‘Famous Church Planter Arrested!’ This was the headline, circa AD 57. Paul the apostle, preacher and writer, was imprisoned for the last four years of his life - two years chained night and day to a Roman guard; two under house arrest in Rome. His ministry seemed truncated. Paul was ageing. His eyesight was failing. In later letters all he could do was sign his signature; his words transcribed by others on to tablets made of papyrus (a precursor of the iPad perhaps?). He knew that the time of his death was near. He was cold and tired, and often alone. He pleads: ‘Come before winter. Bring my cloak and my books’.
I’d be tempted to become introspective. Why, why, why? I’d begin to doubt God’s call on my life. Had I missed the mark so badly that He’d to remove me? I could easily fall into depression and bitterness.
Not so with Paul!
He knew the call to be an apostle. He knew he was called to be an authoritative messenger, sent forth as an advocate of a new principle, or system, or way of living. He knew that call was irrevocable. Paul’s commitment to that call, that mission, remained firm until the end. Only the vehicle was changed. Imprisoned, Paul continued to preach and teach. Word by word, and line by line, he wrote. God breathed the words and Paul wrote.
Paul knew isolation. He lived in a virtual world. All he had were his thoughts and his words. Paul shared his heart, his struggles and his prayers, through writing. He encouraged. He exhorted. He challenged.
Paul longed for others to experience the fullness of grace and peace that comes from living in real relationship with Jesus. He demonstrated how to live as a child of God between salvation and destination.
Living in utter isolation in pain and in tears, Paul never knew the impact of an old man’s letters written from prison. His words are the bedrock of the Christian faith throughout the ages. His words were preserved with the same care as the writings of the patriarchs, prophets and psalmists.
I’m the fruit of his words. So are you! Paul is seated today with the millions and millions of those who have been changed eternally by his story and his writing.
Are you imprisoned today? Under house arrest? Are you doubting your call? Your impact? Are you isolated by illness, or ageing, or family circumstances? Are you a young mother imprisoned by the demands of children? Are you in a season of transition, not knowing what the future holds?
Hang on! You were designed before the foundations of the earth for a unique destiny. The Father wrote your story and knows the beginning, the end and the messy, imprisoning middle.
Be assured that God began this good work within you and will continue His work until it’s finally finished on that day when Jesus comes back .
Prayer: Father, show me again about my design and my destiny. Help me see my life circumstances as a platform, not a prison. I pray for more of Your grace and peace. Amen.
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