Men and women face numerous challenges after the release from prison. One of the biggest challenges is finding employment. Most job applications ask if the applicant has ever been convicted of a crime. Many employers avoid hiring people with a criminal past. As of 2018, the ex-convict unemployment rate was twenty-seven percent, higher than during the Great Depression.
In Paul’s world, there was an even greater stigma for prisoners. The ancient world had a highly developed code of honor and shame that governed most relationships. Paul’s imprisonment would impact not only him but also all those associated with him. In today’s reading, Paul encourages Timothy to “not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me as his prisoner” (v. 8).
Rather than being ashamed of his imprisonment, Paul encourages Timothy to “join with me in suffering for the gospel” (v. 8). Paul recognizes that God saved us not just for our own benefit, but because He has a purpose for our life (v. 9). The Lord Jesus defeated death and called Paul and Timothy to herald the good news that all people can be forgiven and find new life in Christ because of His work on the cross (vv. 10–11).
Paul recognizes that Christ’s call on his life could lead to suffering. Yet, he is not discouraged because he is convinced that when Christ returns, his suffering would be vindicated (v. 12). All of this provides Timothy with a good reason “to fan into flame the gift of God” (v. 6). He should continue in the work God had called and equipped him for by His Spirit. Through Him, he would find the “power, love and self-discipline” needed to faithfully live out his calling (v. 7).
>> In a culture often hostile to the Christian faith, it can be easy to get discouraged. We need Paul’s reminder to “not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord” (v. 8). God has called us to join in His work and gives us hope of His imminent return!