The long road

The long road

Acts 26:28 “Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”

Many have tried to work out whether the King was being sarcastic, evasive or sincere.

You may have your own opinion.

Paul was poised waiting for the King to say yes I believe what the prophets say about the coming Jewish Messiah. Paul would then within a few moves prove that the coming Messiah was indeed Jesus who he has been telling people of. The King knew what Paul was doing.

Here is the question before us. How Paul responds we will see.

The truth is that it can be a short time to the place of conversion. A short time for some but it is always a long journey of surrender for everyone. Releasing our will and our ambition and our sin to Jesus, humbly coming to his feet and crying out for a Saviour is a long hard journey on a narrow path. It may not take a long time but it sure is a long journey. And the truth is, we are all still on that long road.

Find the connection

Find the connection

Acts 26:27 “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do”

If King Agrippa agreed to knowing the Prophetic messages of a coming Messiah then Paul would then move quickly to prove without a doubt that Jesus is the fulfilment of those messages.

Paul is clever.

One of the keys to mission is finding what we share in belief not what are our differences. Think of your friend, colleague, neighbour, what do they hold to that is part of your belief … start there to tell them of Jesus. Find a way. That is what Paul would say to you.

Paul is poised waiting for the Kings response…



Acts 26:26 “The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner.”

We don’t follow an idea that was held within a corner.

We follow a loud event that has shaken the earth and is continuing to do so.

Jesus’ life, miracles, healings, teaching was open, public for all to see.

He didn’t die quietly in the shadows.

His suffering on the cross was loud, the resurrection was violent and many saw him afterwards.

The ministry of Paul to the Jews created havoc and when he crossed over to reach the Gentiles then the gospel spread far and wide.

King Agrippa is not hearing of something new. He has surely heard of what Paul is speaking about.

That is the point.

May we continue to keep it loud. Let the gospel sing! Let the Church shout and declare. May every Christian who can freely and openly demonstrate the gospel do so! For parts of our family in many nations are pushed into a corner today, they are having to whisper their faith when declaring it, they pray silently but the effectiveness of the gospel continues.

Don’t be silent if you don’t need to be for Christ was not silent, he was loud!

David Tinnons last message to me

David Tinnons last message to me

Acts 26:25 “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable.”

The Message translation says: “But Paul stood his ground. “With all respect, Festus, Your Honour, I’m not crazy. I’m both accurate and sane in what I’m saying.”

Today is the 1st anniversary of the death of my friend, David Tinnion, he is with Jesus now. I am thinking about him this morning and his wife Bobbie who he loved immensely. I miss him.

He was the person who brought me into the world of missions. I am where I am today because he opened opportunities for me many years ago where God then touched my life and changed my thinking. I was the one who took him on his last missions trip, back to Africa, where he first took me.

It might seem strange that I refer to him as we read this verse today. But read on and you will see why.

Paul in his defence to King Agrippa had spoken of Christ being the Jews King of all kings, their prophesied Messiah and that his resurrection proved it. It was the great offence to the Jewish mob wanting Paul dead. Festus wades in and accuses Paul of being mad. Paul responds by saying he wasn’t!

Paul says, “What I am saying is true.”

There have been times in my life when perhaps simply exhausted or discouraged, when I have lost focus, that I have asked the question, “is this true. Is Christianity real? Is God there?” Maybe you are never like this. But maybe someone reading today is definitely like me, maybe today is that day.

In February 2017 David and I were in Uganda and over a meal we were chatting and talking about my life, my work, he was always interested in what I was doing. I was having one of those moments that I have just described. In the middle of much laughter we were having I stopped and asked, “David is this true? I mean is all that we have given our lives for, is it real?”

David looked at me as if he was leaving me a message that I would carry for the rest of my life and slowly said, “Paul, listen to me, it is all true!”

He didn’t say it in the way Paul said it to Festus, but he said the same words, “It is true!”

Friends, whatever is going on in your life and the circumstances of your life may tell you that you are on your own and what you are following isn’t there. But I quote what the Apostle Paul says and what my friend says, “It is true!” Everyone needs a friend like this. Everyone needs someone who can hold on to the truth and declare the truth when you need it the most.



Acts 26:24 “At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”

  1. Using your left hand to shake hands
  2. Opening gifts as soon as they are given.
  3. Showing the soles of your feet.
  4. Crossing your legs.
  5. Arriving on time v arriving late.

All the above are examples of rudeness within cultures. Often those who go outside of their cultures end up being rude without realising it and it is very funny and no offence is taken. But then there is rudeness that the whole world would agree on, the one that Festus indulged in. So here are 5 more rude examples and lessons to be learnt from the outburst of Festus.

  1. The rudeness of interruption.

King Agrippa had given Paul permission to defend himself and so Paul was in the middle of his speech talking to the King, not to Festus, when he is interrupted by Festus.

The lesson is this: Wait your turn, it will come, don’t steal someone else’s.

  1. The rudeness of noise:

Festus waded in to Paul’s defence shouting. Interestingly his accusation of Paul fitted himself. Was Paul deaf? Was Festus angry and so raised his voice? I don’t believe so. He was shouting for the benefit of the crowd.

The lesson is this: Do not let your focus be on trying to please the crowd.

  1. The rudeness of false praise:

Festus would have seen Paul with his books and parchments, he would have heard him expound on the Prophets and the Law of Moses. Paul was indeed a learned Pharisee. Paul knew more about the Jewish religion than he did. Festus was being truthful, he acknowledged it but he certainly didn’t recognise it.

The lesson is this: It is best not to notice than to notice and then disregard or disrespect it.

  1. The rudeness of insult:

Festus cannot be accused of being ambiguous. Everyone heard and knew what he thought of Paul. Paul was suffering from insanity, he was not normal.

The lesson is this: Don’t label people ever.

  1. The rudeness of assumption:

Festus not only knew Paul was mad but he knew how he became mad. His great learning had turned him mad. My friend is doing a maths qualification and in his exam he needs to show his working out of the equations as a way of being tested.

The lesson is this: You may be wrong in your conclusion. But you may also be wrong in your working out of that conclusion. The journey is often more important than the destination.



Acts 26: 23 “I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”

Of course Jesus wasn’t the first to rise from the dead was he?

I can think of 3 from the Old Testament: The widow of Zarephath’s son, the Shunammite woman’s son, the man raised out of Elisha’s grave.

I can think of 3 from the New Testament: The widow of Nain’s son, Jairus’ daughter, Lazarus of Bethany.

He wasn’t the first, so why did Paul say he was?

It was this phrase, this title, which got Paul into the most trouble. His preaching of the resurrection of Jesus was an offence because of what he called Jesus. The ‘first to rise’ is the same title as that of ‘firstborn’ which he uses in Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15; he borrows it from Psalm 89:27 “And I will appoint him to be my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth.” It was a title belonging to the Jews for their King of all Kings, their Messiah. Paul takes it and uses it for Jesus. See how he does it in Colossians 1:18 “And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.”

When Paul uses the words firstborn or first, he is saying Jesus is pre-eminent, he surpasses all others. His birth is first. His resurrection is first, it is supreme. And out of which flows a message to the Jews and to the Gentiles. A message of light and hope flows from the fact that Jesus is supreme.

This week last year my friend died. Yesterday I learnt that a Pastor’s wife died suddenly. I am within a whatsapp group text trail at the moment and as I write this I see a text from a wife of a church planter in West Africa whose husband died 2 weeks ago. She writes, “I have been on my own now for 2 weeks and I am still so numb.” How do people find any hope after death? It is only because of the ‘first to rise’, only because of Supreme Jesus who promises resurrected life to those who die in Him.

How do you face the challenges before you today? Again it is only when you make Jesus supreme, first and foremost in your life. Only then will light and hope fall upon the challenges set before you. Some days there are no answers. Some days there is no daylight. It is those days in particular that the only thing to do is to kneel before the pre-eminent one, the first to rise from the dead, make Him supreme in your life for that is who He is. Do that and the pieces will fall into place.

Our helper.

Our helper.

Acts 26:22 “But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen”

This is what Paul experienced: “Whether blind or with sight, chased or safe, seized or free, imprisoned or travelling, facing death or life, God has helped me every day of my walk with Him. To this very day, even now, before the grand King Agrippa, God is helping me.”

What about us?

Look back. How far? As far back as you can remember.

He has helped you.

Hebrews 13:6 “So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” Can you also say Psalm 118:6 with confidence?

Perhaps today should be a day of confidence not weakness as you recall the daily help you have received. The One who has helped is helping you right now.

Maybe these Scriptures will benefit you as you mediate on them:

Isaiah 41: 10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Psalm 121: I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Do you know why?

Do you know why?

Acts 26:21 “That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me.”

Some people don’t know why.

They go through life with an increasing heart of bitterness not knowing the real cause. They don’t know why they were treated that way.

They don’t know why they were rejected.

‘Why didn’t I get that job? Why was I overlooked for that promotion?’

‘My face doesn’t fit’ is how they internalise the results for they don’t know why.

There are so many from pew to pulpit who either haven’t sought out the why, or haven’t been told, or if they have will not accept the why.

There are many good people with tormented souls because they have so many unfinished chapters of their life.

If you are going to be seized and nearly killed, you want to know why! Paul did.

It was because his preaching stated that the Gentiles were equal to the Jews with regards what once only belonged to the Jews, the experience of grace and forgiveness.

Many know why the event of their life was wrong but that only feeds the anger. Knowing why helps to see the failings of the human nature in others and perhaps in ourselves. Knowing why can lead to improvement if we have the attitude to learn.

Have you asked why lately? Maybe it is impossible for the ones who know why took it to their grave. Nevertheless, find a friend, talk through what happened, it might be many years ago, ask God that you and your trusted friend can find the reason why. Perhaps you will and it will help you live by closing a chapter of your life. If you don’t then ask God to use the reason positively for His glory in your life even though you have to completely trust Him for the why on this earth.

Change your Damascus first.

Change your Damascus first.

Acts 26:20 “First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.”

First to Damascus. He was going there anyway. He was going to commit wrong. He was going to arrest or kill as many Christians as he could. Now he goes to right that wrong.

What wrongs need righting today?

It could be the wrongs you have committed or what others have done. In the past or present, the wrongs of commission or omission. Today, make it right. Speak and act differently. Clear up the mess nearest to you.

In Damascus:

  • He met a close friend to be, Ananias, who prophesied over him.
  • He was baptised in water here demonstrating his new beginning as a follower of Jesus.
  • He preached about Christ fearlessly.
  • As a result instead of giving persecution to the Christians he received it from his fellow Jews.
  • Yet he grew even more powerful in his proving Jesus was the Messiah.
  • He decided to change his name here, a new identity for a new day.

You can have a new day wherever you are.

You don’t need to start at the other end of the world. You can start now in your Damascus. Where maybe your peers are expecting certain results you can give different ones. You can shock them by declaring a new mind, a new heart and a new walk.

Damascus is one of the oldest cities in Syria and it has always been its capital city. You only have to google the name and up come horrifying images of a devastated city. It is ranked as the 7th worst city for quality of life.

Wherever Damascus is for you today then don’t let it become like this. Stop the onslaught of the enemy. Start to right the wrongs and have a new declaration of life not death.



Acts 26: 19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.”

When God reveals, speaks and directs your life, you can say NO.

You would probably not think you were saying NO to God.

When the sneers come, you might say NO.

When the hurt and rejection is felt, you might say NO.

When the door slams shut, when it seems impossible, you might say NO.

The list can go on and you may have a sentence you could write today which is very similar.

In each and every sentence, if the vision from heaven is not present in that sentence, then you might say NO.

If you allow the problem or obstacle to be bigger than the vision, then you might say NO.

If your eyes are diverted from the vision to something else, it would be then that you would in effect be saying NO.

Let us all join Paul today and say ‘I will NOT say NO!’

Amen. Let it be!