About eight or ten days later Festus returned to Caesarea [from Jerusalem and his meeting with leading priests and other leaders], and on the following day he took his seat in court and ordered that Paul be brought in. When Paul arrived, the Jewish leaders from Jerusalem gathered around and made many serious accusations they couldn't prove.
— Acts 25:6-7 NLT
Because Festus had not granted the Jewish leaders' request for Paul to be sent to Jerusalem, the plan to ambush Paul on the way there was thwarted. In a proper legal proceeding, Paul answered his accusers and shared the truth about his original rescue by Roman soldiers that led to his imprisonment. The bottom line on all the schemes, shenanigans, and manipulations attempted by Paul's adversaries was straightforward: They couldn't prove their charges because they were untrue. Paul was both protected by the Roman justice system and also unfairly jailed and held overtime. Paul's situation is a reminder to us of three realities:*
- Our hero, Jesus, suffered unjustly and was abused and crucified. As his followers, we shouldn't be surprised that we have to endure difficulties, hardship, persecution, and possibly even martyrdom. Most of Jesus ' original apostles seem to have shared their Lord's fate as martyrs.
- God can use our hardships to accomplish his will, bless others, and lead people to Christ if we are willing to be his person regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
- If we suffer hardship or mistreatment as followers of Jesus, it should be because we have done what is right, not what is wrong, hurtful, or evil. God uses unjust suffering to change lives and reach hearts with his grace.
Father, give your people strength and courage to be gracious and faithful as we confront the situations we face today. I ask for this same strength and courage for myself. I see the example of Paul and his ministry's effectiveness while enduring unjust imprisonment and repeated delays, and I am both convicted and inspired. I am convicted of my own self-centeredness and softness. I am emboldened and encouraged to see how you used Paul's imprisonment time to be a time of flourishing ministry. Steel my courage, Lord. Stir my passion, dear Holy Spirit. Use me, Lord Jesus, to share your grace. Thank you for the heritage of faith I have received from those who have faithfully served you in the past, dear Father. Amen.