In the wisdom of God, we are living in the last days, of which the Apostle Paul speaks as “perilous times” in 2 Timothy 3:1. It behooves us to recognize the true character of the days in which we live, so that we might seek the Lord’s mercy to preserve us and His grace to maintain us, until He comes to rapture us home to His Father and our Father. It must be evident to every spiritual eye that the enemy is doing his utmost to rob the saints of every bit of truth and to mar their testimony to it; but God is able to keep His own from the withering, evil influences that are all around, and to enable them to manifest their true character as strangers and pilgrims here (1 Peter 2:11).
When David, God’s anointed, was in rejection and hunted by Saul, there were faithful men who jeopardized their lives for him. Observe what the Spirit of God says of these men in 1 Chronicles 12. They came to David (v. 1), they were mighty men (v.1), they were armed (v. 2), they could use both hands in conflict (v. 2). Such are the men God desires today; those drawn to Christ in true affection, who are strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, who wear the whole armor of God, and who have the arms of righteousness on the right hand and on the left.
Among David’s warriors were the men of Issachar, “Who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (v. 32), and men who could keep rank, who had a perfect heart (v. 38). Do we understand the times in which we live? Have we the mind of the Lord regarding these difficult days? And with these things are we seeking to go on together according to the mind of God, with perfect heart, seeking only to be for His pleasure in the conflict of these last days? How many things can turn us aside from doing the will of God, turn us away from the ranks where the truth is being kept for the glory of the Lord.
The features of faithful men are also given to us in Exodus 18:20–21. They were to be taught in the word of God, they had to know how to walk, and how to work: they needed to be able men, fearing God; men of truth, hating covetousness; men who could bring peace to the people by righteous judgments. Surely there is a word for us in this Scripture, which has been written for our instruction and encouragement. These are the traits we should covet, so that we might be for God’s pleasure in these last days. The way we have been called to is a narrow way, even as the Lord said, “Strait is the gate and narrow is the way…and few there be that find it.” The path is not easy, but His grace suffices; there are many trials and exercises, both in the individual walk and in the assembly, but the resources of Christ are unfailing. Paul knew these temptations and exercises in a special way. After enumerating many of his trials he spoke of “the care of all the churches.”
Then in 2 Timothy 2 we get what should be true of the Christian—the features of the man of God. He is to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (v. 1), he is to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (v. 3), he is not to get entangled with the affairs of this life (v. 4), he is to strive lawfully (v. 5), he is to be a laborer in God’s service (v. 6), and he is to consider the word sent from God, so that the Lord might give him understanding in all things. Remembering that Jesus Christ is raised from the dead, according to Paul’s Gospel, the man of God will not seek to waste his strength on the things here that are to perish but will direct all in view of the resurrection side of death. God’s man is a separate man (v. 21), separate from all that is inconsistent with the truth and holiness of God; and his associations will be with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart (v. 22). How very important these Scriptures are, when the inspiration and truth of the Scriptures are being denied on every hand; and when even true believers are careless regarding what is due to the Lord in His assembly, and to God in His house. Scripture is to be our guide; it is God’s infallible Word. Even Peter had to be withstood; so that we must not rest in God’s servants, but in His living, unerring Word.
What resources and blessing God has given us for these last days! In 2 Timothy 1 God has given us the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus (v. 1); He has saved us and called us, and this according to His own purpose and grace, given us in Christ Jesus before the world began (v. 9). If the church has grievously failed, God abides faithful; and it is on God that Paul relies in view of the last days; and he shows us that everything remains in Christ Jesus. Nothing can revoke God’s purpose, or overturn God’s foundation; His word is our sure guide until the end, and His work can never be destroyed. If we see the great mass of the Christian profession giving up the truth and many who once valued the truth, no longer walking in the power of it, we can, like Paul, fall back on God and His faithfulness, realizing that all is safe in Christ Jesus.
With such resources and encouragement, we can surely seek the Lord’s grace to keep us going on until the end. At the close of his pathway, the Apostle could say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). Did he say this when all was bright and prosperous in the church? No! the very opposite was true, because all in Asia had turned away from him, and this would include the saints of Ephesus and Colosse. But he had the comfort of a few faithful ones, and above all, the help and comfort of the Lord, who stood with him when all deserted him. May we all seek to be faithful, like Paul, of whom it could be truly said that he KEPT RANK.