“At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me” (2 Timothy 4:16).
PAUL MAY HAVE BEEN DISAPPOINTED AT TIMES WHEN NO ONE STOOD WITH HIM, BUT HE STOOD STRONG ANYWAY. He wasn’t arrogant or egotistical, and like any of us, he needed the support of friends, but his faith was an independent faith. He knew in whom he believed (2 Timothy 1:12), and he knew how to stand alone.
The content of our faith. These days, many of us are guilty of drifting with the prevailing winds. We get our beliefs, if not from the majority, at least from that segment of society that we personally see as being “cool” or “sophisticated” or “broad-minded” or whatever. Despite our talk of independence, very few of us would be willing to believe something different than what is believed by those who matter to us, however many or few they may be.
The strength of our faith. On rare occasions, we may part with our peers, but we don’t do so very strongly or vocally. Not wishing to be thought odd or eccentric, we keep our divergent beliefs to ourselves, avoiding at all costs the charge of being “dogmatic.” Unlike Paul, who would speak up boldly for whatever the truth was, whether anyone stood with him or not, we often test which way the wind is blowing before we take a strong position.
The steadfastness of our faith. Sometimes life calls upon us to make a hard choice: when others are falling by the wayside, do we keep going or do we join the crowd and give up? In any test of endurance, the hardest thing to endure is the sight of those around us not enduring. And so our faith often fails us simply because the faith of others is failing them. Yet there is a better way. We can believe what we believe, with a strength born of our own convictions, and run the race to the finish, even if we run alone.
True faith can be a lonely experience. At any given moment, we may or may not have the support of those whose approval and help are important to us. When we don’t have that support, we must be prepared to stand anyway. Following our conscience, we may be led into some very lonely territory. But listen to me: there are far worse things in this world than mere loneliness.
“Believe to the end, even if all men go astray and you are left the only one faithful; bring your offering even then and praise God in your loneliness” (Feodor Dostoevsky).