Losing Your Cool
Tuesday, July 30, 2019
Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, ‘Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.’ The high priest Ananias commanded those standing beside him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, ‘God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?’ But the bystanders said, ‘Do you revile God’s high priest?’ And Paul said, ‘I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’
If there is anyone in the New Testament who modeled the meekness and humility of our Savior, it was Paul. But on this occasion, he loses his cool.
To be fair, this has been one of the roughest weeks in Paul’s life. In Acts 21, he is misunderstood and maligned by fellow believers. Later, he enters the temple only to witness another riot break out. He is beaten by a mob and then bound in chains. When Paul is finally given an opportunity to stand before the Sanhedrin, he is obviously flustered. In fact, a slap in the face is all it takes to send him over the edge.
Paul is absolutely right in his assessment of Ananias, by the way. Jesus charged the same thing of the Sanhedrin in Matthew 23:27. But Paul is wrong in his outburst. He loses sight of his context and even his mission. He forgets the meekness displayed by Jesus during His own unjust trial (1 Peter 2:23).
When the crowd suddenly cries out angrily, “Do you revile God’s high priest?” Paul realizes his mistake. He responds, “I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”
Interestingly, this passage is why most theologians believe Paul was going blind. Paul couldn’t see Ananias, the High Priest, and likely didn’t know who he was addressing. Either way, the damage was done.
This must have crushed Paul’s spirit. No doubt he replayed the scene over and over again in his mind, feeling defeated and discouraged by the memory. He had allowed a sudden burst of anger to overwhelm him and forfeit one of his most significant witnessing opportunities to date.
Have you ever let your own pride get in the way of a witnessing opportunity? Have you ever lost your cool before an unbeliever? Be encouraged by this glimpse into Paul’s failure. God knows there will be days when we too will fail, but His grace will inspire conviction and genuine repentance just as it did for Paul.
But don’t use Paul as an excuse for wrong reactions. If Paul were writing this devotion, I’m convinced he would say something like, “brothers and sisters, learn from my mistake so you don’t repeat it! The consequences of lost opportunities are costly.”
Today—at work, at the store, perhaps even in your own home—you will have a platform to display the character of Christ to someone. You will have a significant opportunity to say “no” to your flesh and “yes” to the Holy Spirit.
For the glory of God, make the most of it.
The Christian who faces a new day without prayer and devotion is like a soldier who charges onto a battlefield without weapon and ammunition. So ready yourself for this day through prayer. You know your areas of weakness. You know where you failed yesterday. God does too. So surrender those vulnerable areas to Him and rely on His Spirit for strength. You may even need to apologize to someone as you walk in the Spirit today.
Read the full chapter of Acts 23 and pray for the Spirit of God to reveal what He wants you to learn from this missed opportunity in Paul’s life.