Then Festus, wanting to please the Jews [and after hearing Paul's defense that he was completely innocent of breaking any laws], asked him, "Are you willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there?"
— Acts 25:9 NLT
Poor Paul. He had Felix play politics, try to extort a bribe from him, and then leave him in prison despite knowing he was not guilty. Then Festus, the leader who next had authority over him, wanted to repeat the same old set of dangerous procedures Paul had legally stopped previously. He wanted to send Paul back for trial before the Jewish ruling council in Jerusalem! Except, a group of men in Jerusalem had vowed to kill Paul.* What I hope we can all realize through the ongoing, repetitive — and from our perspective, sometimes hard to follow and dangerous — ordeals is that God had a plan for Paul, and he carried out that plan. God led Paul through his ordeals to Rome. From the last eight chapters of Acts, consider what Paul endured and realize none of this could derail God's plans for him:
- Attempts by a riotous mob in Jerusalem to kill him.
- Multiple political and military leaders who had oversight of him.
- A determined and ongoing assassination plot by Jewish adversaries.
- Harrowing storms on the Mediterranean Sea.
- Sailors planning to abandon the ship and passengers in the storm so that Paul had to take charge and reassure everyone.
- A violent shipwreck.
- A normally deadly snake bite.
- A long walk from the coast to Rome.
- House arrest in Rome.
God was at work for Paul's best good, and he is at work in our lives, too. No human plot or power, no demon, and no natural disaster could separate Paul from God's love and plan for his life. Paul wants us to know that God will do the same for us!**
Father, please send the Holy Spirit with special power to help me stand in the moment of trials as Paul stood firm in his trials. I want to believe that you can and will deliver me to the right place at the right time to accomplish your will and then bring me home to you. I believe, but please, help my unbelief! I want to trust and serve you wholeheartedly. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.