“One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.'” -Acts 18:9-10
At this point, Paul was getting pretty frustrated. He tried to preach to the Jews in the synagogues, but they wouldn’t have any of it. He continued to spread the message, continued to be faithful to the Gospel, but I imagine it was tiring, hard work. Until God gave him this little nudge on the shoulder, and it was like that second wind you get when you’re up past midnight working on that English paper and you down another cup of coffee to give you that caffeine boost.
What stuck out to me in this verse wasn’t God telling Paul to keep going, to speak out no matter what, not even that He was with him. I like the last little bit: “no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”
Basically, God is telling Paul that he is not alone. We hear so much about God being all that we need, and that’s good and wonderful and we should absolutely trust Him as our Provider… but sometimes that thought can be less comforting than it is isolating. If all I need is God, and He already knows everything about me and my life, then I don’t need to worry about establishing an authentic, Christ-pursuing community around me. There are some burdens we aren’t meant to carry alone, and we’re rightfully taught to give those up to God, but I think that He often carries them through other people.
God has many people in this city. I know that’s true of the city where I live, because I’m privileged enough to have some of them in my life. I’ll admit, I worry a little about what will happen when I leave behind my wonderful church and beautiful underclassmen friends and enter the world of college with all its new faces. But this verse gives me confidence that God will have many people in whatever city I end up in. Maybe many will mean three gathering for a Bible study over coffee once a week, and maybe it will mean a megachurch. But He will give me a family; I’m sure of that.
Family is the best thing we can be in and the best thing we can be for someone. For some, a sucky home life has ruined this image, but the true meaning of family runs much deeper than blood relations. It is the people who love you just as you are, who fight for you, who may not agree with you but are always on your side. It is those who see you, know you, and stay with you. It’s a “no matter what” thing, and it’s something we are called to be a part of. “Alone” was never meant to be a word in the Christian vocabulary, but not only because our Savior is always by our side. It’s because He uses those who speak aloud to speak His truth, those who have physical hands to hold ours as we walk through whatever rough paths we face. We are never alone. God has many people in this city.