At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.
But The Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.
And The Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever.
2 Timothy 4:16-18
Some seasons of life are just plain hard. They are heartbreaking and crushing. Things happen to us. Friends leave us when we need them most and we stand there picking up the shattered pieces of our broken hearts.
I wonder if Paul felt this way in this passage. The passage says no one stood with me. They all forsook me. One by one they left. Stung by the reminder of their words as they said, We are with you.
Here for the long haul. Never going anywhere else. We are sticking to you like glue Paul. And yet. Everyone suddenly got busy when the day turned dark and the path seemed narrow and winding.
Wrestling his thoughts to the ground while sitting in prison, Paul started capturing the thoughts in his mind running away from him. No Paul, you won’t think that. Like a hot air balloon he pulled them down over and over again. Pinning them by restricting them to capture his imagination.
Over and over again He replayed the scenario in His head to try and see if He missed something or He said something they misunderstood.
One by one He was either accused or they said He was unclear about the journey they were all on.
What exactly was the assignment? On more than one occasion they seem perplexed about what they were all doing.
Years ago, sitting under my Pastor as He cast vision for almost an hour about small groups changing to better meet the needs of a growing body.
Some people flinched, others stiffened up and went on lock down to their allegiance to their own golden calf.
After the meeting, there were more than a few who came up to me and said, What are we doing? I don’t understand what He is saying.
Why are we doing that? I like how we have always done it.
Needless to say, change is hard but rather than say how hard it is people just seem confused.
Or just say that they are. The underlying issue is to say they lacked clarity comforted their hearts from difficult change that they didn’t want to be part of.
Change Can Be Scary
Truthfully, change is scary. The unfamiliar freaks people out.
Paul had experienced this in ministry but also had some definite attacks from the enemy. He had his hands full.
His hands were full with situations, at this point his shoulder sure could have used an arm slung over it with support.
The arm of support did not come. His heart ached for it but the answer would be a no. Sometimes, the picture of Paul we paint is super human. The Apostle Paul, strong and mighty but He was weak too.
He had disappointment too. Had sorrow and tears too. He was abandoned too. Just like in this passage.
But the thing that sets him apart was the He says, May none of the things these people have done be charged against them.
I forgive them. I free them. I release them from being charged and indebted to me. I refuse to carry a grudge and nurse it. God your bigger. I know you are. It hurts but I trust you with it.
As you continue reading the passage it says, but The Lord stood with me and strengthened me. So the message would be fully preached through me.
Where We Put Our Focus
This was Paul looking past His right now focusing on what will be. Just like Jesus. For the joy that was set before him He endured the cross.
It was the other side of the pain that Jesus focused on, the purpose past the pain. This gave him courage, hope, even joy in the midst of his turmoil.
Purpose can do that. It can catapult you through really hard days and seasons if you will set your mind on what it is you are doing and the why behind it. This will give you stamina and endurance to go on.
Paul goes on to say. By the way, oh yeah, I was also delivered out of the mouth of the lion almost like it was an afterthought.
Maybe for Paul, after everything else He had endured He saw the lion attack as just another attack.
Our Mountain Lion Experience
I wish I could save that I got that bravery badge. Not so much. I can remember living in Colorado and we decided to go hiking behind a neighborhood close to where we live.
As we were hiking I saw a set of prints and called my husband over to observe them. Like everyone does, we googled it and discovered it looked like a mountain lions paw but it was dried so we proceeded on.
I had my suspicions but Doug said, Hey, I’m with you, so let’s go. I’m guessing the mountain lion whisperer was somewhere in his set of skills so, like love does, I blindly followed, after all, He is The Lion Whisperer.
After about a mile to two miles in I start scanning the wilderness around us because I sense something around me.. I have a sixth sense about stuff like wild animals and as sure as your reading this there is a mountain lion about 100 feet from us.
Man, I wish like Paul, I had the confidence to just say, God delivered us from his mouth, or eyesight.
He must have though because I didn’t see him. What did that tell me? It is coming to hunt us. Oh me of little faith.
Dear Lord, please don’t let a mountain lion eat us because we have work to do, your work. Greasing the wheel a little maybe, but hey, don’t judge I need leverage when facing this kitty that could eat me.
Not sure about you but my prayer language kicked into high gear and I did exactly what you are not supposed to do. Bolt.
Doug is trying to calm my fears but I can’t hear him over the noise of my heart beating out of my chest.
I am certain my adrenalin racing burned an extra 1000 calories that day. I’m not complaining, but I aint no Paul.
I’m kind of wanting the lion thing to be metaphorically not literally. Needless to say, I made it out. Not a scratch on me or Doug.
Never did see that snaggletooth again. I high five God in the air because I just know like Paul, he did deliver me.
Back to Paul
As you continue reading on into the passage Paul also says, and The Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom.
This clearly tells us that we will face evil and have to deal with it but we don’t have to fear it because we have authority over it.
We have a divine destiny that God himself is guarding. You are precious goods to him. You have a story inside of your life that He is preserving.
He will cancel evil assignments against you that threaten the testimony He is working in you.
Paul had a testimony to carry into the world, His message wouldn’t be put out or quenched and neither will yours if you don’t quit.
When the heat gets turned up on you, fire back. Don’t be passive. Forgive those who have hurt you. Don’t charge it against them. Strengthen what is in you by continuing to move ahead with your message just like Paul did.