Developing a Passion for Paul
Connie Neckers |
October 23, 2019
When asked which Bible character I might like to meet when I get to heaven, I would always say Peter. I could always relate to him. He was impulsive and action-oriented. He was passionate, and he bumbled around and often acted like I do.
I also admire Esther's courage and John's deep love and special connection with Jesus. But I am rather embarrassed to say that for years, Paul was not on my top ten list, despite the fact that without his efforts of bringing the good news to the Gentiles, I would not be sitting here, working at a Christian Church.
I was quick to acknowledge that Paul penned some wonderful stuff in the New Testament. I don't have a problem with Paul's intensity, or his challenging teaching, it just took him too long to say what he needed to say. I would start counting how many words he used in a sentence instead of paying attention to the content of the sentence.
Often, Paul's sentences would run on and on and contain 50, 60 or 70+ words. Maybe I was just impatient, or perhaps I had an undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder! It has taken some time, but through the years, my appreciation for Paul has grown tremendously. He is now near the top on my list of those I can't wait to meet when I get to heaven!
A recent experience highlighted how dear he has become to me. Earlier this month, I made a a quick trip to Connecticut to visit my niece and her family. She home-schools her kids and is always on the lookout for interesting field trips. They picked me up at the airport and invited me to come along for a visit to the nearby "Old Newgate Prison and Copper Mine."
I wondered how a prison and a copper mine could co-exist, and I quickly found out. A rich deposit of copper ore was discovered in the early 1700's and a number of shareholders in the area pooled their resources to form the first copper mining company in the colonies and began operations to extract the ore. The copper deposit ran at a 23 degree angle, so the shaft was dug at a 23 degree angle, making for precarious footing in this dripping, dark, and dank tunnel.
Because these were colonial times, smelting of the ore onsite was not permitted, so it had to be loaded up and taken to Boston (85 miles away) and then taxed 20% before being shipped to England. The mine operated for several decades, but eventually became unprofitable and was unused until 1773 when Connecticut's General Assembly decided to turn it into the state's first prison.
I had visited prisons before, but I was really struck by the despair the prisoners must have clung to there. There was only one entrance that originated at the guardhouse. They dropped a 40 foot ladder into a cavern below. Year-round the temperature was 52 degrees and the only sound was the constant dripping of water, the only light was what filtered down from a well shaft.
There were no places for personal hygiene, the prisoners lived in an intense squalor. They even had a solitary confinement area, where a prisoner was shackled in a space that was 4 foot by 6 foot, but on a 23 degree angle. It was horrible to imagine! While we were in the tour group, we were pulling our sweatshirts tighter around us in an effort to stay warm, and I started thinking about Paul.
I remembered how Paul asked Timothy to bring him his cloak while he was imprisoned in Rome. I suspect he may have been in a cold, dark, dungeon sort of place. Many months could have passed between the time when Paul first requested his cloak until he received it.
The conditions where he found himself might have been equally as deplorable as what I was seeing; yet, he continued to write letters. Paul continued to correct and encourage the fledgling churches to never lose sight of his mission, and to use the time appointed to him to fan the flames of faith in others.
I thank you for the reminder of just how difficult life had been for Paul and for his example of incredible perseverance. Lord, please give us eyes to see those around us and recognize that wherever we look, we will find a person who is struggling with something painful or hard, believers and unbelievers alike. Help us to be like Paul, not letting our present circumstances distract us from sharing our faith and offering encouragement during the time that you have appointed to each of us. May we come to know that our simple words and actions, compounded with your great love, often result in an abundance of beautiful fruit.
In your name Jesus we pray,
Connie Neckers is a pastor in our 55+ and Caring Ministries, Spiritual Growth.