“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).” The first step toward following God is to trust in the truth of Jesus. In today’s new sermon, David Platt identifies four truths that ought to be the natural outworking of a believer’s life… from the very outset of trusting in Jesus, to the day-in and day-out of facing life without fear.
If you have a Bible—and I hope you do—let me invite you to open with me to Acts 25. While you’re turning there, I want to welcome those of you, especially, who are gathering with us from Prince William, Loudoun and Montgomery County.
Before we dive into our text, I want to bring two other texts to bear on our gathering, particularly in light of events down the street from here in Charlottesville this weekend.
Genesis 1:26–28 tells us that God has created all men and women in His image. Revelation 7:9–10—the beginning of the Bible and the end of the Bible—tell us one day men and women from every nation, tribe, people and language are going to gather around God’s throne and give Him glory. What that means is from cover to cover God, in His Word, denounces and repudiates every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to His Word, His character, His design and the very gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we, as His Church, denounce and repudiate white supremacy—every form of racial and ethnic hatred—as evil, as a scheme of the devil who wants to bring suffering and division to our society. We pray that God will have mercy on our country and in our lives; that He would remove racism from among us. The Word speaks clearly to this.
We have a lot of ground to cover in the text before us, so we’re going to dive right in. During the last couple of weeks in the Book of Acts, we have covered a couple of years. When I last preached from Acts 22, Paul was arrested.
Dale then led us through Acts 22 and 23 where Paul was brought before the Roman tribunal and the ruling council. A plot was formed to kill Paul. He escaped from that. He was brought to Felix, the Roman governor of Judea.
Then last week, Mike led us through Acts 24 where Paul was tried before Felix and then left in prison for the next two years.
That now leads us to Acts 25 where we find that Felix has been replaced by a new governor, Festus, and the stage is set for what I believe is one of the most riveting scenes in the entire Book of Acts.
So, let me set it up in Acts 25. As soon as Festus becomes governor, the Jews immediately ask him to send Paul to Jerusalem for trial. Their plan in Acts 25:3 is to ambush Paul and kill him on the way. Or, if that doesn’t work, they’ll just sentence him to death once he gets to Jerusalem, but Festus says, “No, I’m about to go to Caesarea where Paul is imprisoned, so why don’t you guys come with me and you can present your case against him before me there?”
That’s where we pick up in Acts 25:6–12:
After he stayed among them not more than eight or ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. When he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him that they could not prove. Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.” But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?” But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”
So, basically what just happened is the Jewish leaders presented all kinds of false, unprovable accusations against Paul. Paul defended himself, but Festus, wanting to please the Jews says, “Why don’t we go down to Jerusalem for a trial?”
But Paul knows what the Jews want to do to him, so he says, “I’m not going to Jerusalem. I’m a Roman citizen, so I’m appealing to Caesar.”
At that point, Festus had no choice. If Paul wanted to stand before Caesar, then he could stand before Caesar. After all, Rome is the place Paul where has been wanting to go and so in appealing to Caesar he just booked himself a one-way ticket there.
All of this leads to Acts 25:13 when one day King Agrippa showed up in Caesarea with his sister, Bernice, whom he lived with (so not a healthy relationship, but we won’t talk more about that now).
Now, Agrippa the King had quite a family heritage. His great-grandfather was King Herod who tried to kill Jesus as a new-born baby. His great-uncle murdered John the Baptist and later tried Jesus. His dad is the one who imprisoned Peter and beheaded James. So, King Agrippa had all kinds of history with and interest in this Jewish-Christian movement.
So, Festus starts telling King Agrippa about Paul. Festus says, “The guy has appealed to Caesar, but I’m not sure what to tell Caesar when he goes there.”
Agrippa says, “I want to hear him.”
Festus says, “Let’s do it tomorrow.”
All of that leads to Acts 25:23 where Luke writes:
So on the next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city. Then, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in.
You’ve got to picture this scene: Here’s King Agrippa dressed in royalty—purple robed, golden crowned, rings on his fingers; Bernice decked out beside him. Festus in his scarlet robe reserved for special occasions. A full house packed into the audience hall, watching this king and governor come in flanked by an honor guard of soldiers, high-ranking officers. Every prominent person in Caesarea is present from legionnaires to politicians. Then finally, after all this pomp and pageantry is complete, the people sit silent. Festus stands up in the hall and pronounces, “Bring in the prisoner!”
After a long pause, a door opens. This unassuming Jewish man with what 2 Corinthians 10:10 calls a “weak, bodily presence” slowly walks into the hall. You can almost imagine what’s going through the minds of people in the audience, “This measly man is the cause of all this controversy?”
Paul is brought to the center of the hall. Festus announces that he wants the king to hear from this man so that Festus can know what to write to Caesar about him and that leads to Acts 26:1. Listen carefully. This is the longest of Paul’s five defenses in the Book of Acts, the culmination and climax of all of his defenses:
So Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense:
Just picture yourself in King Agrippa’s shoes. Now you’re the king listening to this:
“I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.
“My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee. And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?
“I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.
“In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me.And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
“Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”
Now, listen to the response in Acts 26:24:
And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.”
So, the Roman governor just shouted out, “Paul, you are insane!”
Now, as soon as the governor speaks, you would expect the prisoner to stay silent, but not this prisoner. He looks back at Festus and he says, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words” (Acts 26:25).
Then he turns to King Agrippa, speaking directly to him:
For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.”
At this point, you can almost hear the audience gasp for air. This prisoner just called out the king in front of everybody. “Don’t you believe this?” Paul asks, “I know you do.”
One can only imagine that King Agrippa is stunned at this point, saying back to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” (Acts 26:28).
The audience holds their breath. What in the world is this guy going to say?
And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.”
Is that not a great line? I can only imagine Paul lifting up his chains, looking straight in the eyes of the king and then to Bernice and his governor beside him and then looking all around the audience hall, this sea of pompous dignitaries who have everything the Roman Empire has to offer and he cries out, “Beside these chains, you wish you were me!”
With that, the king gets up, Bernice and the governor with him, and they walk out. That is quite a scene!
So, why do we have it? Why has God given us this story in His Word? Why are we talking about it? Why is this story important for your life right where you’re sitting right now? In Lon’s words, “So what?” Well, here’s what.
I want to show you one undeniable truth at the center of the story. It relates to the heart of the story. It forms the whole reason for the story and based on that one undeniable truth, I want to offer you four practical exhortations for your life that flow from this story and from that truth. There are many other exhortations we could dive into, but we don’t have all day, so I want to offer you four from God’s Word.
We’ll start with one undeniable truth the heart of this story revolves around. When you study Acts 25 and 26, you realize there’s one reason why Paul is on trial here. There’s one reason Paul is in prison. There’s one reason why his life is being threatened. There’s one reason why this king thinks he’s insane. Let me show it to you.
It actually goes back to Acts 23. Turn back just a couple of chapters with me quickly. When Paul was being tried before the ruling council in Jerusalem, listen to what he said in Act 23:6. So about midway through the verse, Paul starts speaking and he says:
“Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.”
“That’s why I’m on trial,” and as soon as he says that, all kinds of dissention erupt in the council and Paul is taken away.
Then, Paul is brought before the governor, Felix, in Acts 24. Paul presents his case there. Look at what he says down in verses 20 and 21:
Or else let these men themselves say what wrongdoing they found when I stood before the council, other than this one thing that I cried out while standing among them: ‘It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day.’”
And as soon as Paul says that, Felix shuts Paul down. Did you notice it’s when he starts talking about the resurrection of Jesus that everything changes? So, when you get to Acts 25, look at verse 19. It’s when the new governor, Festus, is telling Paul’s story to Agrippa. Listen to how he recounts it:
1Rather they had certain points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive.
That’s when Festus says, “I don’t know what to do with this guy.”
Then you get to the speech we just read in Acts 26 when Paul is speaking before King Agrippa. Look back at what he says to the king in verse six:
And now I stand here on trial [Why?] because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?
Paul’s saying, “I’m standing here because my hope is in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.” Then he starts to tell his personal story basically saying, “I thought Jesus was dead. I persecuted His followers, but then Jesus appeared to me. I saw Him and He wasn’t dead. He was alive. He was speaking to me.”
Then you look at the climax of Paul’s speech down in Acts 26:22–23:
To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”
Right after Paul says, “Jesus is risen from the dead,” Festus shouts, “You’re out of your mind!”
So, do you see it? Paul is in prison for one reason. He’s on trial for one reason. He’s being accused of all sorts of things, but it all comes back to one thing. It all comes back to one undeniable truth.
One Undeniable Truth: Jesus is alive.
That is the one truth that dominates this whole story. That is the one truth that has totally changed Paul’s life; everything about him and that is the one truth he wanted everybody around him to see. That God has kept His promise to send His Son, the Messiah King, to save His people from their sins.
Now, if you’re not a Christian, you may wonder, “Well, how’s that possible? How could one man save us from our sins?” I’m glad you asked. To answer that question, from cover to cover, the Bible teaches that we are all sinners. It looks different in every one of our lives, but we have all turned aside from worshipping the One True God to worship other gods instead. Namely ourselves. Every one of us has turned from God’s way to our own way and as a result, every one of us stands guilty before a Holy God deserving of eternal death for our sins, but God loves us and He’s not left us alone in our sins.
He has sent His Son, Jesus, to live the life none of us could live, a life of perfect obedience to God and then, though He had no sin for which to die, He died the death we deserved to die. He died on a cross in our place as the Substitute for our sins and we know all this is true because three days after Jesus died, God raised Him from the dead. Jesus is no longer dead, He is alive and every single person will one day stand before Jesus as Judge and He will, on that day, save everyone who has chosen to trust in Him to save them from their sins, while all who have turned from Him will pay the penalty of their sins forever and ever.
This is the undeniable truth and I say “undeniable” because in the words of Paul in Acts 26:26, “…this has not been done in a corner.” The resurrection of Jesus is a historically reliable reality. That’s a whole other sermon for another day, but the reality remains: Jesus is alive and everyone’s eternity depends on how we respond to Him.
Now, that automatically leads to four practical exhortations for every person. So, I exhort you based on this Word, this truth:
#1 – Teaches us to trust in the truth of Jesus.
That’s exhortation number one and, particularly for those of you who’ve never put your trust in the truth of Jesus, hear this. The Bible says, in Romans 10:9, “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
So, if you have never done that, then I exhort you to do that today. It’s not just I who exhort you. God in His Word is exhorting you today to put your trust in the truth of Jesus.
Mike hit on this last week so well, talking about how indecision is a decision. You must decide. Every one of you right where you’re sitting, you must decide what you will do with Jesus. Will you trust in Him or will you turn from Him? There is no middle ground here and I want to urge you to trust in Him in a Paul-like way. I want to urge you to see that Jesus is not dead. He is alive and not only is He alive, but He is pursuing you.
Get this. Acts 26 is not the only time we hear about how Jesus appeared to Paul and saved him, but we have an important detail here that we don’t have in other accounts. In Acts 26:13, when Jesus appeared to Paul He said, “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting Me?” But then Jesus said—this is the only place where we have this line—Jesus said, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
You say, “What does that mean?” Well, a goad is basically a stick used to prod cattle where they need to go, where it’s good for them to go. So, it’s not good for cattle to fight that. It’s not wise for them to kick against that. So Jesus is saying to Paul, “Why are you working against Me when I am for you?”
Oh, non-Christian, hear that today. Why are you resisting Jesus when He is for you? He’s come to save you from your sin. He’s come to give you the life that God has created you to live.
To use language from Acts 26:18, Jesus has come to bring you “from darkness to light,” so why do you stay living in darkness? He’s come to bring you from the power of Satan to the power of God, so why do you stay a slave to sin? He’s come so you might receive forgiveness of all your sins, so why would you refuse Him? He’s come to give you a place forever with Him among those who are sanctified by faith. I exhort you to put your trust in the truth of Jesus. Today, not tomorrow, today. You can do this right now in your seat, in your heart, and say, “Yes,” to Jesus. Believe in your heart. God raised Him from the dead. Confess that He is Lord. Ask Him to forgive you of your sins. Put your trust in the truth of Jesus today.
So then, when you do, that leads to the second exhortation.
#2 – Teaches us to tell your testimony about Jesus.
All of this was set up by Jesus way back in the Gospels and Luke is intentional to show us this. Luke, who’s writing the Book of Acts, also wrote another book so turn two books to the left in your Bible. You’ve got to see this. Just before the Book of John and you’ll come to the Book of Luke. Luke 21:12. I want to show you what Luke wrote down about Jesus teaching His disciples. Jesus was about to die, then ascend to heaven. He’s preparing His disciples for what’s going to happen when He’s gone. Listen to what He says in Luke 21:12. See if this sounds familiar.
But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake.
Does that sound similar? That’s exactly what Luke is now recording in Acts 25 and 26, but don’t miss this. The reason I want to show you this in Luke 21 is because of what Jesus says right after that in Luke 21:13. He tells His disciples they’re going to stand before kings and governors and listen to what Jesus says: “This will be your opportunity to bear witness.”
Paul knew that Jesus had designed this whole scenario in Acts 26 for a reason. After all, think about it. What’s happening in Acts 26 wasn’t even a real trial. Paul had already appealed to Caesar. There was no more official pronouncement to be made. Technically, Paul didn’t even have to show up, but there was no question Paul was going to show up. Why? Because he knew this was his chance. This was his opportunity to bear witness before the king and the governor and all these people and he was going to take full advantage of that opportunity.
So, this is where I want to exhort you. The likelihood is most people this week aren’t going to be brought before a governor or a king, but you will have opportunity this week to bear witness—to give testimony. I love what Paul does here with this opportunity. See how simple this is. All that Paul does is share his story about how Christ has changed his life. That’s all he does in a few sentences:
- Acts 26:4–12: what life was like before he met Jesus.
- Acts 26: 13–15: how he met Jesus.
- Acts 26: 16–23: how Jesus had changed his life.
Here’s why this is so important: In the process of studying through the Book of Acts like we’re doing, I think it’s possible for people to walk away from these sermons Sunday after Sunday and think, “Wow! That’s pretty awesome what Paul did. I could never do that.” This is where I want you to hear that this is a lie straight from the devil himself. You know why the devil’s lying to you like that? I’m convinced it’s because he is afraid. He’s afraid of what would happen if every follower of Christ believed that we could do the same thing this week that Paul’s doing right here in the Book of Acts.
You think about it. There are 10,000 or so people worshipping at McClean campuses today. Ten-thousand people. Now, I don’t want to assume all 10,000 of those are followers of Christ, so I’ll just take that down to nine. Eight. Let’s use 8,000 for the sake of illustration. Eight-thousand people today are going to scatter from worship, each one of us having a story about how Jesus has changed our lives. So, 8,000 people filled with the power of the Spirit of God scattering to give testimony to the love of God. This so simple when you think about it.
Now, just tell somebody your story in a couple of sentences. It doesn’t have to be long. You don’t have to run a marathon down spiritual memory lane. Just a couple of sentences about what your life was like before you met Jesus, how you met Jesus, when you came to believe in Jesus, what you came to believe about Jesus and the difference He’s made in your life. Every one of our stories is unique. You don’t even have to camp out on what’s unique. I mean, some people have dramatic stories about being delivered from drugs and alcohol and wild living and pagan rituals, but you don’t want to spend too much time there. After all, you want people to listen to you, not run from you.
Other people’s stories are not quite as dramatic. Maybe you came to Christ when you were a kid and you didn’t have time to do drugs before you turned six-years-old, so you think, “Ah, I don’t have much of a story.” Rest in this: You don’t need to provide the drama in this story. The God of the Universe becoming a Man, dying on a cross so we could be forgiven of all of our sins, then rising from the grave to conquer sin and death. There’s enough drama in that story for you to leave some of your drama out. Once you share that good news, then do what Paul did here: Ask the person you’re talking to, “Well, what’s keeping you from trusting in Christ like that?”
It’s one of the things I loved about Mike’s sermon last week about Paul in Acts 24. Now Paul’s aim in Acts 26 is not to exonerate himself before these officials. He’s not concerned about himself at all. He’s concerned about this king and this governor, these people’s salvation. He’s just leveraging the relationships and opportunities before him for the spread of the gospel.
So, just think about it. Thousands of people from this one church—not to mention other churches—scattering throughout the capital city of our country this week telling their testimony about Jesus. As we do this, do you know what Jesus will do? Acts 26:18 says He will deliver people “…from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God.” People will be forgiven of their sins and receive a place in God’s inheritance. That is an awesome thought!
That’s what Acts 25 and 26 are compelling us to do. In His Word right now, Jesus is exhorting us to tell our testimony about Him. Now, obviously our scenario is different from Paul’s in Act 25 and 26 because we’re not in chains. So, that leads to a third exhortation from this text.
#3 – Teaches us to pray for the persecuted.
As I was studying this text this week, praying through particularly how it applies to our lives here, I couldn’t help but think that we would miss part of the point if we didn’t look at this text from the perspective of Christians in the 1st Century who were originally reading this; for whom persecution was a real probability.
For that matter, we would miss part of the point if we only sat here in comfortable surroundings in the DMV and failed to realize that right now we have many brothers and sisters around the world for whom imprisonment, trials, beatings and testimonies before government officials are a reality. For a just minute, let’s travel from the DMV to the DMZ. Obviously North Korea is ever present in the news right now.
I remember standing in the Demilitarized Zone—the DMZ—a couple of years ago, looking across the border and realizing the condition of followers of Christ behind that line. North Korea is known for putting Christians in prison camps. For years they’ve been at the top of the World Watch List—that ranking of 50 countries that exposes the places in the world where Christians are persecuted the most. If a North Korean is caught with the Bible or is suspected of having any contact with South Korean or Chinese Christians, he or she may be shot. North Korean police are trained to travel to China and pose as refugees, infiltrating churches there to discover contacts from the North Korean church. They create mock prayer meetings to catch and eventually murder North Korean Christians.
Obviously, those conditions may not be as severe in every country, but many of these things can be said for Christians in other parts of the world. Our state department reports Christian persecution of some kind in more than 60 different countries today. I can’t help but think that this text is beckoning us to lift our eyes for a moment to remember them and pray for them. Pray that God would do for them what He did for Paul: strengthen them, sustain them and empower them to boldly proclaim the gospel even when it’s costly.
I have many personal friends in these settings. I talked with one sister in Christ just a couple of weeks ago whose husband was recently imprisoned. She doesn’t know when or if he’ll get out and the Book of Acts became all the more real.
It puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? Petty things that we often worry about and argue over, consuming our time within the church here. It causes us to praise God for the freedom we have in our country; causes us to praise God for our government, for men and women in uniform who fight for that freedom. It compels us to pray to God on behalf of brothers and sisters—our family in Christ—around the world who face threats against their lives and families on a daily basis. God in His Word is exhorting us to pray for our persecuted family.
So, would you spend time doing that this week? In your time with the Lord, before meals, before you fall asleep at night, step in and intercede for persecuted brothers and sisters.
So we’ve looked at one undeniable truth: Jesus is alive. This leads to four practical exhortations: 1. Trust in the truth of Jesus. 2. Tell your testimony about Jesus. 3. Pray for the persecuted. And then finally…
#4 – Face life without fear.
This text is exhorting us to face life without fear. Don’t miss the connection here. Paul knows that because Jesus is alive, he has nothing to fear in this world. Nothing.
One of the things I love most in this Acts 25–26 scene is how fearless Paul is. He is a weak Jewish-Christian man, yet he’s fearless. To use Dale’s words from two Sundays ago, “Paul’s got moxie.” Moxie. Think about it. Paul has no fear of man. This whole scene—with all its pomp and pageantry, with kings and governors and politicians—is totally designed to intimidate, but it doesn’t faze Paul at all.
I mean, here’s the king whose family has tried to murder Jesus, has beheaded John the Baptist, has murdered Jesus’ disciples. You’d think Paul would be a little timid, but no. He’s as bold as bold can be which is exactly what Jesus promised back in Luke 21, which we looked at earlier. Jesus said, “When you are in those situations before governors and kings, don’t worry for a second about what to say because I’ll be with you. I’ll give you what to say. I’ll give you the power by My Spirit to say it.” That’s exactly what Jesus is doing here. It’s exactly what Jesus does today.
I was talking to another sister in Christ last month who had just been arrested in a particular Asian country. Just picture this short, shy, soft-spoken Asian sister in Christ who had moved to this particular country to share the gospel and she’d been successful. She used a particular platform for work, had led some people to Christ and they started gathering as a church, but she didn’t know that while this was going on, government officials started watching her. One day, she was called to her workplace by her boss and the police were waiting there for her.
They started asking her questions. They went to her house, searched everything she had and threatened to throw her in prison if she didn’t give them all the information they wanted, but she wasn’t budging, so they threatened her again. They left her for the night to think about it. That night she prayed, “Lord, You promised to give me what to say in situations like this.” So, Luke 21 and Acts 26 were reality for her and she prayed, “Jesus, I’m trusting You to keep that promise.”
So, the next morning she was called back to work, the police were waiting for her there. She boldly walked up to them. She reported to me, “I just started speaking the first words that came out of my mouth. I said ‘It’s good to see you guys. Where are we going today?’”
They took her to the police station and accused her of being a spy. She insisted she was not, saying, “But I do have something to share.”
They stopped and said, “What?”
She said, “I want you to know how thankful I am for you.” They kind of looked at each other and she said, “You must love your country so much. You’re working so hard to protect it and it is an honor to meet you.”
They didn’t know how to respond. She turned to one of the police officers who was a woman and said, “You must be the most beautiful police officer in the entire country.” The woman said, “Thank you.”
Finally, they said, “We know you’re sharing about Jesus. You’re starting churches. Do you realize what’s happening here? We could put you in prison.”
She said, “I will gladly go to prison to prove to you that Jesus loves the people in your country. I will gladly die if that would prove to you how much Jesus loves the people in your country.”
She told me one of the police officers started tearing up. Eventually, they let her go.
Do you realize this? When the King Who conquered death is holding your life in His hands, you have no reason to fear any man in this world. No reason.
Paul had to know Jesus was in control of this whole situation. Think about it. How else do you explain this obscure Jewish-Christian missionary getting an audience with the king, the governor and every prominent official in Caesarea? This was not Paul’s plan. Being arrested and beaten in Jerusalem, falsely accused, held in prison for two years, was not what Paul would have planned for his future, but God took him on a two-year detour that led him to share the gospel with some of the highest political officials in the known world.
So, how about you? Have you ever found yourself on a detour in your life that you would not have planned? I’m guessing most of us have. I’m guessing many of you are there right now, looking around you and thinking, “This is not what I would have planned.” But don’t miss this. When you know that Jesus is alive and at the right hand of God with all authority in heaven and on earth, you don’t have to fear anything when it comes to your future, because Jesus is on the throne and Jesus is ultimately in control of it all.
Isn’t that good news? We look at everything that’s going on around us in the world right now from North Korea to other places. Brothers and sisters, you have no reason to fear. Jesus is alive and He is on the throne. Period.
- No fear of man.
- No fear of the future.
- No fear of death.
In Acts 25:11, Paul tells Festus, “I’m not afraid of dying.” Why would he be? He’s following the King Who’s said in John 11:25–26:
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life, Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.
Let me pull all this together with a story from this past Friday night. So, I had been out of the country, flew back in Friday and I’d heard that a close friend of mine named Jonathan was not doing well. He’s a pastor at the church where I used to serve and is around my age. A few years ago, they found a tumor on Jonathan’s brain and he’s fought that tumor for years now, but during recent months, it’s gotten worse and this week the doctor said it was time to move from treating the tumor to just trying to keep him comfortable.
So, I got off the plane in Atlanta, ran over and caught a flight to Birmingham instead of coming straight here. I went to his house Friday night and just got to sit by his bedside and talk with him for about three hours. He whispered most the time; it takes a lot of energy for him to have a conversation. We reminisced. We laughed. We cried. We prayed. We talked about Scripture and family and mission.
There was one point when I had to step out so the palliative care people could talk with him and his wife, and sign some papers saying that they would let him die. I came back in the room and they were setting up a bed for him. While they were setting up this bed, he just looked at me and whispered, “David, God is good. God is good.”
He told me about calling his three kids into his room earlier in the day—they’re 14, 12 and nine—and explaining to them what it means for hospice to come in for their dad. He looked at his kids who were bawling with him and he told them, “Kids, God is good.”
I spent three hours Friday night with a friend who knows he doesn’t need to be afraid of death because Christ has conquered it.
This church is full of people who are facing all kinds of trials and challenges, deseases, even death. I exhort you based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, face this life without fear. Face death without fear.
Will you pray with me?
Oh, God we praise You that Jesus is alive and we gather together today for the same reason Paul was imprisoned because we’ve got this hope. Our hope is in You. We trust in You. I don’t presume to know all the circumstances and situations represented here, but You do, Oh, God. I just pray that the truth that Jesus is alive would rest in fresh ways on people’s hearts and lives. Some to put their trust in Jesus for the first time and for many, many others to be encouraged in a fresh way by the reality of Jesus’ resurrection and the hope we have in You because of this. All glory be to Your name. It’s in Jesus’ name we pray these things. Amen.