Waiting on The Lord {Acts 24}

11:30 PM

By Sue Desmarais

Did the end of chapter 24 strike you as odd? What I mean is, Paul’s testimony not only clears him of any crime, but also shows the true reason for the violence against him, so why is Paul not freed immediately? Why is he kept in prison for two years? Luke is obviously retelling this story of Paul’s imprisonment and knows the outcome and what took place during those years, yet, for some reason, he has left out the details and left us to do our own investigative work.

There are several lessons we can take from this chapter, but before we begin looking into God’s motives in Paul’s imprisonment, let me ask you,
  • Have you ever been so consumed in a particular ministry and right in what you thought was the middle of it, it suddenly takes a completely different turn, or comes to a complete halt altogether?
  • Have you ever desired something so desperately only to get your wish, but in a way you never imagined?
  • Have you ever been stuck waiting on the Lord when the circumstances don’t seem to make any sense? You’re ready, willing and able to move forward, but you find yourself still waiting on Him?

I can answer, “Yes!” to all the above, which may explain why I was so interested in figuring out why God appears to apply the brakes on Paul’s ministry and leaves him sitting in prison for two years when we know Paul longed to go on a missionary trip to Rome and then onto Spain!

BUT before we look at Paul, I feel I should say something about Felix’s actions. Felix makes several mistakes that are worth noting so that none of us will do the same.
  1. Paul’s words brought Felix under the conviction of the Holy Spirit; Felix knows this message is for him and it fills him with fear. Yet, rather than bringing a change of heart to Felix, he chooses to postpone any decision. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that Felix ever came around to accepting the gospel message Paul spoke of. Therefore, we need to be ready to embrace the message when the Holy Spirit convicts and not put it off until later.
  2. How often do we justify inaction because of our busy schedule? Or  fool ourselves into thinking that by not deciding we “keep all the options open", for indecision is a decision. and we may find we’re truly only deceiving ourselves.
  3. Luke lets us see Felix’s true motive is one that comes from his own greed. He was hoping to receive some sort of pay off or bribe in exchange for Paul’s release, which tells us we should always be quick to examine our own heart motives with the decisions we are making.
  4. Finally, Felix, like Pilate with Jesus, seems to be more concerned with the opinions of the Jews, that have falsely accused Paul, than with the truth! He, having “more exact knowledge about the Way” was no dummy. He knew Paul was innocent, but still chose to keep Paul in prison. We all need to be careful we don’t allow the opinions of others to determine our actions or inactions.
Upon our first reading of chapter 24 we might be inclined to feel sorry for Paul, or even think evil has won, but we know God is a sovereign God and therefore, there has got to be a reason God has chosen, and not Felix, to keep Paul imprisoned.  

First, it’s important to note that Paul was given some liberties according to verse 23, “Then he gave orders to the centurion for him [Paul] to be kept in custody and yet have some freedom, and not to prevent any of his friends from ministering to him.” Did you catch the last part of the verse, “not to prevent any of his friends from ministering to him.” How long has Paul been ministering to others and now others will have the chance to minister to him?

Secondly, this took place at the end of Paul’s third missionary journey. I don’t know of many men who could have endured all Paul has up until now, therefore I  tend to wonder if the Lord wished to give Paul a bit of a rest, for we will soon see that what Paul will face next will not be easy at all!

The truth is, Luke “inspired by the Holy Spirit”(see 2 Timothy 3:16-17), leaves out two years of details here. We have no idea what Paul did during those two years, or even if he wrote any letters, for we have no evidence of them if he did! Which leads me to believe our Father sought to give Paul a rest. Paul has already experienced more than most people during his missionary journeys and is going to experience even tougher things ahead, therefore I like to think The Lord set him on the bench for a few years to rest, perhaps speak to him and get him ready for the remainder of his ministry.
I also thought of Joseph’s time in prison. He too had been falsely accused and forgotten, but God had an amazing ministry ready for him! And David, though he wasn’t kept in prison, David still had to wait to be given the throne. Paul said this of David in Acts 13:22, “After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

I believe God could say the same about Joseph and Paul in the final days of their ministry as well. I hope and pray He will also be able to say that about me and you one day. After reading through this chapter and seeing that even Paul needed a rest, I think I will be more apt to embrace those periods in my life when God calls, “Come away with Me, My beloved and lets rest a while.”

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