Only in You, dear Lord, is there meaning for my suffering and hope for my sacrifice. I praise You for the gift of life and faith.
2 Timothy 4:9-22
Consider: Reflect on the mystery of Jesus' cry of dereliction: "My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46). Give thanks that his abandonment means that we never have to face being abandoned.
The epistle began by stressing the importance of relationship, focusing on the strong bond between Paul and Timothy and the importance of family to faith. As it concludes, relationships are again in the forefront, but now in darker tones (alluded to in 1:15). Paul reveals the importance of relationships to him; he needs people's support. It hurts deeply when they desert him. This is a sensitive man who misses people, who is stung by their opposition, who needs a (favorite?) cloak and wants to get hold of his scrolls. Calling does not equal painlessness. Some are called to isolated ministry and can, like Elijah, feel that they alone are left (1 Kings 18:22). For some, the call is to singleness with its potential loneliness. This, and more, is part of the reality of discharging our duty (5).
On the flip-side, but without eradicating the pain entirely, Paul is able to testify to the Lord standing at his side when on trial (17). One cannot help but see Jesus standing where Paul stood, "rejected and alone, like a rose trampled on the ground" (Michael W. Smith), and therefore able to empathize with Paul in his deserted state. Just as Jesus was rescued from death, so Paul was delivered from his immediate plight and, through the resurrection of Jesus, was assured of deliverance into the heavenly kingdom (18). That promise of an understanding Jesus and a rescuing Lord kept Paul steady when he might have crumpled.
For Timothy and for us, insight into Paul's approach to ministry becomes liberating and challenging. It frees us from the temptation to be seen as invulnerable, able to face whatever is thrown at us and to brush it aside. It is also deeply challenging, causing us to draw afresh on the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2:1).
What is the worst thing you might have to face today? Tell Jesus about it and ask for his presence.
I thank You, Lord, that belonging to You also means I belong to the Body of Christ. I am grateful for the encouragement and richness that gift brings to my life.
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