"I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man" (Acts 24:16).
Paul's respectful, straightforward response to the Jewish leaders' accusations demonstrates his reliance on the Holy Spirit to guide his words (Matt 10:18-20). The Jews presented their case before Felix with blatant flattery and lies about Paul. Felix was allegedly a cruel, corrupt governor whose rule was marked by a great increase in crime. I wonder if, as he listened to them, Paul was reminded of another trial before another Roman governor about 25 years earlier? "When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly" (1 Peter 2:23).
Keeping his focus on Jesus' example no doubt helped Paul endure the trials and lonely years in prison. He likely lamented the loss of ministering to people face-to-face. He may have rationalized that the injustice of his situation could justify a different response. But he listened to his conscience and trusted the outcome to God, the righteous judge. He was able to see how God used his imprisonment to further spread the gospel (Phil 1:12-14), but probably never imagined that his letters would impact people around the world for two thousand years!
The Holy Spirit speaks to us in different ways, such as his word and the godly counsel of other Christians. He also speaks through the voice of our conscience. Because his voice is gentle, it is easy to ignore nature. The more we do that, the less sensitive to his promptings we become, even to the extent that our consciences may become seared as with a hot iron (I Tim 4:2).
We may not be facing a legal trial like Paul, but we often face other trials (including long periods of isolation that may have felt like a prison!) that may tempt us to ignore what we know is right and to instead do or say things that seem less costly. But the longer-term consequences may be more costly than we realize, the greatest cost being less intimate fellowship with our Lord. Conversely, keeping our conscience clear strengthens our testimony (1 Peter 3:15-16), and, like Paul, the consequences may be more amazing than we can even imagine. May we be careful to heed the gentle whisper of God's Spirit, entrusting our future to him who judges justly and who works all things together for good.
Alliance International Worker and amazing woman of God