Paul - Not One to Turn Back

I am sure you can think of persons who quitted at a time when courage and stickability were needed. In fact, it is possible that you have done so. I recall a marathon race I participated in Mandeville, Jamaica in 1978/9. After completing most of the marathon, I needed to climb the then college hill and make a lap around the soccer field to complete, but I discontinued owing to stitches (an aching-griping pain). Even as I reflect on that race today, it does not make me feel good. By nature I am not one to quit. Had I walked I would have placed in the first 5. Anyhow, my focus is on the Apostle Paul who, though severely tested and pressed on every side, displayed a remarkable steel-nature which, I submit, is absolutely necessary for modern day Christians.



Consider His Opposition

Paul was arrested on several occasions. His first imprisonment in Rome was due to false accusations by some of the Jews; and likewise was his second imprisonment there. Some unbelieving Jews charged Paul with “the crime of instigating the burning of Rome.” According to Ellen White in Acts of the Apostles, “Not one of them thought for a moment that he was guilty; but they knew that such a charge, made with the faintest show of plausibility, would seal his doom” (p. 489). Nevertheless, these Jews succeeded and the Apostle Paul was placed in a gloomy and dark dungeon known as the Mamertine Prison. From the tour that I had of this dungeon, it was humiliating and demeaning for human beings, but yet this was the place believed to have been the prison for both Peter and Paul on separate occasions. To make matters worse, unlike in his first imprisonment where he was allowed to spend in a home and welcomed many friends, this time there were few friends that shared his burdens. In writing to young Timothy he stated, “Only Luke is with me” (2 Timothy 4:11). However he would also be ministered unto and comforted by a faithful disciple Onesiphorus.

Reflecting again on that dark and gloomy dungeon so small and hid from the sunlight, I can better appreciate what Mrs. White meant by the following, “The desire for love and sympathy is implanted in the heart by God Himself. Christ, in His hour of agony I Gethsemane, longed for the sympathy of His disciples. And Paul, though apparently indifferent to hardship and suffering, yearned for sympathy and companionship” (AA, p. 491).



Before Nero

My trip to Rome also gave me a better appreciation for the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians. From the Biblical and historical accounts, it is a known fact that the Roman Emperor Nero was “a capricious, passionate, licentious tyrant.” The mention of his name instilled fear, trepidation, and worse - the thought of standing or appearing before him. And it was this tyrant that the Apostle Paul would appear. It should be clear that Paul was unafraid. Though he wrote in 2 Timothy 4:16, 17 “no man stood with me, but all men forsook me …. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.” Not intimidated in the least Paul preached Christ and the record states “Never before had Nero heard the truth as he heard it on this occasion. Never before had the enormous guilt of his own life been so revealed to him” (AA, p. 496). It is observed that Nero for a period “feared the apostle’s God, and he dared not pass sentence upon Paul.” Later Nero would disgrace himself and succumb to an untimely death at age 32.



Application


How often do we let go? How often do we allow folk to discourage us? How often we allow situations to intimidate us? The story of the Apostle Paul in his imprisonment is a lesson of faith, courage and an unflinching stance. The prophecies of Daniel speak to future trouble and testing for Christians. Will I, like the Apostle Paul, stand and endure when it counts? Will you? My prayer takes on the words of the Hymnist William H. Bathurst, “O, for a faith that will not shrink, Though pressed by many a foe, That will not tremble on the brink, Of any earthly woe!” Let’s determine to be faithful as was Paul. Again I thank God for the privilege of my Great Controversy tour. My faith has been strengthened.