"The Lord shall deliver me"

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. 4:18

When the apostle Paul wrote these words to Timothy, he was languishing in prison in Rome. Not only that, but he knew that he was about to die (see 2 Tim. 4:6-8). According to church history, Paul was beheaded at the behest of the Emperor Nero. So the question is this: how could Paul tell Timothy that God was going to deliver him from every evil work when he was about to be killed by wicked men? Wasn't that an evil work, too?

You need to understand what Paul understood by being delivered from evil works. For Paul, that didn't mean a life free from unjust suffering. It didn't mean that he would always be able to evade the wicked intentions of his persecutors. Rather, it meant that he would not lose his faith or his boldness in testifying to the gospel. You see this in the previous verse: 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. The deliverance Paul desired was the ability to be strengthened to make the gospel fully known. For him, being delivered out of the mouth of the lion (a metaphor taken from the life of Daniel) was not physical deliverance, but deliverance from fear which would stop his mouth and silence his witness.

Paul was not fixated on temporal deliverance because of what he says next: and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom. What is earthly safety compared to eternal joy? This was Paul's great desire, to be preserved to that, not to be given a few more years of life in this world.

The connection between the two is this: those who apostatize and walk away from Christ cannot enjoy this hope in the heavenly kingdom, because God preserves his people so that they will persevere. Paul knew that. And therefore he had confidence that God would preserve him from faithlessness (the first part of verse 18) and therefore preserve him unto his heavenly kingdom (the second part of verse 18).

My friend, let this be an encouragement to you. There are all sorts of things in this life that can inspire the kind of fear that would lead us to deny Christ and walk away from the faith. Perhaps like Peter, we might even for a time do that. But, as with Peter, our Lord prays for us that our faith will not fail (Lk. 22:31-32). Peter was restored and so will all who truly belong to Christ. The point is, you are not on your own. God will strengthen you, and deliver you from every (not some but from all!) evil.

With such confidence set before us, let us therefore say with the great apostle: unto him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

By: Jeremiah Bass