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Paul Before Agrippa

Paul was called to stand before King Agrippa. Joining Agrippa were his sister, Bernice, and Festus the governor of the province. As Paul made his defense, Festus dismissed his sanity; Agrippa dismissed his reasoning. Agrippa’s “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian,” seems to have been spoken in irony, as in, “Surely, you don’t expect to make me a Christian so quickly.” Paul’s next words are worthy of note – “I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds” (Acts 26:29).

It seems strange to wish this on others. After all, he had spent the last two years in prison, even though he was guilty of nothing. He is a man who has known intense suffering. His list of troubles in 2 Corinthians 11 is long and somewhat daunting. Who in his right mind would want to be like that? But the last part of his response to Agrippa prompts us to reexamine that wish. “Except these bonds.” Something in the life of Paul transcended his troubles. Something was more substantial than his sufferings. Of course, it is Jesus that makes it all worthwhile.

Paul’s words are somewhat like the popular postcard that says, “Wish You Were Here!” Like the friend who wants to share an enjoyable vacation spot, Paul desired to share the extraordinary gift of Jesus Christ with everyone. In spite of its suffering and pain, Paul’s life had a purpose that made it worth living. Because Jesus was at the center of his being, his thoughts were directed outward in service, not inward in selfishness. Even when he suffered want, his life was full because God provided his most important needs in Jesus Christ.

A Christian can always say, “I wish you were here.” It doesn’t mean that there are never any problems. But, like Paul, you have something that transcends your circumstances. Life is not always what we want it to be, but with Jesus, life is always worthwhile. We will have our problems, we may suffer, or have physical needs, but life with Jesus is the best place to be. If you are not living in Jesus, . . . wish you were here!

Thomas Larkin

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