Jump Start # 2149
2 Timothy 4:16 “At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them.”
Our verse today shows a side of reality that we often do not want to admit or talk about. It’s one of the very things that causes some to walk away from the Lord and His people. The setting took place in Rome, the massive city of the Empire. Paul had been sent there to stand before Caesar. It was during this Roman period that many of the books of the N.T. were written. There had been a trial. Paul had squeaked through it. There would be a second trial, and that one would lead to his execution. He knew it was coming.
At his first trial, Paul stood alone. This is where our verse is found. No one supported me. All deserted me. No one sitting at his table, if they had such. No one to speak in his behalf. No one to encourage him. And, it’s not that they were all too far away and couldn’t make it. It wasn’t that they were all busy preaching and doing great things. Paul knew. It hurt. It hurt as much as what Caesar would say to him. They all deserted him. He hopes that what they did would be forgiven, by others and by God.
There are two sides to our verse today. There is Paul’s side and there is the side of those who deserted.
Let’s being with those who never came. Alone is a terrible feeling. I’ve seen it all too often. Someone sitting alone in the surgery waiting room. The doctor comes out, and tears flow down their face. No one to hug them. No one to hold a hand. No one to whisper words of comfort. All alone. I’ve seen it in a funeral home. A visitation is taking place in one room, and you pass another room, and there stands one or two people looking down in a casket. The room is empty. No one is in there. It seems that they are alone.
I can’t speak much for Paul’s times, but I understand our times. I live in it. We are busy. We are too busy with our selves and our own world. We assume others will be there, but they may be making the same assumption about us. We plan to stop by, but things happen, and it just doesn’t happen. We meant to send a card, but we forgot to pick one up at the store. Days turn into weeks and now, it seems too late.
Even in large congregations, people can feel alone. They can feel that there is no one that I can talk to. There is no one that I can count on. There is no one that will be there for me. And, too often that’s just what happens. In the hospital, out to rehab, and now back to worship and it seems very few even missed you. It seems very few even knew. Worse, it seems very few even cared.
Deserted is a terrible feeling, especially, as in Paul’s situation, it didn’t have to happen. It may well be that some were afraid of being arrested as well. Maybe they were thinking too much of saving their own skin and not thinking about Paul in that Roman dungeon. Often, we hide behind, “I’ll pray for you.” That’s wonderful, if you really do that. But that doesn’t excuse me of other obligations. Praying at home, means I don’t have to drive downtown to the hospitals to visit, fight traffic, pay to park, and give up an afternoon. I can just pray. I can pray means I don’t have to go to the funeral home, stand in line and try to think of something to say. I can just pray. I can pray which means I don’t have to take some food, which means, going to the store, baking something and then taking it over to the family. I can just pray. Prayers are powerful, but don’t let it be an excuse to get out of other things. “Saying, ‘In Jesus name, Amen,’” doesn’t end your responsibilities. We pray for the church to grow, well, after the Amen, we need to greet the visitors at worship and invite our friends. We pray for the sick, after the Amen, we need to go visit them. We pray for those who are mourning, after the Amen, we need to comfort. Prayer is powerful. It invites God into our world, but it doesn’t mean God takes over and I’m now finished with what I need to do.
Second, from Paul’s perspective, he was alone and deserted. I’ve not really looked into what Roman trials were like. But from our passage, I expect Paul scanned the audience, looking for a friendly face. That can make all the difference. We do that all the time. I do that. A kid is on the field playing sports, or on the stage preforming. He scans the crowd, looking for the face of mom or dad. He’s looking for confidence. When I preach in other places, I look for a face that I know. It’s comforting to see someone that you recognize and that loves you. Paul would have looked through that audience of strangers, and not seen anyone that he knew or anyone that was comforting to him. No one. Deserted and alone.
Abandoned. Forgotten. Alone. Scared. I was reading the obituary of someone the other day. It said that he passed away surrounded by those who loved him. That’s comforting. Paul didn’t have that. He stood alone at his trial. That’s enough to make some bitter. That’s enough to turn the stomach of some on the church. They don’t care about me, I’m not going back—ever.
However, with Paul, we find two wonderful thoughts for the deserted. It may happen to you someday. You may be alone in that waiting room. You may be alone and no one called to see how you are doing. Instead of being eaten up with sorrow, pity and loneliness, notice Paul.
First, he said, “may it not be counted against them.” Paul didn’t wash his hands of those who could have been there but weren’t. His attitude wasn’t, “just wait until they need me, I won’t be there.” He didn’t think, “After all I have done for them, I am finished helping them.” No. Not Paul. He hopes their failure will not be counted against them. He hopes Heaven forgives. He hopes others will forgive. He hopes others will be able to have the spirit that he did.
Second, the next verse states that the Lord stood with me and strengthened me. Paul wasn’t alone. He had someone all the time. He had the greatest with him. He not only had someone with him, but it was the Lord. And the Lord wasn’t just there, He helped Paul. He strengthened Paul. Paul got through this terrible time because of the Lord. Was the Lord literally there? No. The Lord is in Heaven. It was through faith. It was through hope, Scripture, eternal promises and a wonderful relationship with Jesus, that Paul knew the Lord was there.
Don’t give up on Jesus because others let you down. The Lord hasn’t done that. Don’t blame the Lord for the failures of others. Don’t throw the towel in on what you know is true and right.
Sometimes we have to go through a dark valley to witness all the love, support and care of others. It’s during those times that we often realize that we’ve never been there for others. We haven’t been in the surgery waiting room, we haven’t gone to the funeral home, we haven’t taken any food for others. Here we are on the receiving end of things and what a wonderful and helpful experience that has been. Now, our eyes are opened to do the same for others. Often, it takes that for us to see how important we are to each other.
Paul was deserted but he wasn’t ruined. Don’t let what others do ruin you. The Lord is with you.