25 January, 2023 10:48

Those crazy Facebook quizzes annoy me (and there are warnings about not taking them because of the threat of identity theft). “What Mexican food are you?” Which Disney character do you resemble?” “What’s your real age?” “What would be your prison stereotype?” Okay, I admit I took that one. Results were that I would be a prison leader. Fantastic. “What prison sentence would you get?” Life sentence. Well, that’s just great.

Maybe I should create a quiz. “If you were in jail what would you do with all your spare time?”

The apostle Paul spent quite a bit of time in jail. What a great example, huh? Well, actually, yea, he is. Because he was thrown in jail for preaching about Jesus. Most Jewish leaders didn’t like him; they thought Jesus was dead and gone and was no longer a threat to their religious way of life. Saul (before he was called Paul) actually was one of those haters who ran around throwing Jesus followers in prison, Acts 8:1-3.

But then Jesus got hold of him. The bright Light of the world blinded Saul, told him to knock it off, healed him, and gave him a new purpose in life, Acts 9:1-22. And the Jews didn’t like that very much either, Acts 13:44-45.

Nothing scared Paul. Not shipwrecks, Acts 27, or snake bites, 28:1-6, politicians or wealthy people, being beaten or stoned, 14:19-20; 21:27-32, being thrown in jail, 16:22-24, or even dying for his faith in Jesus Christ, 2 Timothy 4:6-8; 16-18. You can read Paul’s own words about all that stuff in 2 Corinthians 11:21-30; 12:9-10.

First century jails weren’t very comfy; dark, dirty, and smelly are fitting descriptions. So, what did Paul do with all his spare time sitting in jail cells? He:

-Sang songs, Acts 16:25

-Told people in the jail about Jesus, Acts 16:31-32

-Wrote letters to churches that he had visited on his travels, Acts chapters 19-20

The New Testament books of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon are called Paul’s “prison epistles (letters) because he wrote them while he was in jail (I imagine there were probably many more that just weren’t saved). Most likely he had a lot of time to think and pray, and the Holy Spirit taught him a lot about Jesus, too. Paul was then able to pass on that knowledge to those first Christians through his writings.

The beginning of his letter to the church in Ephesus contains rich words of praise and blessing for who God is and what he has done in and through Jesus Christ, vs 3-10; how God has blessings for everyone who believes in Jesus, vs 11-14, and praise and thanksgiving for the believers in that church, vs 15-23. It is an amazing way to start a letter!

You see, Paul wasn’t sitting in his cell pouting about his circumstances, Philippians 4:11-13! No dark jail cell or thick iron bars were going to stop him from his unending commitment of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ, Acts 28:30-31! Paul wrote that he was “in chains for Christ,” Philippians 1:13 and a “prisoner of Christ Jesus,” Ephesians 3:1. That was his purpose, his calling, and his goal until his dying day. Church tradition holds that Paul was beheaded in Rome in the mid to late 60’s AD, because he just wouldn’t stop talking about Jesus.

So. What’s up with you? What’s up with me? What are my current circumstances? What do you do with all your spare time?

What do I consider more important than Jesus Christ? Popularity? My future? My job? My own wants and desires?

Are we willing to take risks so that the Gospel of the Good News of Jesus Christ will be shared with the people we are with every day? Or anyone we happen to meet?

Is there anything that keeps me from saying, “I, Deb, a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of …”?

I hope not. Jesus might have to shine a blinding bright light in MY eyes to straighten me up.

I’m praying for you.