Our Caring Lord
2 Timothy 4:16-22
By Paul Robison

"Does Jesus care when I've said 'Good-bye' to the dearest on earth to me.  And my sad heart aches till it nearly breaks.  Is it aught to Him does He see?"  Here's the story behind those words written by Frank Graeff in 1901: "... the Graeffs had a daughter who was a beautiful girl.  She was a young lady at this time, and as was the custom of the day, all girls and ladies wore floor-length dresses with many layers of lace or frills.  Their homes were heated at that time with fireplaces or wood-burning stoves.  One day, the daughter got too close to the fireplace, and her long skirt caught on fire.  They frantically tried to save her, but the fire consumed her so rapidly, nothing could be done, and she was burned to death  (http://nickel-notes.blogspot.com/2012/02/hymn-history-does-jesus-care.html).  Despite this tragedy, the girl's father took comfort from this passage: "... casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).  He then penned that inspiring chorus: "O yes, He cares; I know He cares, His heart is touched with my grief.  When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I know my Savior cares."  Here's another story: "One day a couple of church members were out distributing loaves of bread in a low-income housing complex.  They came to an apartment where they heard arguing through the door, but they decided to knock anyway.  A man opened the door and asked what they wanted.  One of the visitors said, 'We don't want anything. We just wondered if you know anyone who could use some loaves of bread?'  'Why are you doing that?' the man asked.  'Just to let people know that God loves them.'  'What did you just say?' the man asked, rather anxiously.  'We're just handing out loaves of bread to let people know that God loves them.'  The man stared and said, 'I can't believe this. We just buried our three-week-old son yesterday, and now here you are at our door.'  The visitors offered to pray with them, and the couple accepted their offer.  As they were leaving, and the door was being closed, they heard the husband say to his wife, 'See, honey? I told you God cares. We thought he wasn't paying attention to us, but he sent those people here to make sure we knew'" (Dave Stone, www.sermoncentral.com).  Yes, God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit do care about our lives.  At the close of 2 Timothy, we find the apostle Paul's final written words, and these words show us how much the Lord Jesus really cares about our lives.  Let's look this morning at some of the ways He cares.  Let's read our text again, 2 Timothy 4:16-22: "At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me.  May it not be charged against them.  But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear.  Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.  And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom.  To Him be glory forever and ever.  Amen!  Greet Priscilla and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.  Erastus stayed in Corinth, but Trophimus I left in Miletus sick.  Do your utmost to come before winter.  Eubulus greets you, as well as Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brethren.  The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.  Grace be with you.  Amen."
First of all, Jesus cares because He hears our prayers.  Notice in verse 16 that Paul makes a statement, and then he prays: "At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me.  May it not be charged against them."  One commentator explains: "[During a Roman trial,] it was the custom for a defendant's friends to appear with him to give moral support, but Paul complains that no man stood with me ... [or that] no one officially acted the part of [a defendant]" (Gutherie).  Paul was left to fend for himself by those brothers who deserted him.  But then note how Paul prays that their sin of abandoning him not be counted against them.  Paul's prayer shows his forgiveness towards those brethren.  Do you think Jesus heard and acted upon that prayer?  "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them" (Mark 11:24).  "If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you" (Matthew 6:14).  "And whatever you ask in My Name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything in My Name, I will do it" (John 14:13-14).  The old hymn has it right: "Have we trials and temptations?  Is there trouble anywhere?  We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.  Do your friends despise, forsake you?  Take it to the Lord in prayer.  In His arms, He'll take and shield you.  You will find a solace [a relief or a comfort] there" (Scriven).  Our Lord cares because He hears our prayers.
Next, our Lord cares because He stands with us.  Notice again Paul's words in verse 17: "But the Lord stood with me."  Somehow, as Paul stood before those Roman judges, he knew that Jesus was near him too.  Maybe he remembered Jesus words: "And lo. I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).  Whatever your trial, crisis, or tragedy might be, you will never hear Jesus say: "Not now, please, I'm busy.  Go watch TV."  Aren't those last three words the most spoken words in America today (Keeshan)?  What Jesus will tell you is this: "Let me help you bear your burden."  This is called the law of Christ in Galatians 6:2.  You know, Satan and the world can throw some very cruel and awfully nasty things at us.  It threw a scourging, a cross, mockery, and shame at our Lord.  Jesus knows exactly what tough times are like, and He will stand with you and help you to bear the devastating load.  An old spiritual has it right: "There are times I stand alone, although I've done no wrong.  O Lord, stand by me.  There are times I've stood the test, even when I've done my best.  O Lord, stand by me.  Stand by me as I walk this narrow road, help me, Lord, bear this heavy load.  If I stumble, Lord, pick me up; help me to drink from the bitter cup, till I reach the place called glory, till I reach the place called glory" (Cooke).  Jesus cares, and whatever may tempt us, He will stand with us.
Next, our Lord cares because He strengthens us.  Paul affirms in verse 17: "But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me."   In another letter, Paul also wrote: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).  One commentator observed: "... the blessed Savior who had protected and blessed him through so many fiery trials in the past was present [now] to encourage, bless, comfort, and strengthen" (Coffman).  "A newspaper ran this story several years ago.  One evening a woman was driving home when she noticed a huge truck behind her that was driving so close behind her that it made her uncomfortable.  She tried to speed up, but the truck sped up.  She got off the freeway and turned onto main streets trying to lose the truck.  But the truck ran a red light to stay behind her.  Finally, the woman whipped her car into a service station and bolted out of the car screaming for help.  The truck driver also sprung out of his truck and ran toward the woman’s car.  He yanked the back door open and pulled out a man hidden in the back seat.  From his higher vantage point in his truck, the truck driver had spotted a would be rapist in the woman’s car.  The truck driver was not chasing the woman to harm her but to rescue her.  [Jesus] is able and willing to rescue you and make you strong in your time of weakness.  He alone is our source of strength.  [A teenage girl, who was a believer, was on a cruise with her parents, and she had been in a motorcycle accident years earlier and had an artificial leg.  She didn't let this handicap stop her, even though many people would gawk at her.]  In response to the looks she had been getting, she decided to volunteer for the ship’s talent show.  When she walked up to the microphone she said this: 'If I have one talent, it is this: I can tell you that during that time (after her accident) my faith became very real to me.  I look at you girls who walk without a limp, and I whish I could walk that way.  I can’t, but this is what I’ve learned, and I want to leave it with you: It’s not how you walk that counts, but Who walks with you and Whom you walk with'” (Santasiere, www.sermon-central.com).  Our Lord cares because He strengthens us.
Next, our Lord cares because He helps us to share the Gospel.  Notice what else Paul says in verse 17 of our text: "But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear."  As Paul stood before Roman judges, he was given the moral courage to preach the Gospel (Guthrie).  'All the Gentiles' probably refers to the diverse pagans in the audience who were hearing Paul's witness (Kelly).  Some of these listeners might have even been very hostile, but Paul was thankful that Jesus had enabled him to make an effective defense of his faith.  We may not realize it, but when we try to talk about Jesus and to share His teachings and the Gospel with others, Jesus can help us as well.  This was not the first time that Paul had stood before Roman officials to defend his faith.  He had previously stood before Felix, Festus, and other officials.  In each instance when we defend our faith, Jesus can help us as too IF we have prepared ourselves well.  Jesus won't put words in our mouths, but He can help us to think on our feet and come up with passages, illustrations, or arguments that can be helpful in getting our message across.  He can bless our preparation and make it effective.  Jesus cares because He helps us to share the Gospel.
Next, our Lord cares because He delivers us from evil.  Look at verses 17-18: "Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.  And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work ..."  One commentator said: "Paul's meaning simply is that, through God's marvelous intervention ... , the judge or judges failed to reach a decision at his initial examination, and he was therefore saved from imminent death" (Kelly).  He had been spared temporarily, but he knew that his days were numbered.  Another commentator added: "Paul knew that his body would be beheaded, and yet he triumphantly declared: 'The Lord will deliver me'" (Coffman).  Another preacher made this good remark about the early Christians: "They were reminded of Stephen who, as his life was about to end, said, 'Look I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.'  Their belief was that Christ was present in [their] lives and aware of [their] persecutions.  That heaven was not a far-off land, but another dimension as close to us as breath itself. ... So, they could say with Paul, 'To live is Christ and to die is gain.'  And it literally made no difference to them whether life was lived in this world or in the world eternal, for Christ was present in both, and the veil between the two was torn in half by the resurrection of Christ” (Warnock)!  Jesus was the first century Christians' hope, and He should be our hope as well.  Jesus cares because he delivers us from evil.
Next, our Lord cares because He preserves us for heaven.  Listen to the last part of verse 18: “Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.  And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom."  Paul knew that Roman rulers could kill his body, but no one could kill his soul.  Paul's affirmation is similar to what he has stated earlier in this letter in 1:12: "For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day."  Jesus can also preserve our souls for heaven.  The apostle Paul, by inspiration, also reinforces this wonderful truth of preservation with these words in 1 Corinthians 15:50-53 & 57: "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.  Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we [who are alive] shall be changed.  For this corruption must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. ... Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!"  Jesus cares because He preserves us for heaven.
Next, our Lord cares because He guarantees our eternal life.  Notice verse 18 again: "To Him be glory forever and ever.  Amen!"   Why can Paul write the words here: "forever and ever"?  It is because Jesus is now an eternal Being.  Jesus has experienced that transformation from mortal to immortal, and He has been sitting at God's right hand from shortly after His ascension to this very moment, that's roughly 2000 years depending on where you date His going back to heaven.  He is very much alive, and His eternal life guarantees our eternal life.  Everlasting life is not pie in the sky; it is the actuality of reality!  Since Jesus has eternal life, we will have that eternal life as well.  "And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life" (1 John 2:25).  Jesus cares because He guarantees us eternal life.
Next, our Lord cares because He stays near us.  Look now at verse 22: "The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit."  "Be with your spirit is singular, so [the letter] ends on a very personal note" (Kelly).  Christianity is a very personal religion.  Jesus challenges each person to make a decision to follow Him or to reject Him.  If we chose to follow Him, He will become our Teacher and share the close relationship that a rabbi and his disciple shared in the first century.  Mark 4:14 declares: "Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach."  Jesus calls us to be with Him, and Paul shows that Jesus wants to be with us.  Isn't that a close relationship?  We can be near Jesus, and He can be near us.  In our spiritual battles, we are never alone; the Captain of our salvation is always near.  Jesus cares because He stays near us.
Next, our Lord cares because He gives us His grace.  The last part of verse 22 states: "Grace be with you.  Amen."   The apostle Paul closes many of his letters by referring to Jesus' grace.  He knew that Jesus' grace had forgiven his murderous past and given him a new purpose in life as he carried Jesus' message of salvation to the uttermost parts of the earth and worked tirelessly to plant and to strengthen churches.  Jesus' grace can transform your life as well.  As His gracious spirit changes you, you can share that grace with others and change their lives as well!  Our challenge too, like Paul's, is to share Jesus with each person everywhere so that His grace can be known among all the nations throughout the world.  Jesus' grace has made a big difference here in Prescott in our lives, and it can make a big difference wherever it becomes a reality in people's lives.  "For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God" (2 Corinthians 4:15).  Jesus cares because He gives us His grace.
Now look again at verse 18: "To Him be glory forever and ever.  Amen!"  After all that Jesus has done and continues to do for us, we should continually praise Him, just as the apostle Paul.  Yes, to Him be glory forever and ever!  "Kings and kingdoms will all pass away, but there's something about that name" (Gather)!  Praise be to Immanuel!
"The story is told of the ship that was trapped in a severe storm at sea. All were preparing to abandon ship, all except one young lady who was playing with her dolls.  When asked why she was not afraid, she calmly replied, 'Because my father is the captain.'  When the storms of life seem to trap you, remember that [our Lord] cares for you, and say, 'I'm not afraid because [Jesus] is my Captain" (Weller)!  If Jesus isn't your captain, change the direction of your life and be immersed in His name!  If your relationship has become distant, close the gap by asking forgiveness in His name!   "O yes, He cares; I know He cares, His heart is touched with my grief.  When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I know my Savior cares."  Come to our caring Lord right now.