Imagine being a young pastor in a country where the freedom of religion is forbidden and the government, which held absolute power, issues an edict—all Christ followers will be arrested and the leaders will be executed. Your former church, once vibrant and overflowing with crowds of 10-15k, now sits empty. Few dare to openly profess Christ.
This pastor sits alone, forsaken and full of fear. And worst of all, his beloved mentor, the one who pointed him to Christ, baptized and ordained him, was now on death row and requesting a prison visit from his young disciple. That was out of the question because if he went, he knew he could also be arrested. But his thoughts kept wandering back to his last visit. He remembered his own tears and the questions for which there seemed to be no easy answers. And he remembered leaving inconsolable, without any peace. Then today, a letter arrives and he must answer his mentor’s question, “Will you come?”
The story is 100% true. The letter was from the Apostle Paul, written to Pastor Timothy, the former pastor of the church at Ephesus.
In August, I was privileged to go on a missions trip to Tunisia with five other pastors. We are working on a joint Christmas project! But we stopped off in Rome on our way to Tunisia and got to visit the very prison cell where the Apostle Paul spent the last two years of his life, leading up to his execution. I saw what church historians believe to be the very same post the Apostle Paul was chained to while in prison.
Paul wrote: “I am in chains but the Word of God is not chained!”
Paul is one of my favorite biblical characters. What a privilege for my feet to stand on the very same floor Paul’s feet stood on. What do you think Paul was thinking about, obsessing over? The crazy fear of his imminent demise? I’m sure he had his moments. But from what he wrote, it appears Paul was focused on Timothy and his needs.
2 Timothy 1:3 says, “I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day when I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience as my ancestors did.”
Paul—in fear for his own life, prayed for and was very concerned for Timothy.