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Safely Held In God's Plan

Acts 25:13-17
A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus. Since they were spending many days there, Festus discussed Paul's case with the king. He said: 'There is a man here whom Felix left as a prisoner. When I went to Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him and asked that he be condemned. I told them that it is not the Roman custom to hand over anyone before they have faced their accusers and have had an opportunity to defend themselves against the charges. When they came here with me, I did not delay the case, but convened the court the next day and ordered the man to be brought in.' (NIVUK)

Paul had been imprisoned, although with the freedom to welcome personal visitors, for over two years. He was first tried by Governor Felix and then Governor Festus with the same outcome: they did not know what to do with Paul. He had committed no crime and should have been set free (Acts 26:32). However, if they had released him, the religious leaders would have killed him proving that Roman military power was weak – and the governors may have lost their jobs.

So Paul lived in the Roman fortress in Caesarea until somebody could devise a solution which was both just to Paul and would appease the religious leaders. Those men had the opportunity to press charges against Paul but they did not, because they knew that Festus would demand evidence which they could not supply.

Eventually, when Paul exercised his right as a Roman citizen, and refused to be transferred back to Jerusalem for yet another trial, he appealed to Caesar. It was the highest court in the empire; but Paul was not seeking justice – simply the opportunity to witness for Christ before the emperor (Acts 9:15-16) . He was not afraid to die for his faith (Acts 25:10-11) but he wanted the gospel to be clearly heard first: and he was not ashamed of the gospel or of Jesus (Romans 1:16).

There are times when we feel we are trapped by circumstances. But really we are being held in safety, awaiting God's next direction. The timing is in God's hands too. He is protecting us for many things which might harm us or divert us from God's plans for us. Meanwhile other people will not know what to do. But the Lord does: if we trust His timing and do not get frustrated by apparent injustice He will keep us safe until He commands us to make the next decision.

Lord God. Thank You for protecting me better than I know, because You love me and want me to be ready to serve You. Forgive me when I become anxious when circumstances are out of my control, because I know that You are also protecting me. Please help me to work well with You. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams