Today, on the front porch, let’s reflect on a few people who have stood alone against the tide and experienced times of darkness and loneliness yet discovered they never really were alone.
Consider Joseph. Betrayed by his brothers and left to languish alone in a prison cell. He would be betrayed by a fellow prisoner who had promised to put in a good word for Joseph after being released from prison. Enjoying his freedom and restoration as the king’s cup bearer he simply forgot about Joseph.
Let’s try to step into Joseph’s experience. How are we feeling? I feel betrayed. Forgotten. Hopelessly alone. But, I wonder if Joseph was ever truly alone?
Think about Elijah lying under the broom tree begging to die after running away from Jezebel’s death threat. Listen to Elijah’s lament, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life for I am no better than my fathers.”
Later, meeting God on the mountain, Elijah continued his complaint. “I have been very jealous for the Lord, The God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” (1 Kings 19: 4, 10 emphases mine) Those are the words of the great prophet who had once stared down 450 prophets of Baal. Now the brave man, who dared to challenge a king, has collapsed into a pathetic, whining imp.
So was Elijah all alone under the broom tree? Was he ever alone in the cave? No! God came to him on the mountain and gently spoke strength into His wounded warrior.
How can I forget three young Jewish men refusing to kowtow to a king’s edict that demanded worship of his image? Together they resisted aborting their integrity or compromising their loyalty to the one true God. Convinced God could deliver them from the furnace, but declaring even if God didn’t come through, they would not bow. Tethered with ropes they were cast into the blazing fire.
I chuckle when I read King Nebuchadnezzar’s response in Daniel 3:24-25: The king was “astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors (as if he needed counsel to explain what he could see with his own eyes), ‘Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?…But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth man is like a son of the gods.’”
Come now, relax and laugh with me at the above scene. But never forget, because three men dared to stand for God in the heat of the moment, God stood beside them in the blazing fire.
One more story, okay? What about Paul languishing in a Roman prison facing a death sentence? We tend to make men like Paul bigger than life. Men cut out of better cloth than the rest of us. Writing those words draws me back to James’ comment that “Elijah was a man just like us.” Yes, the whimpering man under the tree I can identify with. Been there many times myself. But, the bold man challenging the prophets of Baal to a “throw down” on Mount Carmel to see whose God could ignite the fire and barbecue the beef does not describe me.
Back to Paul in 2 Timothy four. Here I see another man bigger than life who is just like me. Not good alone.Paul begs Timothy to come quickly- before winter if possible bringing a coat and the parchments- the precious parchments.Only Dr. Luke remains in Rome with Paul. Demas, once a stalwart warrior and comrade, has fallen in love with the good life and deserted Paul (at least that’s the way Paul feels). Crescens has been sent to Galatia and Titus to Dalmatia. Tychicus was sent to deal with issues in the church at Ephesus. Carpus is ministering in Troas.
Oh, yes, Alexander the coppersmith has done great harm to Paul causing pain on top of imprisonment.
Now, listen to Paul’s words etched with quill and ink. “At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me.” I tremble as I write those words. This is Paul- my bold, irresistible giant of the Faith lamenting, “All have deserted me.” Don’t you feel deep, deep pain in those words?
The next sentence leaps off the parchment. No one stood with Paul at his trial, “but the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (emphasis mine)
When the sky is falling around me and life is in shambles, I may feel alone, but I am never truly alone.
I quote, J. D. Grear’s message at The Moody Bible Institute’s Founders Week at last February: “I know He stands by my side, because He stood in my place.”
Grear added, “If God could take the worst day in His Son’s life and turn it into our best day, can’t He take my worst day and turn into something good?”
What say you?