SO NEAR AND YET SO FAR!
"Felix shilly-shallied. He knew far more about the Way than he let on, and could have settled the case then and there. But uncertain of his best move politically, he played for time. 'When Captain Lysias comes down, I'll decide your case.' He gave orders to the centurion to keep Paul in custody, but to more or less give him the run of the place and not to prevent his friends from helping him.
"A few days later Felix and his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish, sent for Paul and listened to him talk about a life of believing in Jesus Christ. As Paul continued to insist on right relations with God and His people, about a life of moral discipline and the coming judgement, Felix felt things getting a little too close for comfort and dismissed him. 'That's enough for today. I'll call you back when it's convenient.' At the same time he secretly hoped that Paul would offer him a substantial bribe. These conversations were repeated frequently.
"After two years of this, Felix was replaced by Porcius Festus. Still playing up to the Jews and ignoring justice, Felix left Paul in prison." Acts 24:23-27 (The Message).
Ugh! How Paul must have chafed at this situation! He knew that he was not guilty of the Jews' ridiculous charges and so did Felix. He was given free run of Herod's palace and yet he was still under house arrest. His friends could come and go but he was confined to the palace. He must have felt like he was in limbo, free but not free.
Did he ever question God or was he content to be where he was, secure in God's plan and knowing that he would eventually get to Rome? One thing Paul continued to do and he could do it anywhere, that was to testify about Jesus. Felix and Drusilla got their fair share of Paul's story. He made sure that his sword of truth was always polished and sharp.
One wonders why God allowed him to languish in prison for another two years before the governorship changed hands. Was He waiting for Festus to take over, being a more decisive man to take action, or was He perhaps giving Festus an opportunity to hear Paul and also make a choice regarding Jesus?
As far as Paul was concerned, he was a love-slave of Jesus and any circumstances that He ordained were good enough for him as long as he could continue to live his life as an obedient son carrying out his Master's good pleasure. Every day he enjoyed His presence and fellowship and in that Paul was content.
Felix was playing with fire, literally. His motive for keeping Paul locked up was purely selfish and driven by greed. He kept Paul incarcerated because he was fascinated with the man yet unwilling to heed what he was being told. Imagine that! For two whole years he amused himself by having Paul talk to him about Jesus, yet he was never persuaded. How hardened his heart must have become for the love of money!
Did Paul ever give up hoping, and praying, that Felix' heart would be softened and that he would also bow to Jesus? Every time he was summoned to the governor, did he hope that that would be the day that Felix would respond? It never happened and, after two years, Felix and his family went off to wherever they were sent without ever getting the pay-out he was hoping for and leaving Paul to wonder what would happen to him.
I am sure that Paul also made use of this time to sharpen his understanding of the Word of God. His books no doubt accompanied him and he had time on his hands for study and prayer, knowing that he was on his way to the capital city of the empire. He needed to be fully equipped and ready because he had no idea what lay ahead for him.
It is during times like these that the true character of the believer is revealed. Is this the time for whining about circumstances or is it the time to prepare and be ready for the next phase of the journey? Let's ask Paul. "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances..." Philippians 4:11b (NIV). How did he learn? By learning!
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