How God delivers

Daniel and the lions' den. (Image source: WikiMedia Commons)
Daniel and the lions' den. (Image source: WikiMedia Commons)

But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. 2 Tim. 3:10-11

At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 2 Tim. 4:16-18

In chapter 3, the apostle recalls how God delivered him from several persecutions. In each case, at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, being delivered meant rescue from the hands of the persecutors. They weren't able to silence Paul. They weren't able to kill him (though they certainly tried at Lystra!). Rather, in each case, the apostle was able to keep ministering the gospel and making and growing disciples for the Lord.

However, in chapter 4, the apostle still uses the language of deliverance (and even uses the same Greek word), but the outcome here is different. In this chapter, Paul is anticipating, not his release from prison, but his release from life as the authorities take it away from him. He talks in the previous verses about his time being fulfilled and the time of his departure being at hand and how the Lord will upon his death give him the crown of righteousness (4:6-8). But he still says that he "was delivered out of the mouth of the lion" and that "the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work." How does that work?

It works because for Paul to be delivered didn't mean having his best life now. Even in the cases where he recalls his deliverances in past missionary journeys, we must never think that those ever led to the cessation of problems and trials. Rather, Paul understood deliverance in terms of remaining faithful to Christ. For him the worst thing that could happen to him was not dying for Christ but denying Christ. For him deliverance meant being able to remain faithful to the Lord when the pressure was pushing him in the direction of apostasy from the Lord.

My friend, we need to have this perspective. What is the worst thing that could happen to you? It isn't cancer or divorce or business failure or shame or even death. The worst thing that could happen to us is being like Demas who left Christ and his apostle out of love to the world (cf. ver. 10). We ought to pray that, no matter what happens, we will never stop loving Jesus. We ought to pray, as our Lord himself taught us, that he will not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil and from the evil one (Mt. 6:13).

For the Lord is worthy of all our devotion, no matter how costly. He has purchased us by his own death and given us great grace. He has promised us to preserve us to his heavenly kingdom. He has given us the greatest of all gifts: himself. Let us see this: let us see that the glory belongs to him and not to us. Let us say with Paul with a heart ready to say it: "to him be the glory forever and ever!"

And the fact of the matter is that he will answer the prayers of his people when they ask him to hold them fast. He will deliver us from the mouth of the lion. He will preserve us unto his heavenly kingdom. Let us not, therefore, deny our Lord who has been so good to us, but trust in him and remain faithful to him who delivers those who put their trust in him.

By: Jeremiah Bass