Friends Who Really Help
Without talking to God, every Christian is at risk of being seduced, scared or swamped by Satan's schemes. But this is not just about us, as individuals. We are part of an army in which everybody looks out for each other ... or, at least, is supposed to! Paul has just told his readers to be alert and keep on praying for other Christians. We know that is a good thing to do, but often forget how essential it is. Christians who are under pressure, overwhelmed, tired or unwell often struggle (or give up) in prayer. Naturally we either curl up and isolate ourselves, or we want emotional help from other people. Often we ignore the greatest source of help - not just to help us to feel better, but to protect us from evil schemes. When we are struggling, without involving the Lord, we are a prey for the devil (1 Peter 5:8). And that is why it is more important to pray for each other, even than to give practical help.
Paul knew this from personal experience. Here he is: in prison, facing trial and possible death. Personal assistance with a warm cloak or food or company would be good (2 Timothy 4:13), but he knows his greatest danger is from Satan. Even though the apostle has been through many dangers for the sake of the gospel (2 Corinthians 11:23-29), his greatest need is still to stay true to the gospel. Yet, he admits not knowing what to say, or how best to explain the gospel: he knows that fear is lurking inside him - and he wants to be able to push through the anxiety barrier. But he also knows that this is not just about his personal energy but dealing with Satan's oppression. Only God can deal with that, and He acts in response to the prayers of other Christians.
Every day he sees his guards, and so each day is an opportunity to speak about Jesus. He may be in prison, but he is still an ambassador of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). In one court hearing Paul challenged the judge to believe in Jesus (Acts 26:26-29). In Rome, all the palace guard knew something about Paul's faith (Philippians 1:13). Even when the legal process accelerated against Paul, and friends deserted him (2 Timothy 4:16), yet he proclaimed Christ.
If a spiritual giant like Paul needed spiritual help, we certainly do! Yet our reluctance to share our weakness (a common workplace problem) often means that nobody asks God to restrain the devil, who is exploiting our weaknesses. And a great weakness is the fear that if we say anything about the Lord, we will either lose friends or make enemies. We hide behind not knowing what to say, instead of asking people to pray that we will have the right words. We may even wrongly think that our fear is a divine sign that we should not share the gospel! We need others to pray for us, and we need to pray for them. Samuel said that failure to do so was sin (1 Samuel 12:23) - so it is about time we prayed for other Christians at work and in the leisure club, and asked them to pray for us. If there is no prayer group at your work, why not start one?
© Dr Paul Adams