At my first defense no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood by my side and gave me strength so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen
2 Timothy 4:16-18
Paul is near the end of his life. He is old and on death row. It is a time when he most needs support. So his statement at his first trial, “no one came to my support but everyone deserted me,” is shocking. And it must have shocked Paul. Where were his Christian friends when he needed him? His statement conveys a sense of disappointment and momentary confusion. How lonely it must have felt for Paul who contrary to popular opinion was very much a team player and a people person.
Like Paul we too encounter deep places of disappointment in ministry. The person you thought you could depend on turns their back on you when you needed them the most. The donor you counted on doesn’t come through. The great new volunteer leader you recruited turns out to be a lot more talk than action. Someone you love speaks behind your back. You find yourself confused because something you thought would happen did not. All this leads to profound disappointment and questions towards God. But then Paul’s writes his next line.
Before self pity could fly in and make a nest, Paul says confidently, “…but the Lord stood by my side and gave me strength.” Paul latched onto this truth, that the Lord will never leave us or forsake us. (Heb 13:5) In his aloneness Paul realized he was not alone. He grabbed onto the Emmanuel anchor – God with us. He gained strength when life circumstances had made him week kneed. Beyond even that, Paul took his disappointment to another level. It was so that God could use him to proclaim the Gospel. Paul looked at tough disappointing circumstances as a great opportunity to let Christ be proclaimed.
What about you? If you are feeling alone can you go to the core of your faith? God is with me and stands by me in what I am going through and He will be my strength. Yes, strength! He will give you strength to continue to proclaim Jesus Christ in your dangerous, desperate, disappointing or confusing circumstances.
Paul continued to assert his confidence in God by saying he was delivered from the lion’s mouth. Paul was aware that the Adversary was doing all he could to destroy his ministry and his own life. But Paul knew that “greater is He who is in you, that he who is in the world.” We must not forget we are engaged with a ruthless enemy who would love to kill us and our ministries. We must remember with confidence it is God who delivers us in every trial now and all the way to our dying breath, when we are brought home safely to His Heavenly kingdom. When we know this we can say with Paul in our most disappointing times, “to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Standing beside the God who stands by us,