“There is a man here left in custody by Felix.” (Acts 25:14)

If you were talking about the apos­tle Paul, is it likely that you’d refer to him simply as “a man”? Probably not. To us, Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, an ardent ambassador for Christ, an eminent teacher, and a glorious hero of the faith. But to Festus, the Rome-appointed official who was holding him in prison, Paul is just a jailbird with odd ideas of no special interest.

As Festus discusses Paul’s case with Agrippa, a visiting local ruler, you can tell he doesn’t have the slightest curiosity about Paul or his message. It’s something “about a certain Jesus who had died but who Paul claimed was alive,” he tells his guests, most likely with a dismissive flick of the hand (Acts 25:19). The next day, when they hear Paul’s defense, which turns out to be his personal testimony to the risen Jesus, Festus dismisses it even more vehemently: “You are mad, Paul!” Later, Agrippa evades Paul’s invitation to consider the gospel by turning it into a joke (26:24,28). The whole scene recalls Paul’s earlier failure when he tried to evangelize Festus’ predecessor, Felix (24:24-25).

Maybe no one is taking you seri­ously, either, when you try to share the Lord. Maybe the people you’d most like to reach—in your family or neighborhood, at your school or your work—are well aware that your faith is the most important thing in your life, but it doesn’t have much of an impact on them. Maybe they listen to you sometimes, but not in any way that makes them think about their own lives.

If this is your experience right now, take a look at Paul, and know that you’re in good company. The apostle who evangelized the world didn’t seem to make an impression on anybody he tried to convert dur­ing his two years in custody. He must have felt frustrated and ineffective, too. But apparent failure didn’t stop him—and it shouldn’t stop you!

So keep reaching out, as the Spirit leads. Keep loving and praying for those who need Jesus. Evangelize by the way you live, and by your words, “with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:16). God, who is never outdone in generosity, will honor your efforts.

“Lord, let the fire that burned in Paul burn in me, too. Show me how to be your faithful witness today.”

Psalm 103:1-2,11-12,19-20; John 21:15-19