By David Faust
We’re into convenience these days. Why work if someone else will do it for you? Why wait if you can have it now? Why push yourself to climb if you can take the escalator? (Comedian Mitch Hedberg observed, “An escalator can never break; it can only become stairs. You should never see an ‘Escalator Temporarily Out of Order’ sign, just ‘Escalator Temporarily Stairs.’”)
Smart phones make information constantly accessible. Digital cameras give us instant photos. Grocery shelves offer lots of premade items lest we overexert ourselves by boiling our own macaroni, assembling our own salads, or mashing our own potatoes. The grocery store where I shop sells food, but it also contains a pharmacy, a flower shop, a bank, a medical clinic, and a gas station, all because of convenience.
But sometimes it’s not convenient to obey God.
An Uncomfortable Message
Inconvenience was a way of life for the apostle Paul. Imprisoned for preaching the gospel, he found himself in the custody of a cutthroat governor named Felix. The Roman historian Tacitus described Felix by writing, “with every kind of cruelty and lust, he exercised the authority of a king with the temperance of a slave.” Others described Felix as greedy, treacherous, savage, and unjust. His young wife Drusilla was probably about 20 years old at the time, and there were some broken limbs on her own family tree. History tells us she was the daughter of the vicious Herod Agrippa, who ordered the killing of the apostle James (Acts 12:2). Enamored with her beauty, Felix had persuaded Drusilla to leave her husband and marry him.
Felix and Drusilla were a tough audience, but when they invited Paul to speak, he didn’t soft-pedal the message to make it more palatable. He spoke boldly about his faith in Christ, and his preaching made them uncomfortable. “As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, ‘That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you’” (Acts 24:25).
The chained prisoner spoke, and the guilty governor trembled. It stirred fear in Felix to hear about God’s high moral standards because he had broken so many of them. Holy fear is an appropriate response when we stand in awe of God, accept responsibility for our sins, and repent. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). But in Felix’s case, “lust and ambition smothered the kindling fires of conscience” (J. W. McGarvey).
Instead of taking the message to heart, Felix sent the messenger away. He couldn’t deny the force of Paul’s preaching, but he wasn’t ready to accept it so he simply put it off—and sadly, there’s no indication that a more “convenient” time ever came for him.
A Challenge for Us
How do we respond when confronted with the high moral standards of God—“righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come”? Righteousness and self-control aren’t convenient; it’s easier to do whatever feels good. “The judgment to come” may sound inconvenient, but it’s true. The Judge of all humanity sees our actions, knows our motives, and determines our eternal destiny.
He is a God of incredible mercy and grace, but to follow him we must choose commitment over comfort, faithfulness over convenience. Why delay? “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
1. Are you currently putting off something God wants you to do?
2. Do you usually choose commitment or convenience?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for February 23, 2014
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
Leviticus 14, 15
Leviticus 16, 17