One of the saddest passages in the New Testament must be the last chapter of Paul’s second epistle to Timothy (2 Timothy 4). Paul there prophesied that in later days some brethren would turn away from the Truth, seeking false teachers who would tell them fables of what they “wanted to hear,” rather than the Truth they actually needed to hear. He encouraged Timothy not to be swayed by the demands of those weak brethren, but instead to be a faithful “Gospel” preacher, both “in season and out of season.” Or, as brother Marshall Keeble used to say, “that means to preach the Word, both when they like it and when they don’t like it.”
Paul then predicted that he was not long for the world (2 Timothy 4:6), but confidently affirmed that this was not troubling for him, as he was spiritually ready to meet the Lord and receive his reward for faithful service. However, there is a note of distress and loneliness in the last half of the chapter as he wrote of Demas, who forsook him, of Alexander the coppersmith, who did him much evil, and of the fact that, at his first hearing before the emperor, all men forsook him as he stood alone (2 Timothy 4:10, 14, 16).
But then, in what may well be one of the most obscure passages found in the Bible, which gives encouragement for faithful Christian living, Paul shared the secret strength which kept him going on, despite the discouragement of weak and unfaithful brethren, who often let him down. He wrote, “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 Timothy 4:17-18)
If ever a man had the right to be discouraged and want to quit the Christian life, Paul did. Whenever you are feeling sorrow for yourself because of the sacrifices you’ve had to make to be a faithful Christian, just flip over to 2 Corinthians 11: 22-28 and read of the tribulation Paul suffered—195 lashes at the end of a whip, 3 times beaten with rods, stoned and left for dead, frequently imprisoned, shipwrecked, robbed, hungry, and some of this at the hands of his brethren. The brethren did let him down! But Paul didn’t let the unbelief, the spiritual weakness, and the unfaithfulness of his brethren cause him to be discouraged enough to quit. He said, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)
Oh, brothers and sisters, how we need to learn this secret Paul discovered to keep him going on. He was converted to Jesus, and not to the brethren. He understood that his commitment was ultimately to Jesus, not to the brethren. And when the brethren forsook him, as the brethren are sometimes prone to do, he knew that Jesus was still with him. He knew that, as long as the Lord still had a work for him to do, the Lord would deliver him, stand by him, and preserve him, until the Lord was ready to call him home to glory. That knowledge kept him going on, despite the discouragement of his brethren.
Brethren are going to let you down. It ought not to be that way, but that is reality, because the brethren are human. Human beings, even Christian ones, are weak, make mistakes, and sometimes will be unfaithful and will let you down. If your commitment to the Lord hinges on the faithfulness of your brethren, you are in for a lifetime of heartache and disappointment. Jesus said, concerning the way of salvation that leads to eternal life, “few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14) “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”, and thus it has always been the case that only the faithful few will be found doing the Lord’s work.
You must not let that discourage you! Your commitment is to Christ, Who will never let you down! You will work for Him no matter what anyone else does, because your relationship to Him does not depend on what others do, or don’t do. If your work for Him goes unnoticed or unappreciated by others, so what? It matters not, for you’re working for His glory, and not your own. If, sadly, everyone forsakes you, and you have to stand alone, you’ll know in your heart, soul, and mind that you are not really alone, for the LORD STANDS WITH YOU!
Therefore, my beloved
brethren, be ye stedfast,
abounding in the work of
the Lord, forasmuch as ye
know that your labour is
not in vain in the Lord.
(1 Corinthians 15:58 )