Summary: A sermon on God standing beside us even when no one else will.
Bill and Gloria Gaither have written many wonderful Christian songs. One that Gloria wrote in the late 1960’s came while she was expecting a child. The couple was going through some terrible problems. Bill had been seriously sick, their music had been attacked as not being spiritual. On New Year’s Eve night, Gloria sat in a dark room experiencing a time of torment and fear. She said, “I sat alone in the darkness thinking about the rebellious world and all of our problems - and about our baby yet unborn. Who in their right mind would bring a child into a world like this?” She was at the height of her fear and then something happened. She said, “I can’t quite explain what happened in that next moment, but suddenly I felt released from it all. The panic hat had begun to build inside was gently dispelled by a reassuring presence and a soft voice that kept saying, ‘Don’t forget the empty tomb, don’t forget the empty tomb.’ Then I knew I could have that baby and face the future with optimism and trust for I had been reminded that it was all worth it just because He lives.” And she wrote: “How sweet to hold a newborn baby, and feel the pride and joy he gives; but greater still the calm assurance, this child can face uncertain days because He lives. Because He lives I can face tomorrow, because He lives all fear is gone, because I know He holds the future. And life is worth the living just because He lives.
You see Bill and Gloria went on to write a beautiful song because God gave them the power to do so. God gave them the power to look beyond Bill’s illness and their spiritual troubles to the greater joy that comes in Jesus Christ.
Similarly, Paul wrote these words to Timothy. Towards the end of his ministry Paul reminded Timothy there was a time when nobody would stand with him. The disciples were initially wary and suspicious of him. He had been stoned, shunned, and arrested at various times in his life.
Yet through all of these incidents, God was still with him. God gave him the strength to continue on. God allowed him to carry on the Word to all of Greece and a portion of Italy.
This Sunday we celebrate restoration and reformation of the Church at the hands of those saints who would not back down. Like Paul many of them had once been part of the system. Whether it was Martin Luther, or John Wyclyffe writer of the first English Bible, or our own John Wesley, they all faced adversity. They were all left alone to defend themselves against those who would judge other wise. Yet despite all of the conflict, and trials they faced in their ministry. God was always with them.
Now some might say, well these are like supermen of faith, right? My faith is nothing compared these guys. They had no doubt that God was always with them.
Well guess what? They were human just like us. They were filled with doubt, and they experienced fear just like us. It might be said that maybe Timothy was experiencing the same doubts and fears.
Maybe Timothy felt completely overwhelmed. In fact from what we had been reading for the last several Sundays we can be pretty sure of that. We can be pretty sure that he was giving deep consideration to whether he was cut out to be a pastor.
One of the hard things about reading Paul’s Epistles to me is the fact that they read like half a phone conversation. Ever had that experience? You only catch half of what someone is talking about. Well this is definitely what I feel when I read this Scripture.
I try to imagine what Timothy has been trying to tell Paul.
“Paul, these people they won’t listen. They keep fighting over some of the most insignificant things. I am really beginning to lose all sense of hope here, I feel all alone, and with out a friend or ally.”
Then Paul would say,” At my preliminary hearing no one stood by me. They all ran like scared rabbits. But it doesn’t matter—the Master stood by me and helped me spread the Message loud and clear to those who had never heard it. I was snatched from the jaws of the lion! God’s looking after me, keeping me safe in the kingdom of heaven. All praise to him, praise forever! Oh, yes!" (2 Timothy 4:16-18 The Message)
See how the conversation could keep going. Of course if we read the whole text we can see that Paul wanted Timothy to come to Rome where he was being held prison. Paul knew how Timothy felt he too was abandoned and felt he could use the encouragement.