Thursday, February 09, 2006

Most Excellent

It must have looked like this was an important prisoner. He was guarded by two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen. They had heard there were men who wanted him dead, so they had taken measures to assure his safety. He was, after all, a Roman citizen. When they arrived without incident at their destination, the man was handed over to the Roman governor of the province. His trial lasted only long enough for two witnesses to make their statements and for the prisoner himself to plead his innocence. There really was not enough evidence to imprison the man, but the governor, the “most excellent Felix” (Acts 24:3), put the prisoner, the apostle Paul, under house arrest.

From time to time Felix would have Paul brought before him and the apostle would tell him about “righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come” (Acts 24:25). Many times he talked with Felix about faith in Jesus Christ. Felix heard Paul’s story, listened to his discourse. At times he was afraid and sent him away. But he kept calling him back. He kept calling him back over a period of two years!

As I read this story in the book of Acts, I wondered about the battle that must have been going on in that Roman governor’s mind and soul. He heard the words of truth, but, sadly, there was something else of more importance to him. Verse 26 says – “At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him.”

Felix was so focused on what he wanted that he missed what he really needed. His greed blinded him to the most costly gift God could offer, and though it was offered for free, he did not receive it. Then he was replaced as governor and the opportunity, as far as we know, was lost.

I wonder how often we do the same. We too are sometimes so focused on our wants that we miss the one thing we really need – a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. The pursuit of prosperity and happiness too often supercedes the pursuit of our spiritual well-being. We should all heed Paul’s words, those he no doubt spoke to Felix as he did to the people in a place called Corinth – “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2b).

Opportunities to receive God’s gifts are offered to us every day. Grace, forgiveness and righteousness are available for free. They were purchased for us by the Son of God. All we have to do is receive them.

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