Summary: We will all face situations that are unfair and unjust. How should we as believers in a sovereign God respond. This sermon seeks to answer that question from the life of Paul.
Life Is Not Always Fair, but God Is Always Faithful
February 25, 2018
NOTE: A PowerPoint presentation is available for this sermon by request at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adapted from Michael McCartney's sermon "Fly High Acts part 24" on SermonCentral.com.
TEXT: Acts 25:1-3 - "Now when Festus was come into the province, after three days he ascended from Caesarea to Jerusalem. 2 Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews informed him against Paul, and besought him, 3 And desired favour against him, that he would send for him to Jerusalem, laying wait in the way to kill him."
The rest of chapter 25 details the various legal maneuverings of the Jewish religious authorities to get custody of Paul to attempt to kill him, and Paul's attempts to be tried in the fairer Roman courts where he, as a Roman citizen, had certain rights.
There's no real value for us in the details, so, let me quickly summarize chapter 25, and then we'll get to the central thesis of my sermon, which is summed up in the title of my sermon. In chapter 24, we saw that Paul had given his defense before Felix, the Roman procurator, or governor, of Judea, who had jurisdiction over Jerusalem where Paul's supposed crimes were alleged to have been committed. Felix kept Paul in custody in hopes of extracting a bribe, but Paul refused, so he languished in legal limbo for two years until Felix retired and was succeeded by Festus.
]Festus travelled to Jerusalem to meet the Jewish authorities, who immediately sought to have Paul transferred back to Jerusalem so they could put him to death if possible. But Festus refused, saying that they would have to come to Caesarea for a proper trial.
A few days later, the Jews again aired their grievances, none substantiated with real evidence or witnesses, which is why their trial before Felix got nowhere in chapter 24. Then Paul argued (again) in his defense, insisting that the Jews had no witnesses or proofs for their charges Festus realized right away that the complaints of the Jewish authorities had nothing to do with Roman crimes, but were religious issues, so he suggests that maybe Paul should just go down to Jerusalem and let the Jews deal with him. Paul knew that he would never get a fair trial there, so in verse 10 he appealed to Caesar in Rome, a right every Roman citizen had. Festus said in verse 12, "If you have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you will go!"
Later in chapter 24, the Jewish King Herod Agrippa and his wife made a visit to Festus as the new procurator, and Festus consulted with Agrippa about Paul's case. Agrippa and his wife Bernice, being Jewish and knowing of Paul, were interested in hearing from him and their encounter is recorded in the rest of chapter 25 and 26.
Now everything we see in this chapter is a gross injustice; it simply was NOT FAIR!
The fact is, life is not always fair in this fallen, sinful world. The Bible is filled with stories of unfair things that happened to good people. Johannes Jonsson said, "The life as a Christian is not always a dance on roses. We live in an evil world with lots of misery and problems. Sooner or later things happen, when we wonder, why is this happening, and why is it happening to me?" [http://www.metalforjesus.org/sermon1.htm]
What can we learn from Paul's unfair and unjust situation?
I. FIRST, ACCEPT REALITY-LIFE IS NOT FAIR!
Life is just NOT fair sometimes, so we need to accept and even EMBRACE it! God never promised us a bed of roses in this evil world.
In Matthew 10:22, Jesus said, "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake…"
James 1:2 warns "…count it all joy when ye fall into [divers temptations…i.e, many kinds of trials]."
In 2 Timothy 2:3, Paul exhorts Timothy to "endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ."
Paul considered unfairness as part and parcel of the cost for following the Gospel. To Paul this is what he expected from a lost and sin-filled world.
But there is a flip side to the unfairness of our world.-What if God had been fair with us? If God had been fair, He would have struck Paul dead on the road to Damascus, but when describing his former life as a persecutor of the church in 1 Timothy 1:13, Paul describes himself this way: "Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: BUT I OBTAINED MERCY."
Was it fair that Paul, a blaspheming, dangerous persecutor, should receive mercy after all the devastation, pain and sorrow he had wreaked on the early church? When Christians first heard about it, they might have reasonably thought, No! That is not fair! He killed my husband! He confiscated our house! It's not fair that he should be forgiven and get off scot free!