These Dead Times

"The cloak that I left at Troas . . . bring . . . At my first answer no man stood with me, but all forsook me" (2 Timothy 4:13-16).

To deplore the days in which we live and to complain of the indifference of men in general and the deadness of our brethren in particular, is a common practice — and this may be but a cloak for our spiritual condition. Yet, in truth, the times are bad enough, and there is plenty to make us mourn, and, if the devil had his way with us in the midst of it, to make us hang our harps on the willow trees, and lapse into perpetual despondency. But is there nothing about which we can give thanks? Is there nothing to make us exult, as Barnabas exulted, when he saw the grace of God at Antioch, and was glad? We believe there is, if we have eyes to see it, and hearts to appreciate it.

The times are bad enough, but do any of us, who desire to follow the Lord, find ourselves in such times as did the great Apostle Paul? The winter winds whistled through the window-bars of his prison cell, and his aged body was made to shiver and twinge by the damp and cold, as he lay bound with a chain. Yet never a Christian amongst the many who dwelt in Rome sought him out in his need, or brought him a garment to protect his aching limbs. He had a cloak, just one, but it was nigh upon a thousand miles away. "Bring it with thee," he wrote to his beloved son Timothy; for he felt the need of it.

The indifference of this day is great, no doubt, but we do not hear of any Christian being tried so sorely as was Paul the Aged. We can rejoice that there is love amongst the saints of God, and that it shows itself in doing good. The Spirit of God is active, and the grace of God is being manifested in His saved ones, not so much as it ought to be; but for what there is, which we shall see if we have eyes to see it, let us praise.

That same lone prisoner stood before the imperial Nero — a defenceless captive, bowed by age and weakened by a lifelong martyrdom. He stood in the very jaws of the lion, and fearlessly proclaimed the gospel of God, but no man stood with him. His friends forsook him; like frightened hares they hasted to their safety when his head was in jeopardy. Hard times those, when a servant of Christ had no man to confirm his witnessing, or to stand with him in the hour of his supreme trial; when all were ashamed of the testimony of the Lord, and of Paul His prisoner. He felt it, felt it keenly, felt it for their sakes more than for his own, for he prays for them that it might not be laid to their charge.

Not one of us has found himself in such isolation as this in our witnessing for Christ. No doubt it is partly because of our lack of faithfulness to Him, but we believe it also is because the grace of God is working powerfully in the hearts of some at least of His saints, and they must rally to the upraised standard of testimony to His Christ. Let us be thankful, and praise the Lord with cheerful voice for every evidence of His work on earth, and let us so keep our soul aflame with His love that we may be used of Him to rekindle dying embers in the heart of many another of His discouraged saints.