“Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. 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 4:9-18
No suffering was wasted in the life of Paul. His own infliction on others was arrested and used by Jesus to illustrate the gospel of freedom he would proclaim the remainder of his days. Paul also suffered greatly himself, as God foretold, deserted by a former fellow worker whose affection turned to the world, opposed and accused by another, abandoned, and harmed. God would teach him absolute dependence on His grace and strength, and through Paul’s witness and letters, those lessons live on. (Acts 9:1-4,16; 2 Corinthians 11:23-28; 12:9-10; Philippians 4:13; Colossians 4:14; Philemon 1:24)
In the middle of a betrayal or abandonment, we are prone to assume the worst and view our situation as unredeemable. Emotional embers grow cold, hope is arid, and our outlook can be bereft of any expectation of flourishing. But Paul never gave up his call, his mission, his understanding that God would indeed work all these things for ultimate good. He named his hurts and betrayers and left them (along with some gracious forgiveness) for God to handle. Yes, there were heartaches, disappointments, even annoyances in his work, but His Lord was more real and significant than any of them. He chose to live on higher ground where his Helper and Rescuer, through all that transpired, deserved glory forever! (Romans 8:28)
Where have we felt betrayed by one who once shared our passion, yet has turned to another ‘love’ that we know will not satisfy? Have we been deserted at work, or in a friendship, for other priorities, and left to manage on our own? What disappointments niggle at our contentment, and have shrouded our thankfulness for the good God has brought and the ministry He has given?
“My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where these abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.
I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught a joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground.
Lord, lift me up, and let me stand
By faith, on heaven’s tableland;
A higher plane than I have found,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.” ~Johnson Oatman, Jr (1856-1922)
Lord, may I learn through every hardship that You are enough and ever-present. Stabilize me on the high ground of Your praise.