But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me…And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!
II Timothy 4:17-18
Though his last days on earth were oppressive, painful and lonely, Paul chose to see the hand of God moving him to share the gospel in difficult circumstance and to feel the hand of God’s mercy himself. Regardless of the final outcome of his next trial, he knew he would emerge from the dungeon a free man. He absolutely expected the Lord to rescue him “from every evil work.” Paul was aware God may choose to do this, not be helping him to avoid suffering or pain, but rather by triumphing over it. Notice in the verse above how the Lord does this by trumping the evil works of humanity to give divine purpose. And it gets better! Not only is there divine purpose, but also eternal-heavenly glory to the one who bears suffering with patience, endurance, faithfulness and grace.
This perspective did not come to Paul overnight. It had been engrained into him by a faithful confidence, obedience and delight in God’s grace and ways. Consider his earlier letter to the Philippians written from an earlier imprisonment—- (from JB Phillips)
Now, concerning myself, I want you to know, my brothers, that what has happened to me has, in effect, turned out to the advantage of the gospel. For, first of all, my imprisonment means a personal witness for Christ before the palace guards, not to mention others who come and go. Then, it means that most of our brothers, somehow taking fresh heart in the Lord from the very fact that I am a prisoner for Christ’s sake, have shown far more courage in boldly proclaiming the Word of God.
However they may look at it, the fact remains that Christ is being preached, whether sincerely or not, and that fact makes me very happy. Yes, and I shall go on being very happy, for I know that what is happening will be for the good of my own soul, thanks to your prayers and the resources of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. It all accords with my own earnest wishes and hopes, which are that I should never be in any way ashamed, but that now, as always, I should honour Christ with the utmost boldness by the way I live, whether that means I am to face death or to go on living. For living to me means simply “Christ”, and if I die I should only gain more of him. (Phil. 1:12-14; 18-21)
Indeed the Lord was faithful, He would rescue Paul through his execution and allow him to enter glory for eternity afterward, Paul gave glory to God in the midst of his anguish. Paul championed the greatest of all causes—the righteousness and grace of God. He did this even while suffering in prison, seeming to realize his execution was very near. He would also write to the Philippians – “For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.”
As believers we live looking forward to our home in Heaven, and yet have the privilege and usefulness to live this life pleasing our Lord, and inviting others to join us in realizing the goodness and invitation of the good news— that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead.