“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.’” (Acts 23:11).
Dreams come true, unless they don’t, which is the scary thing about dreams. You think and you hope and you plan and you push, and when it doesn’t happen like you envisioned your heart breaks. With Job, you cry, "My plans are broken off, the desires of my heart" (Job 17:11).
Paul was a man with big dreams. One was to successfully preach the gospel to the Jews in Jerusalem. God had given him a huge heart, especially for his kinsman people. He was willing to trade his own salvation for theirs. Someday — he thought — he would preach to them.
So Paul prepared for that glorious day. He involved a few of the Gentile churches by asking them to donate financially to the struggling Jerusalem church. The Macedonian and Achaian churches got involved — they gave. He gathered a team of men by asking them to travel with him, partly to oversee the financial aid package, partly to support him in this venture of faith.
Finally, he arrived in Jerusalem. Things were tense, but the church received him. To allay their fears, Paul agreed to a few Jewish rights and ceremonies. He found himself in the temple. Rumors began to spread — “Paul, the former Pharisee, is in the temple with unclean Gentiles." Untrue, but that didn’t matter. The mob descended, the Romans rescued him, and Paul ascended the steps up to their barracks. He was permitted to address the crowd.
There, at the temple, the Jews gathered to listen to Paul speak. His dream was about to come true! He’d written, “To the Jew first,” and now he would preach to the Jews…in Jerusalem…at the temple. Revival was right around the corner.
But it wasn’t. He told them God sent him to the Gentiles, which caused a fresh outpouring of the mob’s wrath. The Romans brought him in, questioned him, and delivered him up to the Jewish religious leaders. Again, no open door, for the Sanhedrin was hostile to him.
Rejected and unheard, Paul was alone and in chains. The following night the Lord stood by him. At the low point. At the crushing of a dream. At the bursting of a bubble. Christ was there, ready to speak to His man. “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”
To testify in Rome was the other dream. He’d had it for so long, and it was yet unfulfilled. He told the Roman church he wanted to be there, to impart a spiritual gift to them, to preach the gospel to them, in Rome. Here, at his low point, Jesus stood with Paul and told him that dream would come true. Jesus told Paul he’d been successful in Jerusalem, for his job was only to testify of Christ. Paul could not control the results. Jesus loved Paul’s testimony, Paul’s work. He assured Paul he’d have more testifying to do in Rome.
It is Christ who stands near us during the broken dreams and unfulfilled longings of life. It is Christ who walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death. It is Christ who comforts with His shepherd’s rod and staff. He sees the hearts of His servants. He observes their love for humanity and longing for effectiveness. And He stands with us when the disappointments of work in His name hit us afresh. “There is more,” He says, “I am not finished with you yet.”