Joy in a Jail Cell
2 Timothy 3:10—4:22
Dr. Jim Denison, Senior Pastor
The following came from an anonymous mother in Austin, Texas. She titles the list, “Things I’ve learned from my children (honest and no kidding):”
A king size waterbed holds enough water to fill a 2000 sq. ft. house four inches deep.
You should not throw baseballs up when the ceiling fan is on. When using a ceiling fan as a bat, you have to throw the ball up a few times before you get a hit. A ceiling fan can hit a baseball a long way. The glass in windows (even double-pane) does not stop a baseball hit by a ceiling fan.
When you hear the toilet flush and the words “uh oh,” it’s already too late.
Super glue is forever.
The spin cycle on the washing machine does not make earthworms dizzy. It will, however, make cats dizzy. Cats throw up twice their body weight when dizzy.
Always look in the oven before you turn it on. Plastic toys do not like ovens. The fire department in Austin, Texas has a five-minute response time.
We’re talking today about being happy in hard places. The subject is relevant.
Psychologist Martin Seligman says that depression in the year 2000 was about ten times as likely as in 1900. More than 14 million adults in our country have suffered a major depressive episode in the past year; more than 35 million have had one at some point in their lives.
In 2002, Americans spent $7.7 billion on 6.9 million cosmetic procedures, including 1.7 million Botox injections.
We are time-crunched. “Zipcar” is an hourly rental-car service now making money. “P. J. Squares” are on the market; peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches pre-made for those who don’t have the thirty seconds it takes to make their own.
Paul learned to be joyous in jail, happy on death row. He knew somehow that “the Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom” (4:18). Perhaps he can help us say the same. Where do you need to be happy in a hard place? Where is your jail cell today?
Remember where you’ve been (3:10-11)
Paul writes his son in the faith, “You, however, know all about” me; the phrase means to follow someone closely, to know them intimately. Timothy knew all about Paul’s life, his godly character, his “persecutions” and “sufferings” when he was run out of town and stoned and left for dead. He knew that Paul’s problems were real.
Despite all the apostle has faced, “the Lord rescued me from all of them” (v. 11b). “Rescued” means to pluck from danger, to pull from the fire. He didn’t keep Paul from suffering, but he rescued him in the midst of the pain. Now Paul believes that what God did once, he will do again.
When you’re in jail, remember where you’ve been. Look back at all that God has done for you, and you can look forward to what he will do next.
Look at your existence. To spell “collagen,” the name of a common type of protein, you need to arrange all eight letters in the right order. To make the protein itself, you need to arrange 1,055 amino acids in precisely the right sequence. This happens spontaneously in nature. Yet the odds are one in 10×260, a number larger than all the atoms in the universe (Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything, 288). And that’s just one protein in your genetic makeup.
Look at your country and its freedoms and prosperity. Take note of the health you enjoy today. Think about the salvation you have received through Christ. Realize that you already have eternal life, and will, eternally.
Think of the last thing God did for you. Realize that he didn’t bring you this far to leave you. Remember what he has done for you, and you’ll be empowered to trust him for what he will do for you. And you’ll find joy in a jail cell.
Don’t blame God (3:12-13)
If the greatest apostle in Christian history sits on death row, we will suffer as well. “Everyone” (with no exceptions) who “wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus” (to please God and be loyal to him) “will be persecuted.” The word means to bear a heavy load, to be under pressure or attack. It is inevitable. You’ve joined the battle, and now the enemy knows about you and will find you.
So don’t blame God when the enemy attacks. Our Lord warned us that he would:
“Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues” (Matthew 10:17).
“You will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me” (Matthew 24:9).
“If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20).
Why do we face persecutions and problems? How could a good God create such a world as this? Why not blame him when you’re in prison?
Because this is a fallen world. Before the fall in Eden, there was no cancer, heart disease, AIDS, SARS, hurricanes or tornadoes. All of creation was affected by the Fall (Romans 8:19-22).
And because we are fallen people. We face “evil men and imposters” who deceive and are deceived (v. 13). Thus Daniel is in the lion’s den and Paul in the Mamertine dungeon.
So expect to be persecuted for your faith, expect to face temptations, tests, and problems. Don’t blame God—seek him. Ask for his help. When we have the flu we don’t blame our doctor—we call him.
If we’ll expect problems, we’ll stay reliant on our Father. We’ll know that the next battle is just over the next hill, that we need to stay connected with his power. We’ll not fall so easily into discouragement when problems attack.
When you’re in jail, don’t blame God. Instead, seek his help and his grace.