Many years ago, the painter John Sargent was in Italy. He learned that his train would be quite late. Others who were waiting for the train paced back and forth at the station, complaining about the heat and the delay, expressing their frustration. But Sargent sat down, set up his easel, took out his paints, and began to capture a scene of a yoke of oxen on a street nearby. He literally turned the delay and potentially frustrating circumstances into a masterpiece. As Christians, we will often face circumstances that can either be frustrating or fruitful for the Lord, depending on how we handle it. If we see things only from a human perspective, we’ll grow impatient and frustrated as we think, “What a waste of time!” But if we see God’s sovereign hand orchestrating all of our circumstances according to His plan, then we can rest in Him, knowing that He will work it together for good according to His purpose. Paul easily could have become frustrated while he waited in prison in Caesarea, under Felix, and now before Festus, who was a more upright ruler than Felix, there was opportunity for gospel. When Paul found himself standing before the same angry accusers who had tried to get him executed two years earlier, he easily could have become frustrated. It seemed like more of the “same old same old.” These guys just wouldn’t quit! They didn’t have anything new to say. Their charges, which they couldn’t prove, were basically the same as before. Paul could have impatiently thought, “When will this ever end, so that I can get on with the more important task of taking the gospel to the Gentiles who have never heard about Christ?” But Paul didn’t grow frustrated or impatient. Instead, he calmly defended himself before this same angry group of Jews and before the new governor. Through this, and the decision of Festus to offer Paul a trial in Rome, God sovereignly was working. In this decision, and with the ‘chance’ visit of Agrippa to the region, God used these potentially frustrating circumstances not only to get Paul to Rome, but also for Paul to bring the gospel before these influential leaders.
What can we learn from this? God works, often behind the scenes, to protect and use His servants according to His purpose, that the gospel will be proclaimed to the ends of the earth. When faced with opposition, obstacles, frustration, it is important that we take time to discern whether that come as a result of our human attitudes, or because of the gospel we are proclaiming. If the first, we need to get ourselves right, but if the second, we need to give thanks for the opportunities that God will bring about for his gospel to be proclaimed, through our faithfulness.