When everyone one else had deserted him during his first Roman imprisonment, Paul wrote:
At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. (2 Timothy 4:16-17)
It’s comforting to know that the Lord will remain by our sides, even when all others leave us. And it’s reassuring to know that God will give us strength to endure the difficulties that we face. However, I’ll be honest; this is not the way I would have chosen to see God’s power demonstrated.
If I had been Paul, I would have wanted God’s power to be more dramatic – like it was when he was imprisoned with Silas (Acts 16). At that time when God showed up, iron chains were broken; jail cells were sprung open. Now, THAT’s more like it, God!
But, look closely at Paul’s words. His main concern was NOT that he would be empowered to break out of prison (like I would have wanted). No, Paul’s main concern was that the gospel would be proclaimed as fully as possible. To him, prison simply meant a new audience with whom to share the gospel. He used his earthly pain for heavenly purposes.
It’s a reminder to us all that God can use every circumstance in our lives for His kingdom. He can use our current messes and our current stresses for His purposes – if we’ll allow Him to. Troubles are going to come. Why not ask God what He might wish to do through you during them instead of fighting to get out? –Dave
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