding Paul's example of the courage of conviction:
1. The courage of conviction – knows its purpose – (See the attached Prayer Guide – The Call of God) In this account of Paul's life, his purpose was to take the money he had collected for the poverty-stricken church in Jerusalem to bring unity among the Jewish and Gentile believers and for the practical needs of the saints in the church there. Godly purposes are what give us the courage to carry out our convictions: "Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained." (Prov. 29:18) If we don't stand for something we will fall for anything. Our purpose for God flows out of our knowledge of God. His first call to us is to know Him, for it is in knowing Him that we come to love, trust and desire to obey and please Him. "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." (John 17:3) And we see that desire and passion in Paul's life, to know the Lord: "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death." (See Phil. 3:8-10) There is a bond that comes from sharing the suffering of another that gives us a deep knowledge of that person. And in the case of our Lord Jesus, His heart was broken over what broke His Father's heart; lost and hurting people. So He was willing to suffer the cross to remedy this. (John 3:16) Paul, and each of us, are uniquely called to enter into Jesus' suffering love for lost and hurting people. "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions." (Col. 1:24)
2. The courage of conviction – can't be diverted – "none of these things move me"; "Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart?" (Acts 21:13) Paul would not be diverted from carrying out God's purpose by the concerns of the saints who loved him and wanted to protect him from the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem who hated Paul and were determined to kill him. (Though the Holy Spirit warned Paul through various people and prophets about the suffering he would face, He never told Paul not to go to Jerusalem (as the Spirit did in Acts 16:6-7). The Spirit was preparing Paul for the suffering, not trying to prevent Paul from going to Jerusalem and ultimately a Roman prison. He wrote many of his epistles while in prison.) Sometimes our loved ones can be the very ones who tempt us to disobey God's call. Humanly, we understand that and may be tempted ourselves to over protect our children, spouse, or friend from perceived or real danger in obeying the Lord. Here we must heed Jesus' rebuke of Peter when he tried to prevent Jesus going to the cross: "Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." (Matt. 16:23)
3. The courage of conviction – pays any price – "For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." Here in Acts we see Paul's conviction to suffer (and he did) and even die if needed (and he was martyred for Christ) in order to carry out the purposes of God in his life. Most of us will probably not be called to risk our life for the gospel (pay the highest price) but we may be tempted to sell out for far less like Paul's friend Demas: "Do your best to come to me quickly, 10 for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica." (2 Tim. 4:9-10) We may be tempted to deny Christ's purpose at work so we will be well thought of by people, or to better our promotion opportunities, or because we are afraid it may hurt our business success with unbelievers, etc. We may be hesitant to witness to Jesus among our family, friends, and people we meet in public places for some of the same reasons – so we will fit in and not be accused of being a religious fanatic. Jesus didn't "fit in" with the world or with the religious establishment and together they crucified Him. We need to ask the Lord to show us where we deny Him and ask for the grace to repent and stand up for Him and pay the price of being His witness.
4. The courage of conviction – affects and influences others – "After these days we got ready and started on our way up to Jerusalem. Some of the disciples from Caesarea also with us." (Acts 21:15) These were some of the very ones who earlier were pleading with Paul not to go to Jerusalem. (21:12) But instead of their fears hindering Paul, his courage and commitment inspired them to risk their lives for the cause of Christ by identifying with Paul. We have a ripple affect to our lives either for Christ or against Christ. "This is war, and there is no neutral ground. If you're not on my side, you're the enemy; if you're not helping, you're making things worse. "Anyone who isn't with me opposes me, and anyone who isn't working with me is actually working against me." (Matt. 12:30 – The Message, NLT)
"Behold, God is great, and we know him not." (Job 36:26) We cannot love, trust and obey Someone we do not know. God longs to reveal Himself to us as He really is, the most trustworthy and love-worthy Person in the universe. We all have twenty-four hours every day and can choose to spend a lot of it as we please – discretionary time. It is by spending time with a Person that we come to know them more and more intimately. As we do this with our Lord, our love for Him will grow and our desire to please and obey Him will increase. And as we obey Him, He will reveal Himself to us even more so and our love and obedience will increase and so on. "Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them." "Jesus replied, "All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. Anyone who doesn't love me will not obey me." (John 12:21; 23-24)
"For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him." (2 Chron. 16:9)
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1. The courage of conviction – knows its purpose – Our purpose for God flows out of our knowledge of God. His first call to us is to know Him, for it is in knowing Him that we come to love, trust and desire to obey and please Him. Do you long to know God more intimately? What can you do to grow in your knowledge of Him?
2. The courage of conviction – can't be diverted – "none of these things move me" – Sometimes our loved ones can be the very ones who tempt us to disobey God's call. Humanly, we understand that and may be tempted ourselves to over-protect our children, spouse, or friend from perceived or real danger in obeying the Lord. How can Jesus' strong words to Peter, His disciple and friend, help us to not be diverted by danger or to try to divert a loved one from danger, as we or they set out to obey the Lord? (Read Matt. 16:23)
3. The courage of conviction – pays any price – "For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 21:13) "Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica." (2 Tim. 4:9-10) Paul versus Demas – what a contrast. Is Jesus calling you to pay a higher price for His cause? What might that be?
4. The courage of conviction – affects and influences others – We have a ripple affect to our lives either for Christ or against Christ. "This is war, and there is no neutral ground. If you're not on my side, you're the enemy; if you're not helping, you're making things worse. "Anyone who isn't with me opposes me, and anyone who isn't working with me is actually working against me." (Matt. 12:30 – The Message, NLT) Where do you think your life may be influencing people for Christ? against Christ?