A Bible study through 2 Timothy
At the end of 2 Timothy, Paul gives his usual list of people who work alongside him and send greetings. However, the flavor of these closing remarks is slightly different as evidenced by the very last part where Paul shares that all of the brothers actually deserted him when he was brought before the emperor and that even now only Luke was with him. This would have been a difficult season of Paul’s life, but in the midst of it he has joy and peace. Even though he knows that death is fast approaching, he has a very unique perspective on God’s faithfulness and goodness to him during this trial and gives God glory for rescuing him from danger. So as we face the end of what has been a difficult year for many, let’s learn from Paul and see what he has to teach us.
“At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” ~2 Timothy 4:16-18
The first lesson Paul teaches us is that no matter what your friends may do, God never leaves you. Notice the strong verbiage Paul used, “The Lord stood by me and strengthened me.” Paul didn’t just experience warm fuzzy feelings. In the midst of his trial and feeling abandoned by earthly friends, he felt God’s presence within, standing by him and strengthening him.
That’s what God wants to do in all of our lives! However, we must be familiar with His presence in order to recognize it. We need to have a relationship with our Creator in order to experience divine strengthening. Do you have that kind of relationship with God? In difficult times, can you say with confidence that the Lord stood by you and strengthened you?
The second truth we find in this passage is that God’s purposes are never thwarted. Paul’s one mission in life was to preach the gospel. It was God’s specific assignment to Paul and above all else Paul wanted to be faithful in that. So because God was with him and strengthened him, Paul was able to fulfill his life’s calling even in the most challenging situations. He was able to preach the gospel before the emperor so that all present might hear the good news of Jesus.
Therefore, we can trust God when our lives seem to take a sudden detour. His plans and purposes are never thwarted by circumstances. God is never taken off guard or surprised by events. But He will give us all that we need and the opportunities to fulfill the special missions He has entrusted to us no matter what season of life we’re in. We just need to trust Him, be bold when the opportunities arise, and walk forward in faith.
Thirdly, God doesn’t always rescue us from difficult circumstances, but He will always save us from the real enemy. Notice what Paul says next: “So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.” This seems like an odd declaration since Paul literally wrote this letter while on death row in Rome. So how was he rescued from the lion’s mouth if he was waiting his turn to die?
I always thought that Paul was referring to a literal lion in this passage. But after studying this verse in context, I realized that Paul was not referring to a lion in the literal sense but figuratively. In the New Testament, Satan is likened to a lion. Peter says that he’s a prowling lion looking to devour unsuspecting, naïve people (1 Peter 5). Therefore, in the context of 2 Timothy, Paul is referring to Satan as the lion he was rescued from.
But why would Paul say that he was rescued from the lion’s mouth? Well, remember what Paul’s mission was: preach the gospel in season and out of season. Also, look at the sentence structure in the previous verse. Paul says, “But the Lord…so that.” Because God stood by him and strengthened him, Paul was able to fulfill his mission. If God had not given him the courage and strength, Paul would have failed. And if Paul would have failed his calling, Satan would have gained a victory. Therefore, Paul says that God rescued him from the lion’s mouth referring to the fact that God saved him from bowing and conforming to Satan’s designs and attempts to stop the gospel.
However, Paul was still facing death. He wasn’t safe from physical harm, but rather knew that God protected him spiritually. So while God might not always rescue us from the physical elements of our trials and circumstances, He will always give us what we need to fight against our spiritual enemy. Just as Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane that God would not take us out of this world, but rather protect us from the evil one (John 17).
Therefore, you might be in the middle of a fiery trial, a fierce storm, or devastating tragedy that God has not rescued you from. But you can rest and confidently be assured that God will save you from the evil designs and intentions of Satan if you will accept and trust His strengthening presence and divine sovereignty.
Finally, Paul teaches us that we have a divine Escort who will lead and guide us safely into eternity. We just need to follow Him. Throughout his life, Paul saw God faithfully lead and direct him as he traversed the Roman Empire, stood before kings and rulers, and eventually gave his life for the sake of the gospel. God does not promise us an easy life, but He does promise to walk with us through all the challenges. We may face suffering, death, loss, and heartbreak, but God will safely guide and lead us into eternity. We just need to trust Him, walking in faith and following His leading.
The Apostle Paul was divinely escorted through the streets of Rome, before Emperor Nero, and eventually to his death. However, through it all, God was right there with him, leading, guiding, and bringing him safely home into the heavenly, eternal kingdom. And the same God who was with Paul lives with us.
Therefore, as we face uncertain days and an unknown future, let us rest and trust our known God. He was faithful then when the world seemed hopelessly dark, and He’ll be faithful now. So let’s join Paul’s statement of faith and say with utter confidence that no matter what happens today, tomorrow, next month, or next year:
“The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
~2 Timothy 4:18