Nervousness filled my being. I had one shot to get this right. There would be no do-over, no replay, no second chance! The one question that raced through my mind was, “Am I ready?”
It was my senior project in a Television/Radio Broadcasting course at the University of Florida. I was a telecommunications major. Our project team was presenting a start-up proposal for a new television station to a group of actual broadcast professionals. There was no fudging, faking, or flaking – these people were for real.
My job was to sell them on our hire for the Sales Manager position – his qualifications, his fit. Although I only had about 2 minutes for my portion of the presentation, I wanted to nail it. I wrote and memorized my talk. Getting every word right, practicing the delivery. Repetition after repetition. I did not want to wilt under pressure.
It was ‘go’ time’ – all eyes were on me. It was my turn to present. I was on.
Tracking with the Apostle Paul near the end of the book of Acts, we’ve previously explored his faith under fire. Specifically, we’ve drawn out an evangelistic principle from:
- his testimony before a Jewish mob in Jerusalem (Acts 22) > the principle: Contextualize Your Story.
- his testimony before the Sanhedrin also in Jerusalem (Acts 23) > the principle: Speak Into Your Audience’s Reality.
- his testimony before Felix, Governor of Judea, in Caesarea (Acts 24) > the principle: Boldly and Directly Challenge Your Audience.
[note: to read these previous posts, click bold]
The fourth and final encounter in this series of testimonies is Paul’s witness before King Agrippa in Acts 26. And it is here we touch upon one more principle germane to our witness:
Always Be Ready (Acts 25:1-26:32)
The setting (Acts 25:1-26) – Two years had passed since Felix, Governor of Judea had first heard Paul. Felix was then succeeded by Festus, a member of the Roman nobility. Paul was still in prison. Before Festus and Roman tribunal, Paul declares his right as a Roman citizen to have a trial in Rome before Caesar (Nero).
Festus grants Paul the request, but before going, Festus transfers the case to King Herod Agrippa II. Interestingly, one of the reasons Festus has Agrippa hear Paul is because he found Paul had “committed nothing worthy of death” and needed some kind of charge before sending a prisoner to Caesar (Acts 25:24-27)!
The testimony (Acts 26:1-23) – When Agrippa permits Paul to speak, the apostle gives testimony, his longest in the book of Acts. He shares about his early life prior to his conversion (Acts 26:1-11), recounts his conversion (Acts 26:12-18), and discusses his post-conversion ministry of proclaiming the gospel (Acts 26:19-23).
Paul is certainly ready to give a defense when called upon, displaying grace under pressure.
His witness epitomizes 1 Peter 3:15, which states:
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
Paul’s gentleness and respect is illustrated in Acts 26:3 when he says to Agrippa, “I beg you to listen to me patiently.”
Testifying about the Lord is not only about what we say, it’s also about the spirit in which we say it!
Paul clearly shares the gospel, pointing out his charge to proclaim “light both to the Jewish people and the Gentiles” (Acts 26:23). His testimony evokes a powerful response.
The Reaction (Acts 26:24-32) – Festus exclaims in verse 24, “Paul you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad!” Agrippa amazingly responds to the Apostle in verse 28, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.”
Finally, we see the heart of Paul revealed as he responds to the King’s comment:
“I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains” (Acts 26:29)
[see also 2 Corinthians 5:20]
Although in physical chains, Paul was free (John 8:32)! And he wanted all people to know this freedom (John 8:36) , including Festus and Agrippa. Upon conferring, they agree Paul “had not done anything worthy of death or imprisonment” (Acts 26:31)! In spite of that, Paul is still sent to Rome.
What does it mean to ‘always be ready?’
Readiness is a lifestyle! To always be ready requires intentionality – an intentional desire to reflect the glory of God in word and in deed. Intentionality in practical terms also includes praying, studying God’s Word, learning from others and from your own experiences, along with trial and error. As we daily abide in Christ, He will, through the power of the Holy Spirit, give us a ‘word aptly spoken’ as He opens doors of opportunity.
Following the Lord and furthering the gospel had become central to Paul’s life. And this foundation was a key to his readiness. He is a shining example to you and me.
A postscript – How did my broadcasting presentation I referred to earlier go? I nailed it! It felt good. Although our group didn’t win the proposal, we accounted well for ourselves. I had done my part. And preparation was the key! When it was time to be ‘on’ – I was ready.
An interesting thing about the Christian life is this…we’re always on! Why? Because being a witness for Jesus isn’t just about Sunday mornings, it’s about our daily walk with Christ.
Don’t worry about what you will say if put in a position to give testimony under trial. The Lord will meet you at your point of need:
“But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak.” (Matthew 10:19)
If the Lord met Paul at his point of need, the need to give testimony under trial, he’ll meet you at your point of need. And if under duress, how much more will He meet your need to be ready with a testimony in your daily affairs.
And God is faithful!