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When Others Fail You (2 Tim. 4:16-17)

WONDERFUL THING IN THIS PASSAGE – Some will fail you because they’re mean, some because they’re weak; and some will fail you without ever knowing they did so. Whatever the cause, they leave you hurting and in a bad situation.

Now, besides digging out of whatever hole they’ve left you in, you’ve got to decide how to deal with the people who let you down. Paul knew all about that from his experience in the Roman justice system:

“At my first defense, no one stood by me, but everyone deserted me. May it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that I might fully preach the word and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth” (2 Tim. 4:16-17).

After years of incarceration leading up to his “first defense,” Paul finally stood before an imperial magistrate. The charges included stirring up riots disturbing the peace of Rome – a capital offense that could end him up in “the lion’s mouth.” Fortunately, there were many who could testify of his exemplary conduct as a citizen of Rome, as a servant of God, even as a model prisoner.

The charges were read, and the call went up for any who would give evidence on his behalf. No one stood up; no one spoke. His gaze around the courtroom confirmed the reason: Not one of the friends he could count on was even there – “everyone deserted me.”

Mercifully, God was there and saved the day so that Paul not only escaped execution (for the time being) but was also allowed to preach the gospel to an even wider audience of Gentiles. But here’s the really amazing thing: It’s probable that he continued this ministry with some of the very friends who had failed him. After making it clear that “everyone deserted me,” he closes this short letter by sending Timothy greetings from “Eubulus…Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren” (2 Tim. 4:21).

WONDERFUL THING IN LIFE – So, people you depend on fail you. Where do you go from there? Paul says that you start by praying for God’s mercy on them: “May it not be counted against them.” You share this plea for God’s grace with other members of your team as Paul shared it with Timothy. You take a clear posture of grace toward those who fail. (That doesn’t mean that you put them right back in a place of responsibility or expose yourself to their repeated desertion.)

A major source of such forgiveness and grace is your deep realization of how much and how often you’ve been the recipient of God’s forgiveness and grace: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32).

Take Jesus as your example. As He was trying to protect His disciples from the mob arresting Him, “they all deserted him and ran away” (Mark 14:5). A few weeks later, He was giving them the Great Commission to go into all the world as His emissaries. They would require much more work and much more grace and many more times of restoration, but He’s always in the business of reclaiming failures. We should be very grateful.

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