I nearly killed somebody when I first came to Australia (accidentally!)
As I typical tourist, I had bought a boomerang and I was keen to try my skills, and where better than the most popular tourist spot in the city? – King’s Park. With stunning views of the CBD and the beautiful Swan River, it was the perfect location to lob an ancient Aboriginal killing machine into the unsuspecting public.
To be honest, I thought it would stay in the air and just come back to me. That was what it was supposed to do. However, I was clearly not a trained hunter of animals and so the boomerang made its own way towards a family playing frisbee.
I don’t know how it missed them, but you could see the look on their faces saying, ‘where did that come from?’
Paul knew he was going to die soon.
There are strong hints in Paul’s second letter to Timothy that he knew his life was drawing to a close. “I have finished the race… “, he said in the last chapter as he looked forward to rewards kept in store for him in Heaven.
Paul has been Timothy’s spiritual father for over 10 years, long enough for the young man to have seen first-hand the tough life of a 1st-century missionary. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul lists in detail some of the challenges he had faced: frequent spells in prison, severe floggings to the point of death, beatings, stonings, shipwrecks and numerous dangers in cities, the country and the open sea. It seems no place was safe for him.
In his second letter to Timothy, Paul draws attention to those terrible experiences as he encourages his friend and protégé to stay true to the Word of God and endure hardship. But he also says a curious thing. Still referring to those challenges and sufferings, he says, “yet the Lord rescued me from them all.”
I didn’t see that one coming.
“Surely not!”, I hear you say (because I certainly said it), “that can’t be true. Paul wasn’t rescued from any of it. God allowed all those horrible things to happen to him, and more.”
But I don’t think Paul meant that or saw it like that.
So, what did Paul mean when he said that the Lord had rescued him from all these things? Perhaps a clue is found in the last chapter in the place where he speaks of finishing the race. He also writes, “I have fought the fight… I have kept the faith.” Note the sense of completeness in these statements. “I have reached the end of my life and I have stayed true to the Gospel. I have fulfilled God’s call upon my life” (my paraphrase).
There must have been many opportunities for Paul to compromise throughout his ministry; to preach an easy gospel, to avoid a confrontation or even just give up. To stay at home and put his feet up. But he didn’t. The temptations to be crushed by fear or driven by self-preservation would have struck him at every corner, but the Lord rescued him from them all.
God enabled Paul to endure tough times, to keep preaching the Word of God, day in and day out, so that men like Timothy would find the courage to do the same – and so, influence many others to also do the same. Maybe that’s the only way a Heavenly Kingdom can grow and keep growing on a place like earth.
Hardship did not result in compromise – Paul was rescued from an easy life.
Hardship did not result in pulling back – Paul was rescued from an ineffectual life.
Paul was rescued from a wasted life.
The Lord did indeed rescue Paul from every trial eventually, but more importantly, he continually rescued him from the danger of missing the call upon his life.