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The Courage of Conviction

Riverside Indonesian Fellowship
Published by Stanley Pouw in 2017 · 26 November 2017

Let us continue in the journey of the Apostle Paul as he concludes his third missionary journey and goes to the city of Jerusalem. It is the courage and the commitment of Paul, who believed in something enough to abandon his own self-pleasure to see it come to pass. Now that is the spirit that is characteristic of all of God's greatest people throughout the history of biblical revelation.

Look at Numbers 13:2, “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel.” And 12 people went in and ten came back and said, 'We can't go into that land, there are giants over there and we are like grasshoppers.' But Joshua and Caleb said, 'No problem. Let's go get it.' Fortified cities, massive armies, but they believed God, and they were willing to risk their lives.

There was a lady in the book of Judges, who happened to be a judge in Judges 4. Her name was Deborah, and she believed that God had given the children of Israel a victory. And so Deborah encouraged the army, said, "Look, the victory's ours, let's just go take it." And she led them out and they won.

And in 1 Samuel 17, there is that story of a young boy named David who had five round rocks and a slingshot, and said, "It's only a giant, and God is going to give the Philistines into our hands." And he went out there and twirled that slingshot around and won a war. He had conviction and he was willing to stake his life on it.

And there were three young men in Daniel 3, named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who were willing to stake their life on a spiritual principle that it was proper to worship God and not idols, and they walked into a fiery furnace. They were willing to die for what they believed. There was another man named Daniel. In Daniel 6, they said, "If you don't quit praying, we'll put you in the lion’s den." They put him in the lion's den, and God saved him. That is courage of conviction.

And in Acts, we have been finding out repeatedly that these people have convictions that they are willing to die for. And Paul was one of those people. Paul said to the Ephesian elders in the parting in Acts 20:38, “You will see my face no more.” Why did he say that? Because he was moving towards Jerusalem, and he was well aware that all the way along, the Holy Spirit kept testifying to him that bonds and afflictions awaited him.

Even though he realized the danger awaiting at Jerusalem, even though his heart burned to reach the city of Rome, and even though he knew the saints loved him and appreciated him, he still didn't stop because he had conviction and courage to see it through. His conviction was to collect money from all the Gentile churches and to give that to the poor saints in the Jerusalem church.

It was a two-fold project: one, to show that the Gentile churches loved the Jewish church, so to unite the church, and two: to meet the practical money needs of the poor saints. And he believed that God had given him this goal, and this cause, and this objective, and he pursued it. He saw the Jerusalem church as a besieged fort. It was cut off from supplies and it had been through famine and persecution.

Of course it was a dangerous thing to do, because all the followers of Judaism hated Paul. They chased him and tried to kill him. And now he is going to the center of Judaism - Jerusalem itself. As we study Acts 21, we see Paul's courage and conviction and there are four aspects of the courage of conviction, namely: 1: knows its purpose, 2: can't be diverted, 3: pays any price, and 4: affects others.

The first factor in expressing courage is that you have to believe in something. There has to be an objective, a goal, or a purpose. Now, for Joshua and Caleb, the conviction was that God has given them this land. So if God has given us this land let us be courageous and go possess the land that God has given us. But it all begins with the belief that God gave them that land.

For Deborah, the conviction was, "God promises victory." For David, the conviction was, "God wants Israel saved from the Philistines." For the three Hebrews, "God wants to be worshipped, and does not allow us to worship any other gods," and we have the courage to believe that conviction, whatever the cost. For Daniel, same thing. Paul said in Acts 20:23-24, "The Holy Spirit witnesses in every city that bonds and afflictions await me. 24 But none of these things move me.”

In the first three verses of Acts 21, we see that courage of conviction knows its purpose. Acts 21: 1, “Now it came to pass, that when we had departed from them,” It speaks of a love bond, which is hard to sever physically, and so they had a sad kind of parting. “And set sail, running a straight course we came to Cos, the following day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara.”

So they sailed unto Cos, which indicates they had a little boat that hugged the coastline. Patara was a large port, since the Xanthos River emptied there into the Mediterranean Sea, where larger ships would dock to take stuff inland. Verse 2 says, “And finding a ship sailing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail.” Phoenicia is the coastline area of Palestine.

Now this is a large ship, because it says in verse 3, “When we had sighted Cyprus, we passed it on the left, sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload her cargo.” Syria, is the coastline area, and Tyre is the famous city mentioned in the Old Testament. Here again we see that Paul is a man on a mission. He is directly going towards Jerusalem.

Verse 4, “And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem.” Paul waited till the ship again left Tyre, and would sail down the coastline to the ports near Jerusalem. A simple narrative, and yet underneath it a tremendous truth - the Apostle Paul accepting the challenge of bearing this gift to the Jerusalem church.

The only time that you really get that depth of courage is when you have that depth of commitment to an objective. Let's talk about a general, spiritual objective. Paul shares his objective in Philippians 3:10, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” Our objective also should be to know Christ.

The Bible is not the objective; the Bible is the means to accomplish the objective. But in order to know Him, I have to know His Word and that is in the Bible. Paul then says in addition, I want to know the power of His resurrection. I want to know the fellowship of His sufferings. I want to feel the pain of His sufferings, as I suffer for His sake. I want to know everything there is. That's a great objective.

My own objective would be, one, I want to know Him. Two, I desire to feed His flock. But in order to know Him and to feed His flock I have to know His Word. So my objective, though it is general, becomes very real and actual. In order to accomplish the ultimate objective there is a practical thing that I have to do, and that is pursue Scripture. So you can have a general goal that becomes also a practical task.

Do you have an objective? Some say, "My objective is to win my unsaved husband to Jesus Christ." That is good. Are you willing to pay any price to do that, sacrifice your own self-will, your own pleasure, anything for that objective? Somebody might say, "My objective is to be in the ministry, to finish my study and my training and to serve God." Are you willing to make any and every sacrifice to accomplish that?

Every Christian ought to have an objective. Because without it you are not going anywhere, and you will never have the occasion to know what it is to express courage, and to be able to set your will aside to accomplish what God laid on your heart. So first of all, the courage of conviction knows its purpose. Secondly, the courage of conviction can't be diverted.

Watch verse 3 again, “And we landed at Tyre there, at the coast of Syria," not far from Jerusalem. Verse 4, “And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days.” These were Christians Paul didn't know, because he did not start the church in Tyre. That is correct, but he indirectly did so, because it was started out of the overflow of the persecution of Stephen. So Paul was the cause for the growth of the church even before he was saved.

But they said to Paul, through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem. They loved him and they didn't want to see him hurt, because he was so hated by the Jews. Now the question is: Did Paul get a word from the Holy Spirit not to go to Jerusalem? If he did, then he went anyway, he was disobedient. So is Paul disobedient? Did he make a mistake in going to Jerusalem?

So what does the phrase, "Through the Spirit," mean? That phrase means, through the exercise of the spiritual gift. 1 Corinthians 14:3 defines it as, "Edification, consolation, and exhortation," teaching, preaching. But the gift of prophecy was also predicting in the early church. Now you can exercise a spiritual gift in the true energy of the Spirit or in the flesh. It is not conclusive there how it was.

Maybe it was a mistake to go but his love for the church in Jerusalem made him do it. If you read the Bible you will find that everybody that God used fouled up. Noah failed after the flood and got drunk, Abraham denied his wife, Isaac failed due to fleshly lust, Jacob failed daily, Moses failed and was left out of the Promised Land and David had a terrible blot on his life. Peter denied Jesus and Thomas doubted Him.

But God is in the business of picking up those who fail. Aren't we glad? However, Paul did not fail here. He was not deny the Spirit at all. "Why?" First of all, he lived in sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul would not, all of a sudden, become carnal, without any indication from God that he did.

Illustration: Acts 16:6, “When they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the Word in Asia." You know what they did? They didn't preach in Asia, Paul didn't violate the Spirit. Verse 7, "When they come to Mysia, they attempted to go to Bithynia, but the Spirit allowed them not." They didn't go there either.

Verse 9-10, “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia.” Now watch, the Spirit said, "No," Paul said, "No." The Spirit said, "No”, Paul said, "No" again. Then the Spirit said, "Go to Macedonia," and what did Paul do? He went to Macedonia. Listen, this man lived in sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.

Listen to Acts 20:23, “the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.” Does the Holy Spirit say, "Don't go?" No, the Holy Spirit says when you get there, this is what is going to happen. The Holy Spirit knew he was going, and it was a case, not of prohibition, but of preparation. Paul told them in verse 24, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy.”

In Acts 24:16, he said something similar, “I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.” Listen, he was so sensitive to the Holy Spirit, that he would always obey God. The message the Holy Spirit was giving him was this, "Paul, don't go unless you are willing to suffer what is going to happen." And he was.

That is the courage of conviction. And it was natural that his friends, who, by prophetic spirit, could foretell his pain, would try to talk him out of going. But Paul had no concern for safety, only for service. And he is like Jesus who firmly headed for Jerusalem. This is courage of conviction that cannot be diverted.

Soon after the beginning of the reign of ‘Bloody Mary’ in England in 1553, an officer was sent to bring various preachers in for trial. A godly preacher named Hugh Latimer was brought to London. When the officer arrived, Latimer said, "My friend, I go as willingly to London to give an account of my faith, as ever I went to any place in the world. The Lord will enable me to bear witness to the truth, either to her eternal comfort or discomfort.”

‘Bloody Mary’ burned him at the stake, and she burned two other preachers with him. And as the flames were leaping up Latimer said these words, “We shall light a candle in England today that will never go out.” The costliest fire the Roman Catholic Church ever lit was that fire. It became the flame that ignited the English Reformation and the death of Catholicism in England. This man had conviction and the courage to die in the flames.

Verse 5, “When we had come to the end of those days, we departed and went on our way; and they all accompanied us, with wives and children, till we were out of the city. And we knelt down on the shore and prayed.” Do you see the beauty of what they did? We just saw that with old friends in Acts 20. And this is what Paul did with new friends. One thing about Christianity, it doesn't take long to make a sweet fellowship.

And so in the city of Tyre we see that the goal of Paul could not be diverted. Even these new, sweet, beloved Christian brothers and sisters, with all their love, and all their advice, as well meaning as it was, could never divert him from his God given objective. May we all learn to follow Paul’s example as he follows the example of Jesus. Let us pray.



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