Set Free to Share

In the heart of Rome is a sacred place few know about. Millions will be within steps of this ancient treasure as they walk to the Roman Forum or Colosseum. We had the museum to ourselves the day we went. Our small group politely looked at the archeology artifacts for what we considered an appropriate amount of time. I found myself anxious to put my feet where he had been. Someone finally asked, “Will we get to see the actual prison?” The museum official said, “Yes, I will escort you below.”

We exited the main floor of the museum down modern metal stairs placed above the hewn rock steps built by the Romans 20 centuries ago. The reality of what the Apostle Paul experienced during his imprisonment came to life before my eyes. It was vivid and painful. On the first level underground, we saw where prisoners were dropped through a hole in the rock floor into their cell.

Then, we descended into the actual cell where he was kept. It was a room with rock walls and an uneven rock floor. It was cold and damp and dark and brutal. The latrine was simply a cavity in a rock with no drainage. I can’t imagine the constant stench. Most men died in prison because of the conditions.

It was in this setting Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy knowing his time was short. From that wretched location, he challenged Christ followers to make themselves useful for God’s special purpose. (See 2 Tim. 2:21.) This from a man who had been beaten, whipped, shipwrecked, stoned, imprisoned, and eventually martyred for his faith.

The spread of the gospel was rampant in the first century thanks to Paul’s missionary journeys. What compelled him to forsake everything and endure suffering for the cause of Christ? Gratitude fueled his passion. His own experience of being set free by the grace of God constrained him to share the message of hope with everyone he met. A pastor I know reminds his congregation, “Paul never forgot what God did for him.”

Thirty-eight years later, the drawings of Paul’s missionary journeys I completed for my Acteens queen-level achievement plan take on new meaning. His teachings have more power and depth than ever before. As we begin a new church year, let our service be fueled by overwhelming gratitude to our Father and a fierce devotion to deliver His message of hope to the nations.


Father,

Like Paul, we set our hope on You. Bestow on us courage to stand firm in the faith and a kingdom perspective to see our work and service through Your eyes. Grant us a sense of urgency for the task at hand. Give us unity so people will be drawn to the gospel. In times of turmoil and difficulty, bless us with strength and peace not just to endure but also to thrive as Your beloved children. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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