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football coach December 9 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Acts 20:7-38; 21:1- 23:1

Courage and Wisdom in Adversity

During a football game, a coach can often be found on the sidelines with head phones on, watching the players and listening for strategies to win from his coaches in an upstairs booth. He needs courage and wisdom to face the adversity. Although most of us are not football coaches, perhaps we can sympathize with the need for courage and wisdom in other kinds of adversity. Whether in the family or on the job, sometimes we Christians are not liked because we are religious or because we do not have the same convictions as others have. The Apostle Paul was not liked by some people. In fact, the Jewish leaders hated him and plotted against him to take his life. Yet, Paul had an assignment to fulfill, given to him by God. What he did when he faced adversity will help us as we follow his example.

Paul’s assignment was to return to Jerusalem with the contributions he had collected from the churches of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) to bring relief to the poor believers there (1Corinthians 16:1-4; Romans 15:26). Jews in Jerusalem persecuted followers of “The Way,” the term used of believers because they were followers of Jesus. The Jewish leaders considered them to be a religious cult. They were a threat to Jewish traditions and Jewish heritage and their influence in the Roman government. They were hated. Because of this, it is likely that they neither allowed nor carried out commerce with the Christians in Jerusalem. Paul’s mission was to go into hostile territory to help them.

The dangers were very real. While Peter tried to keep the Jewish traditions, Paul did not. Paul was a missionary to the Gentiles (non-Jews), who were considered no better than despicable dogs. Paul was once a zealous Pharisee, but the Jews thought that he turned into a traitor when he became a Christian. Now he was coming back to Jerusalem and was considered an enemy. The outcome of his trip to Jerusalem looked bleak.

In today's Bible reading the Apostle Paul is journeying back to Jerusalem. Along the way there are dire prophecies made about him. Prophets tell him he will be bound and persecuted in Jerusalem. His Christian brothers and sisters plead with him not to go. Still, Paul is not dissuaded from his mission. Why did the Holy Spirit give the prophecy to the prophets if not to stop him? One possible answer is that he gave the prophecy so others might support Paul in prayer. We need our brothers and sisters in Christ to encourage us in days of adversity.

How does Paul encourage himself? On the way to Jerusalem Paul tells the Ephesian elders (pastors),

And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-- the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace, (Acts 20:22-24, NIV).

Paul feels compelled by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. God’s assignments are not always easy. Although he will suffer hardships, Paul steels himself in the face of probable persecution so he might complete the task God has given him. This is not confidence in himself– his confidence is in God! (see also Philippians 1:6).

When Paul arrives in Caesarea, Paul answers concerns for his safety. He asks the believers there, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:3, NIV). Paul is resolved to complete the task assigned to him for the sake of his commander, Jesus Christ. Are we?

When Paul enters enemy territory in Jerusalem, the brothers welcome him warmly but ask him to behave with careful wisdom. They ask him to take a vow of purity so the rumors of Paul persuading Jews outside of Jerusalem to behave like Gentiles will be squelched. This Paul performs as requested, but it does not work and Paul is thrown out of the temple. Then the Jews try to kill him, but Roman soldiers save Paul by arresting him and taking him away.

After Paul is arrested, he requests an audience with the Jews and is allowed to make his defense before the people. In his defense he confesses that he had identified with the Jews’ zealousness to protect the Jewish traditions until he was suddenly converted to follow Christ. Then, when Paul testifies that God gave him an assignment to go to the Gentiles, an uprising starts against him. The Gentiles, after all, are thought to be not worthy of God.

Hearing the uproar, the Roman officials do not understand what is causing it. For Paul’s safety and until they figure it out, they bind him and bring him back into the barracks. To keep order, they intend to beat him, but Paul uses the clout of his Roman citizenship to prevent them from doing it. Paul is shrewd. By example, we might learn from Paul that God wants us to use our minds to deliver ourselves whenever possible. He wants us to be as wise as snakes, although harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16).

The next day, the Romans bring Paul before a Jewish council to settle the matter of the uprising. When Paul realizes he is sitting amongst Pharisees and Sadducees, Paul causes a theological rift between them, and so much so that once again he has to be brought under Roman protection. Once again, Paul uses the mind God has given him to deliver himself.

Is God with Paul? Yes. Paul is protected and delivered from further harm. The following night the Lord stands near Paul and says, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome,” (Acts 23:11, NIV). We saw in our previous Bible studies that Paul wanted to visit the Christians in Rome. Now he is going to get a free ride–as a prisoner.

Lessons to Live By

We can exercise courage and wisdom in days of adversity by

  • recognizing that sometimes God calls us to complete difficult assignments.
  • encouraging ourselves in the Lord, seeing the necessity of the task, steeling ourselves in our commitments, and engendering some prayer support from our brothers and sisters in the faith.
  • using the intelligence that God gave us to fight, win, or deliver ourselves as God leads us.
  • Are you a follower of Jesus? Not only does he offer you forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life; he can also give you courage and wisdom in adversity (more...).

Today’s Memory Verse

Acts 20:24 (NIV) “…I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-- the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.”

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A Look Ahead: How do we Respond to Unfair Treatment? How do we Present a Defense? Learn more from Paul's example in our Next Lesson.

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