Topic:Discipline of Delay
Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. When Lysias the commander comes, he said, I will decide your case. He ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs.
This is an account of one of God’s inscrutable delays, which often afflict us. We think that something we want to have happen is just around the corner. Then as we move toward it we find that it seems to move away from us, recede from us, elude us. Sometimes it takes us months or years to reach a point which we thought was right there. These circumstances raise questions in our minds and hearts. So with the apostle. Here we begin to see God’s discipline of delay.
Felix really doesn’t need to have Lysias come down. He has already received from him a letter exonerating Paul. But he uses this as an excuse, in order that he might hear something more from the apostle. Felix’s curiosity has been awakened and, as Luke tells us, he knew something about Christianity, and he wants to hear more. So he retains Paul in custody, even though he has every legal right to set him free.
Now, don’t blame Felix, because he is being used as an instrument to carry out God’s purposes with Paul. This is the work of a loving, heavenly Father who is concerned with a beloved son. Remember that Paul, by disobedience, despite the consistent warnings of the Holy Spirit, had chosen the pathway which led to bonds and imprisonment. He had disobeyed the direct command of the Spirit that he should not go up to Jerusalem.
There is a very instructive lesson here for us. It is simply that when we disobey God and are later forgiven, as Paul was forgiven and restored, that forgiveness does not change the pathway we have chosen. God doesn’t eliminate the trials and the difficulties we have deliberately assumed. What the forgiveness does is to restore to that pathway all the power and joy and gladness that was our experience before we walked in disobedience. You find that this is what happens here with Paul. When he was restored to the fellowship of his Lord by the appearance of the Lord Jesus to him in prison in Jerusalem, as we saw in an earlier chapter, that pathway of imprisonment was not canceled. He remains a prisoner, and ahead of him lie two long, weary years of waiting in Caesarea, and three more in Rome, as a prisoner of the Lord. God doesn’t eliminate that, but he does transform it into a fruitful and profitable experience for the apostle.
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This is the point this whole section is making for us. We see Paul now going ahead, bound as a prisoner, yet finding, nevertheless, that the fullness of God’s power and glory is able to work in him just as freely through the channel of imprisonment as it did when he was free. The imprisonment was not comfortable. It added a good deal of agony and heartache to the apostle’s own experience. But he accepted it as God’s provision for him, and found it to be no less the instrument of God’s working and power than anything else he had experienced before.
Father, thank you for this lesson again from the life of this mighty apostle. How faithfully you dealt with him! How deeply he learned these truths! How faithfully he passes them on to me so that I might learn to accept your delays, not as denials, but as opportunities for enrichment and advance.
Time management is a learned discipline. Are we resentful that God has the last word? Or are we learning to rest in his sovereign wisdom and ways?