“We have found this man to be a trouble-maker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple, so we seized him” …
“My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me. However, I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect.” (verses 5-6, 12-14)
Yesterday, I had a profound disagreement with someone over his actions and mine more than a year ago. We see the events entirely differently. The discussion got us nowhere. I left the conversation completely frustrated.
So, I come to this passage today slightly raw. What we’ve got here are diametrically opposed perceptions of reality. In this case, we’ve been allowed to watch Paul throughout, so we know there is no basis to the charges. Yet the conflict is real and unyielding. I would expect the degree of frustration for Paul must have been intense over the injustice of the accusations and his inability to bring about a shift in perceptions.
And yet … And yet, in this account I don’t actually feel frustration, indeed anger, rising. Paul comes across as very settled and calm, not only in the trial itself but in the ongoing, seemingly fruitless, audiences with Felix over a two-year period.
I wonder if this is the effect of having been confronted, again and again over the preceding chapters, with revelation from the Spirit that conflict and oppression were coming. Paul already had an underlying directive from the Spirit to press forward, but as each successive warning came he had to press into that directive more fully. Now, in the midst of the reality, what I sense from him is peace. He knows his circumstance is fully in the Lord’s hands, so frustration is kept at bay.
I know I’m reading between the lines, but this is the sense I get from the passage. And it rings true with Paul’s own statement in Philippians 4, written later when he was then imprisoned in Rome, flowing out of this circumstance in Acts 24.
Here it is:
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Oh, may I learn how to live in this place, even in conflict and frustration.
Dear Lord, I submit myself afresh to your direction. I put aside, into your hands, all that is making me anxious and unsettled. Please intervene in these circumstances – I commit them to you. Thank you that you are always faithful, always worthy of my complete trust, even when I cannot yet see the outcome. May your peace guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Thank you that you have promised it will be so. Amen.
Pray: Take Philippians 4:6-7 and pray through each element, making it your own.