I am afraid it is true. I have done some time in jail.
I was young. Very young. And by the grace of God, the time I did was short. I did five minutes as a six-year-old first-grader. We had gone on a field trip to the county jail, and to give us a sense of what being in jail was like, they put us behind the bars and closed the door on us and then left us there for about five minutes. It made a lasting impression (I’ve never been back!). The sparse “accommodations,” the close confinement, the bars and the “clank” of the lock, along with the lack of privacy are still indelibly impressed on my mind. I had no desire to make any return visits!
As uncomfortable as that jail would have been, Paul’s imprisonment was far worse. Paul spent his last months of life before he was finally executed in constant chains, in a dark, damp dungeon, in loneliness and under the regular threat of torture. Yet as one reads his last letters (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus), there is no sense of discouragement, frustration or anxiety. Why? In 2 Timothy 2:8-10, Paul indicates at least three activities and mindsets that are essential for the minister as he serves.
He remembered Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 2:8). He likely remembered the sinless body of Christ on the cross and the shed blood that covered his sin (1 Cor. 11:23ff). We know he also remembered the separation from God that he had known, and what God had done to restore Paul to Himself (Eph. 2:11-13). And he also remembered that on the third day Jesus Christ arose from the grave. And because Christ is risen, he not only had hope, he had every hope. Yes he was imprisoned. Yes he ultimately lost his life for his belief in Christ. But he could still be confident of Christ’s resurrection and be free of the fear and sting of death (1 Cor. 15:12-23, 54-58).
He knew that God’s Word could not be imprisoned. Sure, Paul was in prison, but God’s Word wasn’t. Sure, Stephen and Peter and John and many others became martyrs for their faith. But the Word of God did not die. Yes, some of Paul’s friends had bailed out on him and their faith when difficulty arrived (2 Tim. 4:10ff; people always are susceptible to wandering away from God — that’s the lesson of 1 Cor. 10). But the truth of God marched and marches forward. It will not die. It cannot die. Jesus’ victory at the cross assured that (Heb. 2:14-15).
He kept an eternal perspective. Paul knew that there was something more important than his life and his desires (2 Tim. 2:10). He could endure for this reason: “for the sake of those who are chosen, so they may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.” He was willing to pour out his life as an offering to God so that others might come to the knowledge of Christ and the forgiveness of sin. “It’s worth giving my life,” Paul was saying, “if by the giving of my life others will receive salvation.
So Paul endured. He endured not because he liked where he was living. He endured because he remembered. So here is the principle: in tough times…and in good times, remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead!