Be Thankful

2 Timothy 4:17-22

Have spent the last 14 months studying about “God’s Plan for the Church”, his household. Have worked our way passage by passage through 1 & 2 Timothy along with much of Titus. Have covered roles of men and women, qualifications for leadership, deacons and elders, personal character of man and woman of God. Here we are, at the end of Paul’s last letter that we have a copy of, nearly at the end of Paul’s life. Written to Timothy, but not strictly as a personal letter. Paul knew would be read in the churches. How he closes letter intended as encouragement to Timothy and saints in the church.

In way typical of Paul, turns the conversation to what was most important to him: Lord Jesus. I’m sure letters aren’t much different from what face-to-face conversation would have been. Only go for just so long before Paul had something to say, word of praise or thanksgiving to Lord Jesus. Paul’s exhortations to “give thanks in everything”, to rejoice not empty words; they reflect the way he lived his life, right to the end.

In our text, Paul identifies four things that should cause us to be thankful: the Lord stands with us so we’re never alone; the Lord empowers us to do his work when our own strength fails; the Lord has delivered us and will continue to deliver us; the Lord will bring us safely home to his presence

A. the Lord stood by (with) me

read last time in v.16: “At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me.”

surely what it looked like – Paul, exposed to view as the accused prisoner, standing alone before authorities and gathered crowd

don’t know for certain what the charges were, but obviously serious; whatever specifics were, had something to do with Paul’s faith and public witness to it

as he reviewed that event in mind’s eye while writing to Timothy, could see that no one was standing beside him – no advocate, no legal defense team, no supportive witnesses – just Paul,…. and everyone else

but wait, someone else was there, not visible to naked eye, but certainly obvious to eye of faith

Paul knew theological truth: God is omnipresent, present everywhere and throughout all time; probably knew Jesus’ parting words – “behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” Matt. 28:20

also knew from experience – had sensed in his spirit the presence of his Savior in times of great need

and could see evidence of Christ’s presence in his circumstances: was strengthened, delivered, preserved

Jim Duran – Pastor Aaron, travel documents not ready, traveling alone to Kenya; smile, “guess I won’t really be traveling alone, will I?”

psalmist understood – see Psalm 139:7-12

same true for us – Heb. 13:5-6, 8 “For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” …Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

can count on Savior’s presence, standing by us in all circumstances – be thankful the Lord stands with you so you’re never alone

B. strengthened (empowered)

Lord Jesus not simply a bystander – observing but not interfering or intervening, taking no active part in event

was there for good purpose – to strengthen, empower his servant in his circumstances

goes far beyond simple endurance – Lord, give me strength to endure this challenging situation

what Paul experienced was Lord Jesus actively providing power for Paul to actively serve God in his situation

notice how text reads: “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.”

what could Paul possibly mean by that? here’s likely scenario:

called before Roman authorities, possibly Nero, charged with crime that carried death penalty

charges probably included sedition – inciting other people to do what was illegal, to resist lawful authority

hearing would have been held in large public area near the arena – space for thousands of spectators, vast majority of them Gentiles

Paul’s response to the charges? – likely did not try to use classic defense as we would think of it, refuting the charges, bringing character witnesses, establishing an alibi for whereabouts, trying to show reasonable doubt of his guilt

why did he say the Lord strengthened him? so the message might be preached

these the charges, here’s what I’ve been preaching – you be the judge

off he went, preaching the Gospel, declaring truth about God for as long as was allowed to speak

so what if he was on trial for his life, he had an audience, those who desperately needed to hear the Gospel

once again, turned the conversation to things of God, eternal matters, topic of real substance

thousands of Gentiles from all over Roman Empire, there voluntarily to see the spectacle, Paul preaches the Gospel

not interested in finding a loophole for himself, a way to avoid conviction as a criminal; more interested in giving hope to the hopeless, pointing those lost in sin to a Savior

not the sort of thing you do in your own strength – requires empowering of Lord Jesus to be strong ambassador for him in tough circumstances

maybe life not a stake – family or neighbor relationship or employment: not only will Lord Jesus be with you in that situation, will empower you to be effective witness for him

be thankful the Lord empowers you to do his work when your own strength fails

C. delivers

in reality, being delivered from lion’s mouth another time added to list of previous deliverances

if you’ve been a Christian for more than ten minutes, can probably point to times when God has delivered you from serious harm

not sure if reference is to Nero but certainly could have been – hated Christians, blamed fire that destroyed large part of Rome on Christians, a perverted tool of Satan who treated Christians cruelly

Paul had at least been delivered from Nero’s designs at his first hearing; certainly was delivered from his arch-enemy Satan on this occasion as well as others

Paul has more significant deliverance in view in v.18 – deliverance from evil deeds, his own and those of others

what are things that are most distressing about this life? things that come about because of sin

remember why Joseph was to call his name Jesus: he shall save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21)

here’s Paul expressing his confidence in that truth – that Lord Jesus would deliver him from his own sin, ultimately from the corruption of sin and its effects on world around us

none of things that came about because of the Fall, consequences of sin in people and the world, will be present in new heavens and new earth

be thankful the Lord has delivered us and will continue to deliver us

D. and preserve (bring me safely home)

deliverance from sin is great, but what are we delivered to? that’s important, also

Paul declared confidently that Lord Jesus who stood with him and empowered and delivered him will bring him safely into his heavenly kingdom

Paul did not fear death, confidently awaited it knowing what it would bring – passage to real life

remember rock and hard place he found himself between: Phil. 1:21-24For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. Now if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean productive work for me, yet I don’t know which I prefer: I feel torn between the two, because I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, but it is more vital for your sake that I remain in the body.” NET

look at where Paul’s confidence was – the Lord will preserve me, will bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom

we talk about the perseverance of the saints – that those who are truly born again “can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but they shall certainly persevere in grace to the end and be eternally saved”. LBCF 17.1

is it that saints perservere or that the Lord preserves them? answer is “yes”, both are true

the one that carries the day – that God preserves his own, doing all necessary to bring them safely home

if you are child of God, rest in absolute assurance that “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5:8)\

be thankfulthe Lord will bring us safely home to his presence

E. to him be the glory

notice who is focus of attention in these two verses: Lord Jesus – he is one who stood with, who empowered, who delivered, and who preserved apostle Paul

Paul not a special case – Lord Jesus gives same kind of attention to all his brothers and sisters

Paul a wonderful servant, marvelously converted from enemy to friend of Lord Jesus, used in remarkable ways to build and strengthen Christ’s church – but he earned nothing because of his labors

Paul was who he was and did what he did solely by the grace of God; said so himself (1 Cor. 15:10)

same is true for us – do nothing worthwhile in our own strength; only as we depend on Lord Jesus that we can be useful servants, faithful brothers and sisters

Lord Jesus deserves glory not just now, but forever for what he has done on our behalf

when in next life we have clear vision, able to see what Jesus has really accomplished for us his people, eternity will not be long enough to praise and thank him and give him the glory

Meanwhile, we live in the here and now. How is it with your soul? Are you thankful as Paul was? Can you see evidence of God at work in your life? Are you confident he will bring you safely home? If so, whatever the immediate future holds, should be able to say it is well with your soul.

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