The Lord Stood with Me

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. 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. (2 Timothy 4:16–17 KJV 1900)

The Apostle Paul is the poster-boy for perseverance. He sailed across seas and marched across continents to preach the gospel. And so determined was he in this quest that on one occasion the Holy Spirit had to step-in to keep him from going to Asia! This aggressive style meant that Paul often assaulted people’s sensibilities — hey, time was short! So Paul couldn’t afford to focus on whether or not people liked him; he had to please God rather than men… and that “rather” cost him at many junctures in his life.

Rome’s tolerance of “the Way” waned as Christianity grew in the empire — and Paul (although a Roman citizen) had to “explain” himself to the government on more than one occasion. It was during one of these detentions that Paul wrote to Timothy and reported that “no man stood with me.” Like today, a character witness might have come and stood with him during the proceedings, but Paul was alone.

Where were his friends? True, some were engaged legitimately elsewhere — but what of the rest? Were they too busy doing “other things” on that day? It is likely that when the heat of persecution grew more intense, that the marginally committed Christians left Paul alone in the fire. But it is in instances like these, when you look around and realize that you stand alone, that you see God most clearly — and this was Paul’s testimony in verse seventeen.

Paul did have many friends in the gospel — some whom he named by name and described the specific comfort that they had been to him. Occasionally he mentioned the rogues — those who betrayed him or caused him harm — and you may see parallels in your own life. Surely, we all have lists of people who fit into one category or another — the good-guys and the bad guys. Although that type of mental list-keeping is not necessarily harmful, thinking about “the bad guys” in a hateful way is… according to Jesus’ teachings, anyway.

I realize that we cannot help but sort people into lists as they pop into our minds — that’s normal. But we should minimize the damage by letting the list dissolve. Paul taught that love “does not rejoice at wrongdoing,” so “keeping” such a list would be like keeping a garden — a carefully tended garden of sin. By way of contrast, love should flow in spite of our lists. Jesus loved us while we were yet sinners, and we should do the same. Love is not a feeling; it is a choice. Love is not an ethereal musing; it is a behavior. So, who showed-up at Paul’s indictment? God did. And what does this show? That God loved him…and what else would Paul need?

We all brag about God when things are going well. “What a great God! He is doing thus and so…” But what about putting him on the spot in times of real trial! Test him — as a Brother, a Father or a Friend. He will stand with you, you know... and he does this more than we realize. Our problem is that we do not always look around to see if he is there. Paul did — and he did this to his own comfort. As God was sufficient for Paul in his trial, he will be sufficient for you in yours.

Now, we should not abdicate our right to have Christian friends and supporters stand with us, and we should, as far as possible, stand with the brethren in their trials. But we are weak and time-bound creatures — hampered by finite resources, emotions and love. But God is boundless — and the dark valleys should make us seek his boundless comfort. Now, he may seem to tarry while you go through your trials, but when the time is full he will stand by you in a way that only he can — and you will know that you are in the presence of the Living God, your Friend.

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