Paul leaves Athens with little “success.” It is a city full of idols and whose primary idol is intelligence. The people love to talk and debate, but rarely commit to anything, keeping their options always open for the next big thing.
From Athens, he travels to Corinth. A city also full of idols, but on a different level. Corinth is a relatively new and bustling city. It is a military base and trading port. Alcohol and prostitutes flow freely. Their idol is wealth and pleasure.
It is tempting to think that Paul has this supernatural bravery. He is diligently and passionately pursuing that which God has called him to despite consistent persecution and rejection. But in his letter to the Corinthians, he writes of this visit, “And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling.” (1 Corinthians 2:3).
One of my favorite quotes is, “If you can’t beat fear, just do it scared.” Because the opposite of fear is not bravery, it is faith. It is stepping into God’s plan and God’s territory and trusting the process.
Despite Paul’s fears, he pushes through, and God is with him. While in Corinth the Lord spoke to him in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you...”
Just when Paul needed it most, God shows up and provides the comfort and encouragement he needs to persevere. And He also provides friends and fellow workers, Priscilla and Aquila, who were tentmakers like himself. God never intended for us to do this thing on our own or in our own measly abilities.
“And he [Paul] stayed [in Corinth] a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.”
I think we often read the incredible accounts in the Bible and believe everything happens so easily and quickly with people much stronger and smarter and braver than we are. But it is more often than not a slow and steady process, by flawed people, riddled with rejection and trials along the way. The spectacular conversion of thousands in the early church account is the exception, not the rule. It is one at a time. Building relationships and telling of what Jesus has done and who He is. It is often laced with uncertainty, failures, and fears. But that is when God shows up to give just what is needed to keep going. When we are weak, God’s strength is magnified.
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