This man could have been released if he had not appealed to Caesar (Acts 26:32).
“What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart?” Those words poured from Paul as many of his friends tried to persuade him not to go to Jerusalem. Agabus the prophet bound his own hands and feet with Paul’s belt to illustrate what would happen to Paul. Although Paul was moved by his friends’ concern, he knew what he must do.
“For I am ready not only to be bound but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13). Finally, his friends relent. “Since he would not be persuaded, we said no more, except ‘The Lord’s will be done’” (Acts 21:14).
Like me, you may question Paul’s motivation, especially since so many believers, including Luke, were telling him not to go. Couldn’t he plant churches and continue his ministry as he had in the past? Why risk his life? Had Paul been a people-pleaser like many of us, he may have listened to his friends.
As prophesied by Agabus, Paul is arrested at the temple in Jerusalem, but his Roman citizenship saves him from scourging. While in Jerusalem, he also appears before the Sanhedrin. Afterward, when a Roman commander is informed of a plot against Paul’s life, the commander sends Paul to Caesarea for testimony before Felix the governor. When Festus replaces Felix, Paul testifies before him but refuses an offer to be sent back to Jerusalem. Instead, Paul appeals to Caesar. Several days after Paul’s appeal, King Agrippa visits Festus. Upon hearing Paul’s testimony, King Agrippa makes a troubling statement, “This man could have been released if he had not appealed to Caesar” (Acts 26:32).
I admit when I read this I wondered, Paul, what were you thinking? You could be free!
Unfortunately, I'm guilty of looking at circumstances and listening to well-meaning friends before I make a decision. I try to find my strength and resolve from something or someone other than the Lord. I want the journey free of struggles and heartache.
Paul’s strength and resolve were fueled by loving and trusting the Lord completely.
Prior to Paul visiting his friends and then leaving them for Jerusalem, he had already penned these words, “For I consider that our present sufferings cannot even be compared to the glory that will be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18 NET). “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:38 NET).
He had also written what is one of my favorite passages, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-29 CSB).
There’s also a key verse in Acts 23 that many of us, including myself, may skim over without digesting the magnitude of its impact. “The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Have courage, for just as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify in Rome’” (Acts 23:11, emphasis added). This visit from the Lord took place after Paul had been rescued from the angry mob in Jerusalem. (Think about that!)
Had Paul listened to his friends and taken the easier road, Caesar’s household may have never heard the gospel (Phil. 4:22). Our bibles would be void of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.
Are you facing a difficult decision? Family and friends encourage you to make the “right” and easier decision. But your heart isn’t leaning toward the easier. The Spirit nudges you toward the scary unknown. If you follow the path of the scary unknown, you may break hearts, including your own.
But oh, the joy and peace of following the Lord one step at a time. The path won’t always be smooth. There will be potholes and road hazards along the way. It is during those difficult times that you press tighter into your Heavenly Father, trusting Him to carry you through.
Press on sweet friend.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:5-6 CSB).
“You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and new wine abound. I will both lie down in peace, for you alone, Lord, make me live in safety” (Psalm 4:7-8).
Kathy Garrett McInnis