As the beautiful Minnesota fall begins to fade and the cold weather begins to kick in, I am reminded how thankful I am for a warm house, car and clothes. I cannot imagine being outside, overnight without having warm and appropriate attire. I remember forgetting a sleeping bag once on a mountain adventure with some friends where it got close to freezing at night. One of those nights, I went and slept in the van. Never again will I forget a sleeping bag.
When we read Paul's request to a trusted friend for his cloak while he is in prison, can we feel for him?
"(Timothy), When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments." 2 Tim 4:13
Some scholars have tried to come up with some interesting interpretations of what the cloak was. I think Paul was just cold and wanted to be warm. I think Paul understood that during his day when someone was arrested, the captures would take whatever they wanted from their prisoners. Most likely after being warned that he would be arrested, Paul gave his belongs to a trusted friend, Carpus.
As I think about Paul's desire for his coat, I cannot help but think about how much he had given up since following Jesus. On that Damascus road, Paul was The Saul of Tarsus, highly educated - the star pupil of the great Gamaliel. He was wealthy, powerful, highly influential with the government and others in authroity, well respected and more. Now, alone, in prison, cold, Paul suffered. This was a massive change in life circumstances. Who said following Jesus was for the faint of heart? Who said that God promises health and wealth? Who said that following Jesus makes everything in your life go up and to the right? When life circumstances turn for the worst or not in the positive direction, what do you do?
As I think about Paul's humble request a little more, it reveals how much Paul was alone. Just a few years or a decade earlier when he was arrested a previous time, many Christians met up with him to escort him to prison. The church in Philippi took up a collection for him. Now, older after his exciting church planting days, he is alone. No or few visitors; not at all like before. No one bringing him things he needs. He has to humble himself and ask for help. Job knows what it is like to lose those closest to him. Jesus knows all about desertion of His closest friends. Does following Jesus mean we might lose some friends? Have you noticed that when life gets tough, sometimes our friends are no where to be seen?
Paul's humble request also reminds me that God does not take His magic wand and immediately solve His followers problems. Sometimes we think that those great men and women of the Bible had special favor with God. God did not instantly provide for Paul in prison. God let David battle lust and lose resulting in lies, murder and a host of problems. God let Jeremiah struggled with depression. God let Peter wrestle with a quick temper. God let Paul struggle with his thorn in the flesh. We all struggle with temptations and trials. We all have needs and desires. When things do not turn out the way we thought, how does that affect our relationship with Jesus?
Paul wrote, "That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Cor 12:10
Are you discovering that Jesus' grace allows you to be patient in the cold, joyful in problems, content when hungry, kind when hurt, gracious when others do not deserve it?
Seeking to grow, learn and mature together,
Pastor Chris Reinertson enjoys all sports, especially those involving a ball. He loves to hang out with people and challenge them to be Jesus REVolutionizers.