Yes, and the Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. -- 2 Timothy 4:18
It would be very easy to read this promise through the lens of American prosperity and think that it was a promise that God would protect me from physical harm and mistreatment by others until the day I die.
Except that Paul is promising nothing of the sort.
Just read Acts: the man was beaten, rejected, imprisoned and finally beheaded! Most definitely NOT protection from physical harm.
Still, he considered himself "delivered" by God.
Closer reading reveals that Paul was not delusional.
God did live up to Paul's confidence in Him.
You see, Paul didn't say he was confident God would deliver him from all physical harm, but from every evil attack. He wasn't talking about a physical, earthly battle but an eternal, spiritual one.
Beaten, betrayed, persecuted, tortured, imprisoned and beheaded, God was faithful to Paul because regardless of the evil attacks, Paul entered God's heavenly kingdom with his faith and passion for Christ intact. The Gospel was still his greatest treasure. God had enabled him to finish the work He created for him to do.
The physical stuff was not the issue at all!
This past month my church family has lost two young members.
One was a good friend of the Cowboy, a mountain of a man named Greg, devoted to his wife and family. He died suddenly, leaving them without the security of life insurance.
Just a week or two later, we prayed fervently and fasted for Molly, a 46-year-old wife, mother and teacher, asking God to protect her physically and restore health---only to bury her days later.
If I think that God's protection is only physical, my faith would be rocked right now.
Many of us did reel and ask: "How can He allow this?"
But today, I was reminded by Paul's letter to Timothy that God is faithful even when circumstances seem otherwise.
Greg's family had no life insurance, but he lived his life in a way that left them certain that God is still good. He left them the security of LIFE ASSURANCE.
Molly's husband announced her physical death "with great sorrow and joy" because he knew her real life was just beginning.
From the apostle Paul's eternal perspective I can look at the lives of my two friends and say confidently that God did deliver them from every evil attack and brought them safely into His heavenly kingdom.
How often am I diligent in praying for the physical, but neglect to offer vital spiritual intercession?
I send my kids on mission trips and pray that they will have traveling mercies and good weather. I pray they will be safe from physical harm, disease and hardship.
More importantly, I should be praying that God would enable them to complete the task that He has for them, that He would protect them from spiritual attacks that would distract them from the work at hand and that NO ungodly influence would interfere.
During a season of financial squeeze, I pray that God will meet our physical needs and provide my Cowboy with a good job.
Really, I should pray that God would protect him from discouragement, and that the financial pressure would not tempt him to compromise his values or allow any seed of bitterness to take root or--worst of all--cause him to blame or distrust God.
Now, as he begins a new career wrangling jets instead of cows, I have been praying every time he gets in a plane, that it lands safely. This is a good prayer, because I love him.
But even more I need to pray that God will protect him from the distractions and temptations that will surround him, that he will be a witness to the goodness of God and the faithfulness of His Spirit to those around him, that God will deliver him from every evil attack.
O, Father, forgive my temporal mindset. Create in me a heart that would rather see my loved-ones tortured for their passion for Christ than to have them safe and happy but indifferent to Your Son. Broaden my perspective to see that as long as my heart is YOURS then you have delivered me. Help me live in a way that demonstrates that my physical and financial circumstances are only peripheral matters, important only if they magnify Your Name.