Join in Suffering for the Gospel
by Abiding Love
2 Timothy 1:8 — Join with me in suffering for the gospel.
Many tourists in Rome will tell you that it is one of the most difficult sites to find. The site that is difficult to find is the Mamertine Prison, the traditional place where the apostle Paul awaited his execution. Over the years, countless tourists have walked right past it without recognizing what it was. This is understandable, because the Mamertine Prison does not resemble our idea of a prison. Rather, it is simply an ancient cistern divided into two rooms, one on top of the other.
On the floor of the upper room is a hole. And through that hole is where prisoners were either lowered–or dropped–into the lower room. This lower room was called the Tullianum.
According to an ancient historian, this lower room, the Tullianum, was 12 feet underground. In his words, it was “disgusting and vile by reason of the filth, the darkness and the stench.” The room itself measures 6 ½ feet high, 30 feet long and 22 feet wide. This was where prisoners waited to die, either by execution or by simple starvation. An iron door at the end of the room opened into the city’s main sewer, where dead bodies are said to have been dumped into the river.
It was in this lower room—the Tullianum—this bottom half of an old cistern, where many believe Paul spent his final days. If that’s the case, then this was also where the Lord moved him to write his final letter. In that letter, the Holy Spirit empowered Paul to look beyond the dank, foul walls of his dungeon and to speak to his friend, Timothy. He also speaks to you and me.
Across the years, Paul says, “Join with me. Join with me in suffering for the gospel.”
The Lord may not call upon us to endure the darkness and misery of the Mamertine Prison. But as you and I carry the Good News of Jesus through this jagged, broken world, there will be all kinds of moments when we will endure difficulties and hardships of every description. For the sake of the gospel we will suffer. We suffer the agonizing moments of seeing our children not do the right thing and trying to call them back. We suffer the pain of working through difficulties in our relationships and marriages in order to find reconciliation at the cross. We suffer friendships that are lost and scorn from our celebrities as we lift up the cross of Christ in our life.
And that’s all right. In fact, it’s more than all right. For as you and I join with Paul in suffering difficulty and hardship for the sake of sharing the gospel—for the sake of sharing the message of full forgiveness through faith in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—there is no greater honor. None.
In those moments when suffering for the gospel is at hand, lift up your eyes as Paul must have from the Mamertine Prison. Lift them up and see Jesus, who for the joy of saving you set before him, willingly endured scorn and shame to love you, redeem you, and win you eternally. May Jesus your suffering Savior refresh your soul that you may follow him in suffering for the gospel.
Lord Jesus, in those moments when I suffer difficulty for the sake of your gospel, remind me of Paul. And refresh me in your forgiveness. Amen.
Peace in Jesus,
Pastor John Gensmer
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