Summary: Responding as godly people when Satan attacks.

“You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes.” [1]

Asics has produced an amusing ad. Two Xhosa men are walking and talking. “I’m no longer interested in Sandra Bullock,” says one. “It’s like in the old song,” he continues, “married women get sturdy legs.” It is at this point that they encounter a lion crouched behind a bush. The men freeze as the lion stands and begins to advance menacingly. The one who has been listening reaches into a bag and pulls out a pair of shoes. As he kneels to lace the shoes, the loquacious man whispers, “Do you think you’re faster than a lion?” The man responds, “No, but faster than you.” With that, he sprints off leaving the other man to face the advancing lion. In the final scene the two men sprint across the plains pursued by a hungry lion.

Legs turn to jelly, courage drains like water from a tub when Satan roars. At first wary, as the throaty cough grows louder the sheep simply cannot stand firm. Do you doubt that? Paul had heard the lion’s roar. If he had somehow missed the roar, desertion by “all who are in Asia” assuredly alerted him to this truth. Every preacher of the Gospel will come to a time when he stands alone because he sought to be faithful in declaring the message of life.

Peter would warn Christians, and especially would he warn elders of the congregations, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” [1 PETER 5:8]. This is not mere hyperbole—the wicked one destroys; he destroys churches, he destroys ministries, he destroys testimonies, he destroys Christians. Multitudes of believers in every era have fallen prey to the old dragon. Though Scripture convinces us that Christ saves the souls of those who believe in Him, the life and the influence of far too many saints have been destroyed when they were frightened by the lion’s attack.

The devil’s nature is to destroy those who are opposed to his own exaltation. Jesus warned of the devil’s character when he said to religious leaders, “[The devil] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” [JOHN 8:44]. Though a liar, the roar of the wicked one is nevertheless ferocious, intimidating the most fearless saint and deceiving yet others so that they panic and flee.

“All who are in Asia turned away from me,” writes Paul. Can anything be more discouraging, more distressing to those investing themselves in service to the saints than to be deserted? The Apostle’s statement is not some plaint based on his feelings—he was deserted by all. It is difficult to believe that the Apostle to the Gentiles would write such a dismal statement. We look at him as heroic, almost superhuman, a man who could not be stopped. Surely, all Christians loved him, appreciating his courage and boldness. Paul, the man who led the initial missionary teams as they penetrated the darkness of Roman night ensuring that light would spill across the landscape was at last deserted, left alone in a Roman prison cell awaiting execution. The man who had suffered so much to ensure that all would hear of the gift of life offered in the Beloved Son and that believers would have opportunity to grow unmolested in this holy Faith was shunned in his time of greatest need.

No doubt multiple reasons could be advanced as reasons why the Apostle was deserted. He was too demanding. He was not demanding enough. He wouldn’t compromise. He made too many concessions. He was unreasonable. He was dogmatic. The accusations against the man of God were as varied as the people bringing those accusations—and they were likely contradictory. More to the point, there were likely as many reasons for deserting the Apostle as there were people deserting. Ultimately, the only reason that could be given for deserting the Apostle resided in the sinful nature of those deserting. Something like that is true of those deserting a preacher or deserting a congregation in this day. And yet, there is no doubt that the slanderer was behind the desertions. Paul was experiencing a lion attack.

As we examine the Apostle in his final days, I do want to think of why some saints are compelled to stand alone as they face satanic attack. My primary purpose, however, is to encourage the people of God by reminding us that in truth we are never alone. No Christian will ever face lion attack alone. Ever and always the believer is sustained by unseen strength of God who is mighty. Nevertheless, there will come a day when each believer will imagine himself or herself alone as the lion attacks.

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