Last Saturday morning I had the opportunity to go to see the Coliseum, and the Roman forum. Just outside the Forum we were able to visit inside the Mamertine prison, the dungeon in the heart of Rome believed to be the spot where the apostle Paul was imprisoned before he was executed almost two thousand years ago. I was quite amazed with this place. To actually be where a part of the Bible was written was quite awesome. Not to mention that Paul is my favorite writer of the New Testament.
Several things hit me while down in the cell. (see picture from inside the prison cell) It was a small room, low ceiling and there was not much light. If my bible history is correct it was not where Galatians was written but I instantly recalled where Paul says in that book: “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!.” I would have to write in large print in order to see in there for sure.
I guess what I am most amazed from this view was Paul’s ability to keep focused.
I would have complained and told the Lord there is no way I can do anything from in there. I would not have had the joy as Paul did as he wrote those letters. I doubt I would be able to think so clearly as to remember to write the churches and the people that I was discipling to let them know to be prepared and continued to grow in maturity.
“yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— Philemon 1:9
Or to continually challenge us to live our lives in such a way that would honor God.
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” Ephesians 4:1
I came away thinking about how do I stay focused when circumstances do not always go the way I hope or had planned? How can I have joy when I am in prison or when I simply feel entangled by the situation that I am in.
Here is another prison verse that jumped out at me while there. This one from the book of Phillipians. This is what I must remember while in difficult circumstances.
11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Phillipians 4:13 is the first verse that I remember memorizing. I guess the first one was actually “Jesus Wept”. On that Sunday morning as a middle schooler I needed an easy win in Sunday School. I brought my bible and offering but I needed a quick verse to remember so I could get that checked off my list. Smile. But later on, I memorized 4:13 because it came at a difficult time in my life. A time where I moved from one way of living to another. A time where I moved away from living for myself to living for Jesus. A time where I moved from actually thinking I can do all things because I am capable of it to this verse recognizing that I can only do things because of the power of Christ who lives in me.
I believe this is how Paul wrote from inside the prison. His inner joy was in the Lord. His inner strength was because he had a real relationship with Jesus and he knew and believed and further more lived this truth.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 5:20