Agrippa interrupted him. “Do you think you can make me a Christian so quickly?” Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.” - Acts 26:28-29
The difference between an optimist and a pessimist is that the pessimist sees a difficulty in every opportunity, while the optimist recognizes an opportunity in every difficulty.
When Paul faced difficulty, he recognized opportunity, and he was not slow to grasp it. His difficulties were many and serious. He had been within an inch of losing his life at the hands of the mob in Jerusalem. Rescued by Romans and smuggled out of the city, Paul was detained in prison. One day he was summoned before King Agrippa. Surrounded by his retinue, the king sat in splendor. Before him stood the apostle—in chains! In such an intimidating situation, Paul was totally unintimidated. His primary concern was not to save his own skin but to save his hearers’ souls.
The way Paul snatched an opportunity from the jaws of difficulty is instructive. He was unfailingly courteous, he spoke with deep conviction, and his message was focused on Christ. He commended the king for his expert knowledge of “Jewish customs and controversies” (26:3), and he expressed appreciation for the opportunity to speak to him. When Festus rudely accused him of being insane he responded courteously: “I am not insane, Most Excellent Festus” (26:25). Paul’s defense was not a dry theological or political oration but a heartfelt explanation of personal experience. He pointed everyone’s attention to the Lord Jesus, with particular emphasis on his death and resurrection.
Jesus appointed his disciples “to tell people about [him] everywhere” (1:8). The message and its presentation have not changed. A courteous respect for the feelings, opinions, objections, and misunderstandings of the person being addressed must not be lost in the enthusiasm or stress of the moment. And there is no substitute for the compelling simplicity of an account of saving grace in the life of the witness. But everything must be centered in an explanation of who Jesus is, what he has done, what he offers, and what he desires, deserves, and demands.
Agrippa walked away from the encounter with Paul knowing exactly what the apostle was aiming at (26:28). The witness is not reponsible for his hearer’s reaction, but only for presenting his hearer with an unmistakable and clear account. With this in mind, we should recognize opportunities and learn to grasp them, like Paul—with clarity, courtesy, and conviction.
For Further Study: Acts 26:1-32