Monday, February 01 2016
In my studies this morning, I was reading II Timothy 4. The Apostle Paul was writing a letter to the son in the gospel, Timothy. The purpose of the epistle was to ask Timothy to come and spend time with the elder.
The year was approximately 66 AD and Paul sat in a prison. His execution was nearing and he penned a letter to Timothy, but as he concluded it became very sad. The thought of his execution must have weighed heavy on Paul. He had influenced thousands through his ministry. Churches had been planted. God had used him in miracles and prophecies. He had written inspired words that would become the 2/3 of the New Testament.
His faith in God stayed strong and he understood that his life and ministry was coming to a close. He wrote, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." But it is what he wrote next that seemed to strike me as sad.
9 Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: 10 For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. 12 And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus. 13 The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments. 14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: 15 Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words. 16 At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.
It seemed all those (but Luke) that Paul had invested in through discipling had abandoned him. Demas had backslidden (called a fellow laborer in Phm 24) and Alexander had done something that he called "evil". Paul had spent hours with these men and in the time of need they had abandoned him. He felt alone.
Ministry can be lonely. Jesus died with only one disciple at the cross having been betrayed by one and denied by another. David wrote of "the valley of the shadow of death" . Joseph was a slave and prisoner in Egypt before becoming second in command. Noah preached for many years to only have his family board the ark.
In reading verse 9 - 16, it is hard not to feel sorry or even empathize with the apostle. We have all had friends or family seem to leave us in the most desperate of times. It is verse 17 that gives Paul's real attitude toward the situation.
17 Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.
In his letter, he explained to Timothy that many of those that he had blessed through ministry had left him, but God has always been faithful. He was alone, but not alone. God had revealed to him the impact of his ministry.
God has never abandoned us and we should ask that he open our eyes so that we can see the full impact of our influence and ministry on others. His strength will carry us through the worst of our trials. The Apostle Paul continued to write of God's plan for him.
18 And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
You are not alone. God is faithful.