Summary: Paul and David had clear consciences when they did what was right. We can also have clear consciences when we do what is right. A good conscience will help us make choices and take actions that are appropriate to God's kingdom.
The readings from Acts 24:1-23 and 2 Samuel 19:1-23 deal with how we can use our consciences to deal with the consequences of rebellion. In the reading we just heard from Acts 24:1-23, Paul has been arrested and is appearing before the governor Felix to answer the charges against him. Tartullus, the prosecutor, tries to "butter up" Felix by complimenting him on the peace and prosperity he has brought as the governor. Felix did keep the peace and make reforms, but his overall performance as governor was disappointing. In fact, he was later recalled to Rome by the Emperor Nero because he was accused of taking bribes from robbers. Felix was replaced by Festus.
Paul was accused of inciting riots and desecrating the temple. In his defence Paul argued that he worshipped the god of Abraham and Isaac, but he also mentioned that he believed in the resurrection. Paul presented his testimony truthfully. He was not afraid to stat his beliefs, which were different from those of his accusers. In other words, Paul showed the courage of the risen Saviour.
Felix drew his strength from the proceeds of crime. Paul drew his strength from his faith. Felix was alarmed by Paul's strength. Paul did not try to bribe his way out of jail like Felix hoped he would. In fact, Paul used the power of the Gospel to preach to Felix and his wife Drusilla. Felix's greed was stronger than the urge to accept Christ. He returned to Rome without power or hope. We need to follow Paul's example by boldly proclaiming the Good News to anyone and everyone.
The events in 2 Samuel 19:1-23 occur just after the rebellion led by David's son Absalom has been put down. Absalom was killed, but the failure of his rebellion did not restore David to the throne. David failed to reward his supporters, court those who were neutral or convince his opponents that he would not seek revenge. David's general Joab confronted him about these failures. When David saw that his grief was preventing him from doing what was right, he overcame his grief and did what he had to do to return to power.
When David did what was right, God restored him to power. When Paul did what was right, God sustained him in prison. God wants his people to be united and to not engage in petty squabbles, arguments or fights over minor issues (like the Sadducees and Pharisees argued with Paul). Like Paul, David used the moral compass God gave everyone to protect and guide them. This moral compass revealed God to David and Paul, and it reveals God to us today.
Paul wasn't discouraged when Felix left his case in the hands of Agrippa and Festus. In fact, it increased his passion and commitment to God. It reinforced his patience when he had to wait for his accusers to arrive. He allowed God to control his thoughts, emotions and speech. God gave him the right perspective. He allowed God to empower him to respond to the charges in a godly manner. He allowed God to use his tongue to diffuse the situation instead of inflaming it.
God encourages some of us to be more contagious in communicating love. He encourages others to be more bold in sharing their faith. He encourages some to tithe. Others are encouraged by him to respond to an opportunity to become leaders in the church and leaders in the faith.