At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! 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. (2 Timothy 4:16–18)

This morning I have lingered long over these magnificent and heartbreaking words. Paul is in custody in Rome. So far as we know, he was not released. His last letter comes to an end like this.

Consider and be astounded!

He is deserted. He is an old man. A loyal servant. In a foreign city, far from home. Surrounded by enemies. In danger of death. Why? Answer: So he could write this precious sentence for our souls: “But the Lord stood by me!”

Oh, how I love those words! When you are deserted by close friends, do you cry out against God? Is your God really the people in your life? Or do you take courage in this magnificent truth: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20)? Do you strengthen your heart with this inexorable oath: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5)?

Then let us say, “The Lord stood by me!”