Thursday, December 06, 2012

THE COMFORT OF GOD'S PRESENCE

Life has a way of separating us from people we know-- people we consider friends, associates, and even loved ones.  Sometimes it is no one’s particular fault; we just get busy with our own affairs and a slow separation occurs. Other times, the separation can be traced to a particular circumstance or set of circumstances.  The latter was the case with the apostle Paul, who was imprisoned in Rome and awaiting his execution at the hands of the wicked Emperor Nero.  During the last months of his life, he wrote a letter to a young man named Timothy, whom he longed to see for the last time.  It is not known if that desire to see his son in the faith was ever realized. More than likely, it was not.  One thing we do know is that Paul didn’t have many friends to comfort or encourage him. Only Luke was with him (2 Timothy 4:11).  Better one than none. But at his first defense before the Roman officials he was all alone. He writes,At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge” (2 Timothy 4:16). Where was the Church of Rome, to which Paul had penned a letter years earlier?  Of all the people which comprised its membership throughout the city, not one stood by his side. Certainly they knew the troubles which had come upon him, because Paul asked God to forgive them.

It is sad, but not surprising, that no one came to his defense. Out of fear for their own lives, they chose the easy path, not the noble one, and abandoned Paul in his time of need.  Remarkably, Paul responded with grace toward them; he did not become bitter. How could this be?  Paul does not leave us guessing.  The truth is that he never was completely alone; Jesus was with him. In Paul’s own words, we read, Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion” (2 Timothy 4:17).  Jesus was true to His promise: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5b).  The hardships we face in life may be small compared with those Paul experienced; nevertheless, the Lord’s presence is just as certain and just as real.  He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother and will strengthen us when our strength is gone. He will cheer us up when we are down, and He will guide us when we don’t know what to do.  God will never abandon his children.  The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).   Knowing that God cannot lie, I rest in the thought that His word to Israel is just as true for everyone who has put his faith in Him: Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb: And even to your old age I am he; and even to your gray hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you” (Isaiah 46:3,4).

Thank you Lord Jesus!