Sunday, April 20, 2008

When the Going Gets Tough

2 Timothy, a letter from the apostle Paul, begins in the usual and customary Pauline manner. The greeting, followed by a thanksgiving. But then things get more pointed and we see what’s truly on Paul’s mind. As in the case of the other letters from a jail cell, Paul is in chains and his message has been hampered to some degree. Nevertheless, what he offers is his usual encouraging tone regardless of his circumstances.

It seems that Timothy has been discouraged of late and needs some reassurance that what he’s doing is of extreme importance. Paul reminds Timothy that he needs to use the God-given gift he’s been given as “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and self-discipline.” (1:7)

Strikingly, Paul states that “everyone” in the province of Asia has left or deserted him (see verse 15). Apparently, when the going gets tough, some people walk away and chose an easier and more preferential path. This was arguably the case here. Paul was forced into a prison cell, under house arrest for the message he was proclaiming. Such imprisonment was not a popular thing, as you might imagine.

And the thing is, we’re not talking about just anybody here! We’re talking about the apostle Paul – perhaps the greatest missionary that’s ever lived. And still, everyone in Asia has apparently given up on him as well as the Gospel. Incredibly sad to say the least.

I wonder how this plays out in ministry today. Sometimes, when things get a little tough, testy, and difficult, it’s easier to walk away and find something else. In the world of sports, we call these fair-weather fans. Those fans that are quick to jump on whatever bandwagon that’s out there as they follow the best baseball, football or whatever team it is at that time. However, when that teams finds itself in decline, they quickly hop off and join the fan club of another team instead.

When people leave you or forsake your mission because things may not be looking so bright, don’t lose heart. God has a plan and will bring it to fruition with or without those individuals who left. If God’s in on things, know that in his timing His will will be done!