The Lord Stands With Us In Trials

April 24, 2022 Speaker: Reid Strahan Series: Second Timothy - Guard the Deposit

Topic: Perseverance of the Saints Passage: 2 Timothy 4:9–18

Our scripture this morning shows us that people sometimes disappoint us.  And it also shows us how to NOT let that disappointment dominate our hearts.  When people fall short of our expectations, OUR response can be bitterness.  OR we can believe that the Lord stands with us and that he REALLY is enough.  And we can still say, “All glory and praise be to him!”     

This passage does begin with Paul being left alone and feeling let down. 

In his book on Martin Luther, Carl Truman said, “the word addresses us at the core of our being, learning it, is never purely (mental) exercise. It grips our soul, drives us to despair and lifts us up to the very portals of heaven.”  Part of the reason the Word speaks to us at the very core of our being, is because it reveals the struggles of its greatest heros, Abraham, Job, David and others.  Paul is real about HIS inner battles.  Paul said, “We were afflicted on every side, conflicts without and fears within.”

Here, we see that Paul is lonely and disappointed by people. He doesn’t cover up that others have neglected him, deserted him or harmed him. The scriptures freely talk about our deepest thoughts, emotions and troubles.  And then we find help from the scriptures at the very point we need help, which as Luther said, is at the very core of our being.   

But the word also lifts us to the very portals of heaven.  And that is exactly where Paul takes us in this passage.  We may feel despair, loneliness, we may really be under attack, we may be treated unfairly.  But that is NEVER the whole story for us.  And it can never be the place we allow our feelings to stay.  That can never be the place we settle.  That can never dominate our attitude about life or our future.  

We are never ultimately merely victims of mistreatment.  Because we are the Lord’s.  And the Lord ALWAYS stands by us, even through the darkest night.  And He always overcomes any situation we are living through! 

And so Paul expresses his utter confidence in the Lord no matter who has left him.  “The Lord stood by me, and he strengthened me…. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Paul’s circumstances didn’t change! But he sees a greater truth than his loneliness and his disappointment in people.  He sees the LORD!! And he boasts in the Lord! And He sings glory to God from his prison cell! 

So with that big picture let’s go back and work our way through the details of this scripture.  

Just prior to this section of Paul’s letter he had declared to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” There is no more inspiring statement that anyone could make at the end of life.  But there is nothing glamorous, at all, about the fight, when you are in it. You actually feel the wounds of battle, the loneliness of the fight.  The real life situation on the ground can be brutal! 

Here is what the fight looked like for Paul: 

First..*Paul was in prison! This was Paul’s second time prison in Rome.  The first time is described by Luke at the end of Acts.  And at that time many people came to him.  But now he is in a much more repressive situation.

Paul was rearrested at some point and placed, according to church tradition, in the Mamertine Prison.  One historian called the Mamertine Prison the “House of Darkness.” He said, “Few prisons were as dim, dank, and dirty.” It was also called a dungeon.  And the Roman historian Sallust, said, this dungeon’s “neglect, darkness, and stench” gave it “a hideous and terrifying appearance”. 

And Paul was aware he would be executed soon.  As he told Timothy the time of my departure is near.  So that was Paul’s daily circumstances.  I doubt that any of ours are that bleak.  But...

We do live through many disturbing, and unpleasant situations.  Sometimes life is very hard!  Sometimes we find ourselves in trouble by our own sin or unwise decisions. Sometimes we are put into a painful or lonely situation because of someone else’s sin or poor decisions.  You may even be in a hard situation for doing the very thing God has called you to do!   You chose to serve God and now it seems it has ended up in disaster!  

Jesus was sent from God yet ended up betrayed, flogged and crucified.  Paul was doing exactly what God called him to do, yet here he is in a dark, lonely prison cell. Sometimes real life is hard.

Secondly*Paul was lonely. He felt the need of a friend. Verse 9 Timothy, “Do your best to come to me soon.!”  Sometimes you feel like you really need a friend.  Part of Paul’s loneliness came from the reality that he was in prison. Some times isolation is enforced on us by circumstances: from sickness or divorce or death of a spouse or close friend.    

God designed us to be together. In Philippians 2:25 Paul called Epaphroditus my brother, and fellow worker and fellow soldier.  But here at the end of his life, Paul is suffering from the absence of human companionship.  

-Paul was alone to some degree simply because some good friends had other good things they must do.  “Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. And I sent Tychicus to Ephesus.”  These men were all carrying out the work of the Lord.  They were not really supposed to be there with Paul.  Sometimes people are gone for good reasons and sometimes it is not for good reasons. Regardless of the reasons, being alone or going on alone is a situation we sometimes face.

Third: *A fellow worker has deserted Paul.  Verse 4 NASB “For Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me...”   Demas had been with Paul and worked with Paul in preaching and in building up the church.  But then abandoned him to pursue his interests in the world. It is obvious that Paul was deeply disappointed in Demas.  His desertion was all the more painful because of how close they had been.  

Jesus went through this with Judas.  “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” 

Perhaps there was someone in your life, who you thought was with you in the trenches to the end, and then they are not.  That friend who said they’d always be your friend is no longer there.  These are the kinds of real disappointments we fight through!  

Of course what magnifies Paul’s grief over Demas, is the REASON Demas deserted him.  He fell in love with this present world.  He loved the same things unbelievers loved.  John said “I have no greater joy than to see my children walking in the truth”.  And I think he would have said I have no greater grief than seeing my children pulled back into the world.  Seeing others defect and desert, is one of the most discouraging things we endure. But it is a part of the fight.  

Fourth: *Paul had enemies who wanted to harm him.  “Alexander the copper-smith did me great harm.”  In 1 Timothy chapter 1 Paul identified Alexander as one who had rejected faith and a good conscience and so had suffered shipwreck with regard to faith.  If that is the same Alexander, he had professed to be a believer, but then rejected his faith, turned against Paul. He may have sought to stir up the authorities against Paul to get him arrested.

Often we feel hurt when people have no intention of hurting us.  But sometimes people actually try to hurt us. And that’s part of what we have to walk through at times.  

Paul still viewed Alexander as a dangerous person. He warned Timothy, “Be on guard against him yourself”.  He strongly opposed our message, and he will work against you too Timothy!  Paul speaks from many years of experience in ministry. He’s been in the fight and he knows this stuff happens!

The result of all this was that Paul felt a great need for Timothy to come.  “Do your best to come to me soon.”  The Lord uses other people as his instruments of blessing, joy and comfort, and Paul knew that.  He once told the Corinthians, “God who comforts the depressed comforted me by the coming of Titus.”  2 Corinthians 7:6  He presses Timothy to come, reminding him that Luke is the only one still with him. 

I am sure Paul was deeply grateful to have Luke but Luke probably had other responsibilities in Rome and could only actually be with Paul a limited amount of time.  So Paul wanted Timothy and he wanted him to bring Mark also.   

Verse 11 “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.”  Paul and Mark had their differences after Mark deserted Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary trip.  But that has long been forgiven and Paul wants him to come too.  And he had plans to give him some kind of work that would help him.   

Verse 13 “bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.  David Guzik says this suggests that Paul was arrested at Troas, and foreseeing this coming, left behind his coat, books and papers with a trusted friend named Carpus.  Regardless if that is the case or not, this certainly reminds us how God can encourage us through things like a coat or a book or something to write on.  So if you want to encourage someone don’t underestimate the value of simply being there, or bringing a needed gift. 

Then Paul again impresses on Timothy how alone he is and the magnitude of disloyalty and desertions he had experienced. Verse 16 “At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me.”  This refers to the first hearing of his present imprisonment. 

Ray Stedman said, “This was a very dangerous time in Rome. The Emperor Nero was noted for his vindictiveness. If anybody even appeared to be against him, Nero's assassins were all throughout the city, ready to take the man's life. Evidently no Christian was ready to risk his life by standing up for Paul, so he had to face this preliminary hearing all alone.”  

Paul felt the pain of this disloyalty!  But he said..Verse 17 “May it not be charged against them!” Paul was not vindictive toward them.  And the things he goes on to say, will show us how Paul could forgive and not harbor resentment about this. 

So at this point in the letter Paul has finished describing the hard facts of his situation.  For him it was prison, loneliness and unfaithful friends.  And if he stopped there it COULD sound like Paul was depressed and defeated. But then he goes on to tell us how he is looking at all this! 

It’s true, no one else was there, “BUT the Lord stood by me!”  It’s okay.  It doesn’t matter.  It didn’t destroy me that people left me!  Because the Lord was there. 

We acknowledge our real problems hurts and disappointments.  But we must never STOP there.  We must never STAY in that place.  We can’t just look down, we have to look up. Paul said...The Lord WAS there!  Right when all deserted me, I WAS NEVER alone!  

Don’t think of your past without the Lord standing with you! Even in that dark lonely experience, the Lord was there! You can say, “The Lord stood by me!”  That takes the darkness out of your past, your present and your future. 

Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.  

Hebrews 13:5 He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” 

The Lord’s presence is the ultimate solution to everything in life!  Do not be anxious about anything! The Lord is at hand! The Lord is near!  You can say, “I am going through this really hard battle.”  But you MUST also say, “The Lord is right here with me!”

Next Paul said, “And he strengthened me.”  He was tried before Roman authorities in a Roman courtroom before men who likely had no compassion for him, without one friend with him.  But the Lord was there! And he gave him the power to go through that! 

And that’s why he said, “May this not be held against anyone.”  When we see that we are taken care of by the Lord himself, we lose our need to retaliate, to blame, to get even.  We are fine because the Lord is with us!  The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing!  No human being, no relationship problem, no circumstance can ruin your life because the Lord stands by you.  He will deliver you from every evil deed! 

Paul went on to say the Lord strengthened me “so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.”  I think Paul boldly proclaimed Jesus as Savior of the world, right there in that Roman court room.  God gave him the strength to do that! He is rejoices in that!

“So I was rescued from the lion's mouth.”  Paul may have thought he would immediately be executed but he was given some kind of reprieve at his first hearing.  Instead of bemoaning his trial and imprisonment, he declares that the Lord delivered him! 

And verse 18 “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.” Paul was convinced that nothing could ultimately harm him.  Paul was no fool. He did not think he was immune to physical harm.  But he knew even death was victory for a Christian. 

Then Paul breaks out in worship, “To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”  Paul had no home, very few clothes, very few loyal friends, and death was coming soon. Yet he said to Him be the glory forever and ever. 

If you let what people have done to you dominate your mind and heart, your heart will never be free to sing Glory to God.  But if you see the Lord standing with you, if you glory in his strength and his help, it will fill your heart with worship. 

Paul was in prison but his heart was free. When you can say all glory be to him, regardless of what happens to me, that is real freedom.  Regardless of what’s going on in my circumstances, or my business, or at work, or with my possessions, or relationships, all glory be to him forever and ever.  

Spurgeon said, "This one thing I know, Christian: You are not acting as you ought to do when you are moved by any other motive than the one motive of your Lord's glory.”  Not what about me, not what about my feelings.  It what about God’s glory!   

And so that is the way we fight our battles! That is how we go through life! Yes this is going on, that is going on.  But all glory to you!

I want us to practice making two confessions of faith from this passage. The first is “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me.” The second is this: To him be all the glory forever and ever. Amen.

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