2 Timothy 4:16-18
Did you ever have someone break a promise they made to you? Did it really hurt? Broken promises do that. They cause pain that goes deep into the heart of the one affected by the broken promise. It can change your view of the one who made the promise to you.
One vow frequently made among friends, and most often among family members is one which goes like this: "I'll always be there for you!" While this is a promise which is very often kept, it is the “always” which can become an issue. It is not always possible to be there at the exact time of a crisis.
Because life events are unpredictable, unexpected situations will pop up, usually at the most inconvenient time and place. We spend an extensive amount of time on the tasks we must complete. We have deadlines to meet. And, in the process, our availability is consumed. Then, relationships begin to change and become somewhat estranged. For these reasons we must ask, “Can I fully guarantee that I will always be there for someone at the time they need me?
As is always the case – and this is an always we can depend upon – we need to seek guidance from the Word of God.
Look at the apostle Paul as he writes to Timothy, his son in the faith. He relates his experience as he stood on trial. Paul writes that at that trial no one stood with him, no one defended him. Everyone had forsaken him. None of his co-laborers in the ministry appeared to speak on his behalf, leaving him to speak for himself. Now, the reasons they didn’t support him likely varied from person to person. Perhaps they refused to do so. They may have been engaged in other vital tasks. Maybe they just feared for their lives if they acknowledged a relationship with Paul.
Whatever the reason (or excuse) the truth remains that before Paul had to stand trial for his faith they were with him, ministering alongside him. But when he was imprisoned and on trial, they had deserted him. As a result, Paul was left to defend himself against people who intended to silence Paul’s preaching of Jesus Christ.
What would our reaction be toward those who deserted us? It is important that we examine Paul’s response. Regardless of his disappointment Paul held no resentment towards them. He writes this to Timothy: "May it not be charged" or counted "against them".
Paul's response mirrors what we hear Stephen pray, as enemies of Christ chose to stone him to death. No one came to his defense either. But he prayed, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin" (Acts 7:60).
And, more significantly, it also mirrors Jesus' response as he hung on the cross and prayed to His Father, these words: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34).
Rather than charge his co-workers for their lack of availability to be present at his first trial, Paul forgives them. In doing so, he fulfills the teaching he gave to the churches in Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:13, when he said they should forgive others just as the Lord has forgiven them.
Of utmost importance to Paul at that time, and to us at this time, is that although no one was physically present at his first trial to stand with and support him, he was not alone! He writes to Timothy:
2 Timothy 4:17-18: But the Lord stood at 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.
He was not alone! The Lord stood with him and strengthened him as he stood and defended himself in the presence of the Roman generals who were seeking to silence him by locking him up to prevent the spreading of the message of the Christ. This knowledge of the Lord’s presence, although invisible, empowered him to stand boldly and defend the truth without fellow workers’ presence in the courtroom. The Lord supplied all the strength he needed to endure! Paul mentions here how the Lord delivered him from the lion’s mouth, meaning that he was not sentenced to death, but sentenced to prison time. For Paul, this was a victory, a gift, delivered by the hand of God. It also provided Paul an opportunity I am guessing he did not miss. And that is the opportunity to preach Christ to other prisoners.
What can we learn from Paul’s experience? Faithful friends and family members, having pledged that they will “always be there for you” may encounter times where they may not be available to comfort and support you in the manner that you, and they, desire. Follow the example of the apostle Paul and do not hold it against them despite the hurt they may cause as a result! And we should never forget and recognize that Person who can and has guaranteed to always be there for you is our Father God!
Moses encouraged the nation of Israel saying, "Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you” Deuteronomy 31:6. God is infinite, eternal, and omnipresent! Live with the assurance that whatever circumstances you face, the Lord has not and will never leave you alone! He will come alongside and stand with you even when no one else can or will!
Gary K Fair
12 January 2021