Vespers Guide – Amidst the Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune Click on this link for the complete devotional guide.
To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? – William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1.
Important: What is happening in these three chapters is a partial fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy (see Mark 13:9-11).
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune come into the lives of God’s faithful people.
- From where do they come? In Paul’s case, they come from conflict with the religious establishment and the movers and shakers in the kingdoms of this world.
- What are some of “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” hurled at the Apostle Paul in these three chapters?
- He was beaten within an inch of his life. He was continually in danger. He had to listen to vicious and unfair accusations and attacks. He had to stifle his active spirit in order to accept years of imprisonment.
- On the whim of a dictator, the Apostle Paul is just left in prison in Caesarea. Acts 24:27 says this: “When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.”
- It appears on the surface that the worldly ambitious and morally corrupt who set themselves against the Lord and His servants have the upper hand in this life.
How are we to respond? How do we tend to respond? How do you respond?
How are we called to respond? What do we learn from the Apostle Paul?
- Live blamelessly and fearlessly. Acts 24:16 – “So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.” Acts 25:11 – If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die.
- Testify courageously to what Christ has done in our lives. Notice the absence of fear. The Apostle Paul was not the less bit intimidated before Felix (chap. 24), Festus (chap. 25) or Agrippa (chap. 26). It is right to speak boldly (26:26) and persuade others to become Christians. For most who remain unresponsive to the gospel, it is a moral problem rather than an intellectual problem (i.e. Felix and Drusilla/ Agrippa II/Bernice).
What empowers us to do this?
- Remembering who we are. We too, like Paul, are God’s chosen instruments (9:15). This is the third account of Paul’s conversion in the book of Acts (Acts 9, 22, and 26).
- Remembering what we are called to do. “… to carry His name to the nations.” What is Paul’s commission from Jesus Christ according to 26:15-18? How is the Lord calling you to live as one whom He has sent (John 20:21 – “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”)?
- Remembering that where God calls He equips. “To this day I have had the help that comes from God” (26:22).
- Remembering God’s promise of divine protection. “I will deliver you from your people and the Gentiles – to whom I am sending you” (26:17).
- Remembering the focus of our proclamation of God’s Word (Moses and the prophets point to Jesus Christ, especially His resurrection). “Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles” (26:23).