Recently I have been working part time through a school of biblical studies online. In this school we dive exceptionally deep into the books of the bible, lets just say that by the time I graduate from the school I will have read each book in the bible over five times through. The past few months my studies have been focused on the apostle Paul and his writings, and more specifically these past few weeks I have been working through 1 & 2 Timothy.
Reading about Paul's life and story so thoroughly like this is something I have always wanted to do however, I have always been a bit lost at where to start. So, getting to do it through this online school has been a blessing. There is so much I could say about what I have learned about the apostle Paul and Christ through this study process. But for now, I want to focus on one thing that I have observed to be so extraordinary about this apostle.
Yesterday evening I got to do an assignment that I thought at first was really weird, however I was so enlightened by a new perspective. The assignment was to recreate as best I could what it was like for Paul to write his second letter to his beloved child Timothy. To really put myself in his shoes and imagine what Paul was feeling and thinking. I will give you a little back history here quick on the book of 2 Timothy in case it is not currently fresh in your mind. Paul had a very special relationship with Timothy. Paul was not actually Timothy’s father, nevertheless, he loved him as a son. Paul was used by God to help disciple Timothy and then help Timothy begin to let God use him as a disciple to others too. They worked alongside each other in ministry through the highs and valleys. Now, when Paul wrote this second letter to Timothy he was in prison in Rome and Paul knew he would soon be losing his life for the sake of the gospel. So, you can understand the deeper learning you will gain after putting yourself in Paul’s shoes and reading the letter as if you were the one writing.
For the assignment, I not only had to imagine myself in the author's situation, but physically recreate it too. We cannot know with 100% certainty, but it was likely that Paul wrote this letter in prison. So to physically recreate the scene I was asked to read the letter in a dark space, with only a table, a chair and a candle for light. Was this exactly what it was like when Paul wrote this letter? There is no way to know for sure, but the idea behind the assignment was to feel what Paul felt and prison was definitely not a pleasant place. It sounds a little crazy, but it was so interesting to read the bible like this, it really helped me understand what the author and the original reader may have been feeling and thinking.
Now, I had some friends help me with this assignment by observing my reading, one of whom decided to try to put himself in Timothy's shoes. Trying to imagine what it was like for Timothy to read each word in Paul’s letter, and hear what his father in faith wanted him to know before his race was complete. I can tell you that this led to some pretty great discussion after the reading was finished. There were many questions floating around in my head, along with friends. We talked about how hard it was likely for Timothy to read the letter knowing Paul’s race would end shortly, and that he would have to go it alone. But at the same time receiving the encouragement of perseverance to keep to his calling in ministry. This led us down a lot of other rabbit trails, thinking about different callings the Lord gives to his followers. Then from Paul’s perspective, we disused a lot of things too. His life ministry, his faith and persecutions, all the way back to before Christ met him on the road to Damascus. What was so convicting for me though, was thinking about how the apostle Paul viewed death. It never seemed like Paul feared death or even saw it as death, but was rather excited for it, because it was not actually death but the beginning of life.
Here's the thing, Paul’s life here on earth sucked! He was beaten, put in prison multiple times, blamed for doing nothing, and ridiculed, and this is just the start. The apostle Paul knew and experienced daily what real percuition is. However, when you read the writing of his hands you don’t see him complaining. You see him giving glory to the Father. You see, Paul had this view that all of us christians should have. Paul was not afraid of his coming death, he was excited for it because he knew that he would mean that he would actually finally be gaing what true life is. For us today, Paul’s life is an example of what true kingdom focus should look like. Something as Christ followers, we should all strive for. This all made me think, am I actually so focused on the kingdom that nothing else matters? Am I serving like I should be? Would I actually put myself in situations like Paul did for the sake of the gospel? This is something I want to do, however at the end of the day would I actually? I have spent some time praying about this. Now, I can see it is not about intentionally putting myself in crazy situations that will bring God the most glory, but is to have a mindset that is so focused on the kingdom. That if God ever puts me in a super crazy situation, that I will be so focused on his kingdom coming that I will be able serve him and give him endless glory through it.
Take a minute to think about this: What would happen if we were so kingdom focused that nothing else mattered?