Word from the kitchen — pass the baton

The year is 66-67 AD and Paul finds himself in prison again, but this time it would be for the last time. The prison is Mamortine, literally a dungeon in the ground. A circular pit, about 30 feet in diameter with a hole at the top a little larger than that of a manhole in the street. It had a stone floor and stone walls. Against one section of that pit was a large door that was able to be pulled up and then dropped back down in place. The door was basically there for execution purposes. It was common to place 30-35 prisoners into the dungeon and then in order to make room for the next group of criminals, the door would be pulled open and running alongside that cell was the city sewage system of Rome. As the door was pulled open, the dungeon would fill with the sewage to drown all the prisoners and wash them back out. The door would be shut; the place would be drained and ready for the next group of criminals.

As I studied all the historical information about where Paul spent his last days my heart just sank…I can see him in that dark, stone cold cell chained to the wall. Paul, the selfless man, who sacrificed everything for the gospel. Who poured out his life so that others may hear and believe.  He was not to be drowned and flushed by sewage water. No, his was to be a public display of hatred, his head was to be put on a block and cut off his body with an ax by the very people he taught!

He knew his end was near, I imagine, while being there, his life must have played before his eyes. A great life, but a difficult one, one of persecution & suffering.

“In far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death, five times I received from the Jews 39 lashes, three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys and dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren. I have been in labor and hardship through many sleepless nights in hunger and thirst, often without food and cold and exposure and apart from such external things there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches”

It was in that pit of hell Paul wrote his last letter to Timothy calling him to BE STRONG

2 Timothy 2 vs 1-2 “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus and the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also, suffer hardship with me as a good soldier of Christ Jesus, no soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of every day life so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. And also, if anyone competes as an athlete he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”

The words BE STRONG in the Greek is a present passive, it is not saying be strong in your own strength, it is rather saying keep on being empowered, in other words allow God’s power to flow through you. Keep yourself in the sphere of obedience. Abide in Christ so that the power of that abiding can flow through your life. God’s undeserved grace is being poured out into our lives over and over again. It is grace that forgives and grace that strengthens, it is grace for my sins, but it is also grace that enables me to serve Him.

Our God is sovereign, yet He chose to depend on men to preserve, guard and pass on His precious Word. What a tremendous responsibility, what a marvelous privilege!

Paul understood that we live in a chain that takes us link by link all the way back to Jesus. Jesus taught the 12 disciples the treasures of truth and they taught the next generation and the next and someone taught you & me.

Paul was not driven by ambition, he had a mission, because he saw the bigger picture. Even in his final hours he was not concerned with his personal comfort! His eyes were fixed on something beyond his own life and time. With his dying words his heart cried out one final time in a letter to his friend Timothy. We should listen to his cry – the work must go on, we cannot allow the chain to be broken, so much has been entrusted to us! We must guard the truth, be loyal and faithful to it! Even more than that, we need to live it and then give it away! We need to pass the baton!