Until today I had thought of Paul as some kind of superman. He evangelised the whole known world and planted uncountable churches. He took an almost unbelievable amount of physical punishment and sang hymns while it was happening! But I have realised, on reading the passage for today, that Paul also experienced and had to negotiate the same sort of hardened resistance to his message that we all face today. Paul had hoped that Felix (the previous governor) might come to realise Jesus died for his sins. But Felix remained afraid and never stopped hoping for a bribe. Festus, (Felix’s successor) concluded that Paul must be mad to believe that Jesus had risen from his death by crucifixion and that this resurrection had been predicted in the writings of the prophets and Moses. Then even king Agrippa, on whose support Paul had placed high hopes, quickly shoots him down when Paul alleges that he knows that Agrippa believes him.
A lot of people who haven’t yet placed their lives in God’s hands are interested in what believers like Paul have to say. But more often than not, the more powerful a person is, the more slowly they will respond to the message of the gospel. That is not to say that the poor and the powerless make easy converts! It’s just that those who have achieved greatness in this world often find the gospel message unsettling. It makes sense to me that those with less to lose often see, more clearly, how much they have to gain.
Acts 26:24-32 NLT
Suddenly, Festus shouted, “Paul, you are insane. Too much study has made you crazy!” But Paul replied, “I am not insane, Most Excellent Festus. What I am saying is the sober truth. And King Agrippa knows about these things. I speak boldly, for I am sure these events are all familiar to him, for they were not done in a corner! King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do—” Agrippa interrupted him. “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?” Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.” Then the king, the governor, Bernice, and all the others stood and left. As they went out, they talked it over and agreed, “This man hasn’t done anything to deserve death or imprisonment.” And Agrippa said to Festus, “He could have been set free if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar.”
So, as Paul watches his captors walk away having decisively put him back in his box, they discuss his inevitable progress to Rome. This was, after all, what Paul had been trying to achieve all along. My goal today is to hold on the truth that Paul was not a superman. His remarkable achievements and opportunities for evangelism came down to two qualities which we can all develop. His faith was strong and he never gave up in his efforts to testify to anyone. Today I pray for the perseverance to finish what I have started, and also for confidence in my own testimony. Paul teaches us all that what we know of Jesus, has great power in itself and so, therefore, we should share it with those who don’t yet have a testimony.
1 Chronicles 5:18-6:81, Acts 26:1-32, Psalms 6:1-10, Proverbs 18:20-21