Ever felt like God abandoned you? Paul could have easily felt that during the events of the last few chapters. Acts 25 is a chapter that needs a little context, so if you have missed the last couple of days, let me catch you up to speed.
Starting all the way back in chapter 21, during Paul's 3rd missionary journey, he feels compelled to come to Jerusalem. Even being warned by a prophet not to come, he still feels impressed to come, and after meeting with the leaders of the church there in Jerusalem is met by an angry mob who is trying to kill Paul; he is eventually saved by the Roman commander who stops the beating and works to uncover what is going on. The religious leaders throw all kinds of accusations at Paul and eventually devise a plot to kill Paul. Upon learning of the plot, the Roman commander takes Paul to Caesarea to stand trial before Felix, the governor. The religious leaders again throw accusations at Paul there, but the information is insufficient to render a verdict. Still, Felix working to maintain a good relationship with the Jewish leaders, refuses to render a judgment. During a succession of leadership, Felix leaves Paul in prison for two years.
The chapter begins with the new governor beginning his rule, and he visits the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, working to establish a good relationship with those he is governing. In the process, Paul's case comes up as they try again to manipulate the situation and have Paul killed for preaching the gospel. Throughout the chapter, we see almost the same sequence of events as in the previous chapter. Still, during Paul's denial of the accusations, he invokes his right as a Roman citizen to have his case heard before Caesar. It is very similar to our right to have our case heard before the supreme court, thus beginning Paul's eventual journey to Rome, which goes through King Agrippa.
The key thing to see out of the chapter is to look at the opportunities that Paul is given to advance the gospel during his season of waiting. How many of us are given the chance to be in the presence of high ranking political leaders? Well, Paul is and each time is given an opportunity to share about Jesus and he does so with boldness. It could easily be seen that his time was wasted, but I see this set-back as God’s set-up for what He is doing through Paul!
Today let's look at a couple of applications of this chapter in our own life: what do we do in our waiting?
Paul has to wait two years to be tried, not to mention the additional days and weeks it takes to accommodate the process described in this chapter. Ever get frustrated with God when delays happen? I know I am not always known for my patience, but we see a couple of great principles in the life of Paul here. Even in the delay, he makes the most of every circumstance. When he is given a chance to share about Jesus, he does and swings for the fences with governors and kings! The delay may be part of the setup for God to accomplish big things, so continue to be patient in your waiting and trust that God is in control. Waiting can be a time of tremendous growth and preparation, where we learn to trust in God's timing and develop patience and perseverance. As we wait, we can use this time to deepen our relationship with God and prepare ourselves for the next season of life. I notice that Paul is always ready, even after long delays, to share about Jesus. Let us be reminded to stay ready in our waiting.
Do not let anger take to us to a dark or obsessive place.
This chapter and story are scary when looking at what these religious leaders are willing to do when their anger creeps up. 40 of them made a vow in a previous chapter not to eat or drink until Paul is dead, and once again, they are working on a scheme to kill a man. I pray that in our anger, we never get blinded. These individuals lost all self-control and took it to unhealthy places. If you notice yourself getting there, stop and evaluate the circumstance! Anger can take you to a place you never thought you would go, and we have to remember the words in Ephesians 4:26-27 "Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil."
What to do when we are accused.
Paul was not guilty of any of the things they were accusing him of, and we don't see him attack back but instead continue to be and do what God has called him to do. Often accusations can distract us from what God is calling and asking us to do, but Paul remains focused and even uses it to help fulfill his message to go to Rome and encourage the church there.
Remember, the next time you are accused, don't stoop to their level. Continue to do what God has called you to do, knowing that your life will speak for itself!
Acts 25:7 speaks so well of Paul that they brought many charges against him that they could not prove! Keep living your life so that people have no evidence of the case against you. We see in several places Paul uses the phrase above reproach and the reason Paul can say that is because he has lived his life that way, and you can too.