PROTECTION FROM MY ENEMIES
(2 Timothy 4:18)
Christians who see God’s rescuing hand in the face of impending death often provoke skepticism among those who hear their words. To nonbelievers, such people can seem like the military commander who was living in denial: Surrounded by the enemy, he tried to encourage his troops by telling them, “We’ve got good targets in every direction.” Sometimes, people might say, you have to throw in the towel and admit defeat.
But for the apostle Paul—and hopefully for the faithful Christian—defeat was not in the vocabulary. Paul knew that there is one act of rescue in which God will always prevail in spite of overwhelmingly negative odds.
In 2 Corinthians 11:23–27, Paul records the dangers he had faced during his ministry up to the time he wrote that letter. Five times he had received from the Jews thirty-nine strokes with the lash. Three times he was beaten with rods by the Romans (Acts 16:22–23), for a total of eight horrific beatings. He was stoned; shipwrecked (probably four times; three are mentioned in 2 Corinthians 11, which was written before his final shipwreck recorded in Acts 27); and in constant danger from bandits, Jews, Gentiles, and even false “brothers” in the Christian faith. He had gone without food, water, and clothes, and had faced death again and again during his travels.
All of this had happened by AD 55, when 2 Corinthians was written—approximately halfway through the apostle’s twenty-year apostolic ministry. In addition to whatever other attacks he had suffered, by the end of his ministry in AD 67, he found himself in jail in Rome, about to be executed by Nero, the Roman emperor. Many people reading this would think that Paul was in denial, for he wrote, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom.” They might say, “Come on, Paul, it’s over! This time, you’re not going to be rescued.”
That’s where Paul’s knowledge of God proved that he was truly living in reality. He knew that, regardless of what God allowed to happen to his body—disease, injury, physical harm—nothing could keep him from God’s heavenly kingdom. God is a rescuer, and no earthly attack can ever prevent His heavenly rescue.
No matter what happens to you in body, no one can steal you from God’s eternal grip.