How do you know the outcome? How can you be confident when so many things around you are in disarray?
Paul thought he knew the outcome. In 2 Timothy 4:18, perhaps some of his last recorded words, Paul wrote with confidence “the Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.” Every? Every. Safely? Safely. That is confidence in the outcome.
What is more remarkable is that Paul wrote these words in the middle of turmoil and trouble that makes the head swim! He did not write in a vacuum of delusion but from house arrest where he stood condemned to die. These words were not ‘pie in the sky bye and bye’ but the words of a man at the close of one of the most incredible journeys through life imaginable. Paul was confident of the future because he knew the past. If we put his words in the context of this one paragraph alone we will get a glimpse of the depth of Paul’s confidence.
This paragraph begins in verse 9 as Paul urges his young pastor friend Timothy to come to see him as quickly as possible. Paul knows the end is near as the preceding paragraph reveals (6-8). But it is not only the brief window of time that moves Paul but the intense need of the moment. Consider Paul’s urgent need in the light of the people involved, or not involved, in it.
Demas. Demas found something better. He abandoned Paul and was off to Thessalonica. What the attraction of that place meant to Demas we cannot know. Perhaps it was home. Perhaps he was led there by something he met in Rome. Whatever happened to Demas, Paul described it as loving the ‘present world’ and as desertion. Demas left his post and thereby left Paul without whatever aid and comfort he had provided. Demas was on board as late as the writing of Colossians and Philemon. This was a fresh wound for Paul and it shows in his words.
Crescens, Titus, Tychicus. These men left also but apparently for different reasons. Tychicus’ mission is spelled out. Paul sent him to Ephesus, perhaps carrying the letters we call Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon. Any one of those letters is worth more than the gold in Fort Knox though no robber along the road would have thought so. What missions the others were about we do not know but Paul has no ill word about these men. He is simply missing these companions in a time of great personal need.
Luke. May God ever bless Luke, faithful to the end! Do you have such a friend. Count yourself blessed!
Mark. Paul once regarded this man a unfit for missionary work. He deserted on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:13) and became a bone of contention between Barnabas and Paul (Acts 15:36f). While Paul may have been wiser about the mission, Barnabas was wiser about the missionary. Something had transformed Mark into one ‘very useful for ministry.’ Get Mark! These were healing words for Mark to hear and for Paul to speak.
Alexander. Alexander was trouble. He caused great harm to Paul and he wasn’t through. He will get you if you don’t watch him carefully. Perhaps you know him by another name? Somehow he managed to isolate Paul in such a way that Paul felt that he was entirely alone. Entirely? Yes, that is what it felt like. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been there, do you? Nobody can help. Luke was there but at this moment it was like he wasn’t. Who can you tell? Who will come to your aid now, in this?
The Lord. Doesn’t it make you want to shout! When the chips are down as far as they will go, Paul was not alone and no Christian ever is! Strength He brings to the weak. Courage to the fearful. Hope to the despairing. Wisdom to the perplexed. Healing to the broken. Companionship, sweet, sweet companionship to the lonely. Right out of the lion’s mouth He brought His servant, His child Paul.
Verse 17 reveals that Paul knew he would finish his preaching task. We know why. Paul knew why. God rescues. That’s who He is and what He does. What He has done, He will do, till the last and final rescue comes and He walks His child safely into His heavenly kingdom.
Wow! Could that be me? Could that be you? If I can have that kind of confidence I might just manage today. That kind of confidence is known best by those who can look behind them and say ‘He has rescued me, over and over again. He will. He doesn’t change.”
What a wonderful Savior He is!