Acts 23:11 The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”
I love the words here: “The Lord stood by him.” God “stood by” Paul both literally and figuratively. Paul was in the midst of being imprisoned, beaten, and shuffled from one court of law to another while the Jews tried to figure out what to do with him. I imagine that many of his Pharisee “friends” had abandoned him, either for fear of finding themselves in the same position, or feeling like they were powerless against the higher-ups. I imagine that many of his church friends were distanced from him, whether by geography or lack of communication, or physically held back by the guards. His missionary friends were themselves either killed or off doing God’s work in the places He had called them to. So Paul was truly alone.
And his troubles had only begun. God tells him, “Hey, you’re going to be facing some tough stuff coming up…you’re going to need to be strong because I’m taking you to the next level on your faith journey.” Paul knows what this means. Ramped-up beatings. Increasing threats. Longer and more difficult imprisonments. Trial after trial after trial before one important leader after another. Stress. Physical hardship. Testing.
But “the Lord stood by him.” As He uttered those words to Paul, He was standing “by him.” As He was breaking the bad news, He was standing “by him.” As Paul’s heart no doubt sank and he may have physically shuddered at the thought of what was coming to him, the Lord was standing “by him.” And when Paul had no one else by his side, the Lord was standing “by him.”
Paul is no different from you or me. Our tasks may be different – you and I may not be called to stand before the tribune or the Roman elite, we may not be flogged or have our lives threatened for our faith – but they’re no less difficult, daunting, and stressful. But we can rest assured that as “the Lord stood by” Paul, He will do the same for us.