Being Relaxed

It was one of St. Paul's greatest assets.

Acts 26:9-18 (ESV)

“I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

“In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’”

Here, Paul uses a clever modern briefing technique – get the audience’s head moving up and down (nodding in agreement) before raising difficult issues. He begins by testifying to things Agrippa probably knows about – and if he doesn’t he can easily check. This lays a credible foundation for the next part.

Then Paul tells the amazing tale of what happened on the road to Damascus. It’s fantastic but Paul has set it up well – and it doesn’t make sense as a lie. It’s pretty much useless as a defense. It almost qualifies as “too much information.” Paul’s just recounting something that he thinks is very interesting.

But it is very interesting, if it’s true. That’s the thing about miracles; they’re either the greatest things ever, or they’re evidence that you’re losing it. Here that leads to a wondrous irony. You might think that the question of Paul’s sanity puts pressure on Paul. Not at all. Paul’s going with option A – miracles were the greatest things ever. He’s as relaxed as puppy sleeping on his master’s lap.

The pressure’s on Agrippa and Festus. Either Paul’s nuts (and he sure doesn’t act nuts) or he’s telling the truth. They either have to change their mind about Paul or they have to change their mind about Christ.

What a hoot. This hearing is supposed to be hard on Paul. After all, he’s the one on trial. Instead, he’s got Agrippa and Festus squirming in their seats. His lack of fear about his situation has turned the tables.

Fear is the enemy of evangelism. Many Christians just freeze up when they get a chance to share Christ.

Ask God for more courage. No, courage is the wrong word; this isn’t about bravery. Don’t ask for that.

Ask God to help you be more comfortable, more natural, when talking about Him.

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.