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.” 25 “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. 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. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” 28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” 29 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” 30 The king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them. 31 After they left the room, they began saying to one another, “This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.” 32 Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
The first verse in this passage of scripture gave me a bit of a laugh: “At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”
I’m pretty sure that no one has ever accused me of such a thing! But it got me thinking that Paul appears to have been widely known at the time for his intellectual achievements. And, in addition to that, Paul was a very forceful and public opponent of Christianity prior to his famous encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus.
Imagine if a modern day renowned intellectual with a very public opposition to Christianity like say, Richard Dawkins, had an encounter with Jesus. And then as a result, he not only changed his views about the existence of God, but he also became a vocal Christian evangelist. What a stir that would cause!
Do we believe that such an occurrence is even possible? Prior to his conversion, did the Christians of Paul’s time ever imagine that such a transformation of his beliefs and his life could ever occur?
Who in my world (or the world at large) have I given up on as too difficult for God to reach?
Today I lift my eyes of faith to pray once again for those on my heart who need to know Jesus. And I remember that God is able to do ‘exceedingly, abundantly beyond all that we ask or imagine’.
Written by Shelley Witt