Updated: Jun 1
This Week's Scripture & Reflection: II Timothy 4:16-18
There's no pain quite like the pain of a broken promise! It cuts to the core of your being and challenges your perspective of the individual who made you the promise in the first place! One particular vow that is common among friends and even family members goes something like this: "I'll always be there for you!" While this is an admirable vow to make, it is not entirely feasible when you consider the word "always". Life in and of itself is utterly unpredictable; unexpected events and or emergencies occur when you least expect it, time spent working on assorted tasks and assignments consume your availability, and relationships undergo various changes due to a myriad of different reasons. Can you fully guarantee that you are always going to be there for someone when they need you?
Consider the apostle Paul at his very first public trial, presumably for the prison sentence he is serving while writing this epistle to Timothy, his spiritual son. Paul somberly informs Timothy that at his first defense, "no one" stood with him, but that "all" forsook him. All of his co-laborers in the ministry failed to show up at that critical first trial, leaving the apostle Paul slightly discouraged by their absence. It is uncertain whether his companions refused to be present, whether they were unavailable, or whether they did not take the initiative to make themselves available. Nevertheless, the truth remains that prior to the first trial, they were with Paul, and by the time the first trial took place, they had left him. As a result, Paul was forced to defend himself without the much-needed support of his companions in the midst of a cohort of people who were intent on doing whatever they could to silence him!
Despite his co-laborers abandoning him at a very critical time, the apostle Paul held no resentment towards them. In fact, he writes to Timothy saying,"May it not be charged" or counted "against them". Paul's response to his companions abandoning him mirrors Stephen's response to a crowd of angry and offended citizens who stoned him to death: "Lord, do not charge them with this sin" (cf. Acts 7:60). It also mirrors Jesus' notable response to those who tortured and crucified Him on the cross: "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do" (cf. Luke 23:34). Rather than indict his co-laborers for their failure to be present at his first indictment, Paul forgives them and fulfills the instructions he gave to the Ephesian and Colossian saints to forgive others just as the Lord has forgiven them (cf. Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13).
Most importantly, Paul recognized that although no one was physically present at his first trial to stand with and support him, he was not alone! He informs Timothy that 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 imprison him for spreading the gospel message. Paul's conviction of the Lord's invisible yet tangible presence empowered him to stand firmly and defend the truth despite the physical absence of his fellow kingdom workers. Surely, their presence at his trial would have comforted and encouraged him even more, yet Paul was in no way deficient without them because the Lord supplied all the strength he needed to endure! Paul also makes mention of how the Lord rescued him from the "mouth of the lion". This was a reference to how he escaped a potential death sentence at his first trial, which could have certainly been the outcome! In comparison to an immediate death sentence, being sentenced to prison was actually a gracious gift!
No matter how many faithful friends & family members you have, you will encounter moments where they may not be available to comfort and support you in the manner that you desire. Follow the example of the apostle Paul and do not hold it against them despite the hurt they may cause as a result! Moreover, recognize that the only Person who can and has guaranteed to always be there for you is 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" (cf. Deuteronomy 31:6). God is infinite, eternal, and omnipresent! The psalmist David lets us know that there is no place that we can flee to that is void of His presence (cf. Psalm 139:7-8). Be reassured that in 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!
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