And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”

Acts 18: 9, 10

There are a very great number of factors that influence most of us during our journeys through life that cause us to get soft in our zeal for being openly and overtly Christian They take the form of concerns about the feelings of others, fear for our own acceptance, and struggles with how others will treat us. In some situations and in some places in the world the concerns and fears also focus on personal safety. All of these were on the table for Paul as he traveled about his world teaching about Jesus, and this is why Jesus came to him in a dream and shared this thought with him. You see, even the great teacher and writer of the truth of God’s word, himself, was fully human and shared the same sorts of doubts and fears that we all do.

Christ wants us all to grab hold of the fact that He is actively involved in protecting us from all of the real harm that concerns us. The Lord owns this world, and He is the One who is sending us into it to serve Him. Instead of fearing what is in the shadows, we are to be the ones who bring the light of God’s truth there. Rather than back away from hostility, we are to share the love of Christ with people whose spirits are troubled. When there are voices telling you to be silent and to hold your tongue regarding your faith and trust in Christ, the Lord, Himself, says to check on the real source of those words and to continue to speak boldly and clearly for His name’s sake.

There will be attacks, for there is an enemy, and evil does not like to lose its grip on the people that it uses for its purposes. There is also a God who is infinitely greater than all of the forces that Satan can bring to bear in his cause. Remember that Satan is the creature while God is the Creator. Also, this fight is already won, for Christ has claimed the total victory. It is the calling, the mission, and the purpose of everyone who has joined Jesus in that victory to live as if we understand and fully accept it so that we are not silenced by any personal concerns or doubts. Be brave, be bold, and be fearless in speaking the love and the truth of Jesus as you walk through your day, for truly nothing can harm you.

The Lord will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life.

The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in

from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 121: 7, 8

 

Alright, I admit it; these verses are actually taken from a children’s fairy tale. They were written by someone who wanted to provide a rosy-tinted, false sense of security to some young people so that they would go to sleep and stop bothering their adult care givers. Well, no. That simply isn’t true, either. These lines come from one of that wonderful body of writing that is known as the Psalms of Ascents. These are traveler’s tales. The sorts of reminders that whole families would recite and sing together as they took the often dangerous journey from their homes to Jerusalem so that they could worship God together with their entire nation. Although they were intended to ease the journey and to make the miles go by faster, they had a much greater purpose than that.

 

These songs are intended to remind the singers of God. As the travelers recited the lines from them their hearts were being prepared to enter into deep and transformative worship. The author of these lines was not attempting to gloss over the hardships of life. Instead, he deals with them from the perspective of an extreme realist. In these verses we see the great challenge that confronts all of us as we go about our own travels. Evil is out there; it is everywhere. It crouches and lurks among the shadows of the street where we live. It comes at us from far away, and it even attempts to set its traps in our own homes. Evil tries to worm its way into our minds and whisper the lies of Satan to our hearts. Although defeated by Christ, evil just hasn’t gotten that message; so, it is relentless in its desire to disrupt the lives of people who do know God.

 

Since this was the world that these ancient travelers knew, they sang about the truth of God’s protection, preservation, and salvation. As this same reality is ours, we can do the same thing. There is an old popular image of a person who is walking along a dark and frightening lane; so, in order to get his courage up, he starts to whistle. This idea was expressed in The King and I as Anna sings, “Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect and whistle a happy tune, so no one will suspect I’m afraid.” There is one very big difference between the experiences of these fictional characters and those of God’s people. Their courage was a façade; it didn’t penetrate to their hearts. However, we can trust that God is truly protecting us. He will take us along the road that we are traveling, and our souls will be safe. There is danger in the journey, but the outcome of it all is never in question. During every minute of each day, Christ holds us close and keeps us secure.

 

Now there was a man inJerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation ofIsrael, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

Luke 2: 25

 

Consider this man who lived so long ago and in a culture that would be completely foreign to most of us. Here Luke describes him as living in ways that I think of as highly desirable. Simeon actually lived a life that was in sync with the law of God, for it must have been characterized by the way that he treated others. Righteousness only exists when our actions consistently demonstrate the love and the truth of God. He was also committed to this way of living. Simeon devoted himself, his whole being, to loving God and to seeking His will.

 

Now this ancient man was also focused on one very specific result that comes from our relationship with God. He seems to have been looking continually into the past history of his people and then focusing his gaze intently toward the future with his heart set upon God’s promise of reconciliation and restoration of all peoples from the ravages of sin. Simeon prayed for and sought to bring others to understand the truth of God’s promised comforter, the Messiah. I would bet the farm on the fact that he never stopped sharing his understanding of these truths with the people that he encountered, either.

 

This is very challenging to me, for here is a man who had been living before Jesus was born; yet, Simeon believed in the Christ totally. He lived his life in a manner that demonstrated this belief in both words and actions. When Simeon was present, people knew that God was there, for Simeon’s life was ruled by God’s Spirit. Simeon’s example causes me to seek out God’s perspective and will for my life. It causes me to ask, “Lord, how am I doing? Where do I fall short of Simeon’s example of what is possible?” My Lord, I pray that You will purify my heart, give my will strength, and clarify my understanding of You; so that, when people see me, they will be able to say that the Holy spirit is upon me, too.