II Timothy 4:16 “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.”
Our scripture comes from Paul’s final letter! He has been arrested a second time approximately three to four years after his first imprisonment. The conditions and the companionship between the two events were worlds apart. During Paul’s first imprisonment, he was detained under house arrest with the comforts of home and open access to receive companions and associates at will. In his second incarceration, he was put in an underground cell with a single hole in the ceiling to receive food, air, water, and any other necessities that someone might bring. In addition to the lack of comfort; there was a lack of companionship. One man had deserted, “For Demas hath forsaken me” (vs.10), two had left on duty, “Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia” (vs.10), and one was dispatched to Ephesus with this letter, “Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus” (vs.12). The opening arguments of Paul’s trial had begun and there was not one solitary soul that would stand with him; let alone say a word in his defense. Where were his friends? Where were those of Caesar’s household that had been converted during his first imprisonment? In fact, Paul can’t even get legal counsel; no one was willing to take his case! In spite of the fact that others would not intercede in Paul’s behalf before an earthly judge, Paul would intercede in theirs before the Eternal Judge; “I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.” Paul wouldn’t allow bitterness to destroy the benevolent spirit of mercy; he would pray that the trespasses they had committed against him would not appear on their record. The words that Paul heralded in their behalf were words that he had heard thirty some years earlier on his behalf; “And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” (Acts 7:60). Thirty years previously, Paul, then known as Saul, had consented to the death of an innocent young man named Steven. Steven’s intercessory prayer had not only entered into the ear of the Sovereign, it had entered into the ear of a sinner and touched his heart forever! If Steven could show mercy at death, the least Paul could do is show mercy at desertion. The intercessory words of a dying saint had wrought conviction, conversion, and now compassion in the heart of Paul. While it had been over thirty years we see the lasting effects of a saint’s words for good. But the thing that we should be mindful of; is the same tongue that was used to leave a lasting effect for good could have been used to leave a lasting effect for evil. Thirty years from now will your words have a lasting effect for good or for evil?