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BIBLE READING: ACTS 24
TEXT VERSE: 25
TOPIC: DID YOU LISTEN IN VAIN?
Beloved in our Lord Jesus Christ, what makes you happy? Maybe it is for you as well: Happy wife, happy life!
In a survey that Australians answered in the Sydney Morning Herald: a few drinks per week, to befriend your neighbours, to avoid financial stress and have a high income – and to live somewhere quiet is the recipe of happiness.
Most said that there job made them pretty happy. If you’re a man, living with a partner will increase your general health but children cancel out the benefits of being in a couple. Women do not see any obvious health benefits from being in a relationship, unless they also have children.
The study also suggests retirees, especially men, are likely to have poor health compared with just about everyone else. “We are designed to work,” Professor Wilkins the reports author said. “We need purpose.”
Happy people also tend to live outside major urban centres, such as Sydney and Melbourne. People who lived in towns smaller than 1000 people were most satisfied with life, followed by people that lived in bigger regional towns. The report concluded, “Major cities are the least desirable place to live”.
And if you’re a woman, there’s one place you definitely need to go: Queensland. The report found women in the Sunshine State were more satisfied with life than everyone else.
Otherwise, little difference could be found between the relative happiness of residents of other states and territories.
We read in our passage about the governor Felix and his name means to be happy or fortunate. Money and power made Felix really happy and also his young pretty wife Drusilla. She was said to be the most beautiful woman on earth in the 1st Century after Christ.
Drusilla was the daughter of Herod Agrippa who killed the Apostle James. It was her great grandfather, another Herod, who attempted to kill the baby Jesus by having all the infants in Bethlehem killed in cold blood.
Drusilla was only twenty years old, but she had a long history of immorality. She was married first at the age of 14, and then one day the Governor Felix laid his eyes on her and had to have her…so he plotted, planned, and schemed to steal her away from her husband, whom she eventually divorced.
They were typical citizens of decadent Rome.
Felix’s cruelty and extravagance, coupled with his accessibility to bribes (Acts 24:26), led to a great increase of crime in Judaea. The period of Felix rule was marked by internal disputes and disturbances, which he put down with severity. His period of office was full of troubles and seditions.
Drusilla, a born Jew, desired to hear Paul, and the apostle was summoned before them in his house. Like her husband she was intrigued and want to hear more!
Earlier, Paul was still in chains waiting for his trial. There were a lot of charges against him, the latest being a plague, one who stirs up riots among the Jews and being a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes, in short a follower of Jesus.
In Paul’s court case earlier, Paul defended his faith in Jesus in front of Felix: “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.”
The Word of God tells us that Felix knew about the Gospel and put Paul’s accusers off saying: “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.”
Felix wanted to know more about Paul’s faith in Jesus and his wife Drusilla a born- Jew wanted to see this man as well and they summoned him to their home.
Then, in walks the Apostle Paul, surrounded by Roman soldiers. His body is a witnesses from all the beatings, whippings, and being stoned. His face showed a hard life lived. Chains bind him, and rattle as he moves across the stone floor. He knows what it is to suffer for Christ.
Paul stands before the man who had the power to set him free, yet he didn’t beg for his life or freedom. He made no deals. He stood bold and tall and used the opportunity to preach to the Governor and his wife. The world would say, you’d better pull your head in Paul, or maybe give him some money!
But Paul knew that the central issue that day was whether Felix or Drusilla was believers in Christ and he used the opportunity! In Ephesians 5: 15-16 he said: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” And in 2 Timothy 4:2 he said: “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”
Paul used this opportunity, not to defend himself, but because he was urged by the love of Jesus, to preach the gospel to Felix and Drusilla. He wanted to give them the real happiness, the happiness that can only be found in the Lord.
The Lord stretched out His hand to us, a hand of love, a Father hand that knows what his children need. The Lord’s hand watches over His children with Fatherly care and He extends His hand to His children in love through Jesus.
What matters to God is that if one sinner were lost he would be found. In Luke 15 Jesus told the parable of the lost sheep and said in verse 6-7: ”Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
Paul wanted that for Felix and Drusilla. He wanted them to experience true richness in the Lord. But before they can experience the happiness in Jesus they need to change. All sinners need to change. It is impossible to love Jesus and continue in sin. Jesus said that no one could serve two masters he will either hate the one or love the other.
We need to ask: How are we changed because of the ministry of the gospel? Jesus shapes the view we see ourselves and He calls us to be nearer to Him.
We are changed because of Him! The Lord is using us as we are. We are not a perfect church, not perfect people, we are sinners but the Lord is using us as His instrument to be a witness to the world.
Therefore Paul preached to them exactly to where their life needed to be changed, he preached about righteousness as a judge and Governor and not to indulge in bribery, he preached about self-control and this is sexual self-control and the coming judgment, where Jesus will come again to judge the living and dead.
Have you ever heard a sermon, and said that was just for me? This is the Holy Spirit working in our hearts to transform us to be more like Jesus on the road to sanctification. Sometimes it hurt when it is direct, but we all need to bend or bow under the authority of the Word of God and repent.
This sermon was spot on for Felix and Drusilla. It hit their hearts! They could not help to say, this sermon was meant exactly for us. But that made them really uncomfortable. People do not like to be uncomfortable, but this was exactly what was needed in their life. If they continue with their path they will forever be judged in all eternity! They needed Jesus to be really happy and have peace!
Felix and Drusilla never expected that from Paul! They have never heard someone judge and see them so directly for who they are. Felix is a man of power and she is a beauty Queen. They possessed everything they could desire. But Paul showed them their life through God’s eyes and it did not look good!
The Bible always shows us the places where we need to repent. We are sinners and we need to repent daily. We need to repent from that sin that no one dares to talk about or we will be deeply offended.
The World tells us that wealth and beauty are critical for happiness. We spend many hours to work hard to obtain the Australian dream of wealth and security. Children are confused, left on their own and the parents provide them with money to buy the newest technology. And the cosmetic business is one of the richest in the world and everyone wants to keep up with the Kardashians. The Kardashians are on every magazine and even the youngest of 18 years, had some plastic surgery and lip fillers! This is how Modern Society looks and in all honesty it is not much different than Rome of the 1st century. The lie from the devil is still the same; you can be happy and have power if you have a lot of money.
This was a critical hour for Felix and Drusilla. A sinner, a lost son and daughter, is founded. The Father waits with outstretched arms. Will they come to Him?
No, although alarmed Felix decided not now. He said to Paul: “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.”
The sermon of Paul alarmed them. They were captivated by Paul’s sermon. We found that all the time that a sermon can captivate us. This sermon was meant for me, I will say.
But sometimes we are more captivated by that one sin, that one thing that keeps me from full submission to Jesus. Maybe it is that brother and sister I cannot forgive, they hurt me too much, maybe it is an addiction to a substance like drugs, and maybe it is my work or money. Maybe it is that I am young and think that I have a lot of time!
That was Felix and Drusilla’s reasoning. They still have time! Felix said, go I will summon you again. He did not realize that God summoned him at that specific time! He was called at that moment! But still he craved for money! This was more important for him. The Bible tells us that: “At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul.”
We are not in control of time, only God is, and for God it was at that specific time. We do not read that Felix and Drusilla repented in the future. Instead we read that when two years had elapsed, Porcius Festus succeeded Felix. And desiring to do the Jews a favour, Felix left Paul in prison. Felix and Drusilla missed the boat!
The Bible is clear, Felix continued in his sin. Felix, the happy one became the one who rejected Jesus! He listened in vain! He probably spent his life with fear and unrest, cautious not to be betrayed and pushed out of power and money as he did with others and Drusilla became a victim of age where her beauty perished like all others!
The Lord makes an appeal to us in Romans 12:1: “ I appeal to you therefore, brothers by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
Beloved, do not be fooled by the world to think that earthly things like money, power and beauty can make you happy! Do not listen in vain to the voice of the Spirit! Repent today if there is still something that stands between you and the Lord or your neighbour! Real happiness and real peace can only be founded in Jesus!
Repent, come to the Lord, stay in His Word and Spirit, and then you will be truly Felix, the happy one in Jesus, in all eternity!