The Lord's Prayer: But deliver us from evil, Part 8

Preached: August 17, 2008

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Dear Father, Rescue Us
2 Timothy 4:7,8,18

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit points us to Jesus, our Lord, is 2 Timothy 4:7, 8, 18.

I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Finally the crown of righteousness is laid away for me, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that day -- not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing . . . The Lord will rescue me from every evil work and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him the glory forever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4:7,8,18)

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

Why do bad things happen to good people? That question has troubled mankind for century after century. Some have surmised that if God were truly good, all-knowing, and all-powerful then there couldn't be any evil -- at least not for good people. "Therefore," they conclude, "God must be lacking in some way -- if there really is a god."

How foolish that argument! If I would take one of the paintings of Da Vinci or Rembrandt and spray painted over it, could I argue that they were not good painters because of how terrible their painting now looks? It is sin that ruined God's good creation and brought evil. And for that matter, because of our sin no one is truly good on their own before God.

But those thoughts don't satisfy our human reason, do they? Those dead painters couldn't stop me from vandalizing their masterpieces, but couldn't the all-powerful God have stopped Adam and Eve? Then there wouldn't be sin or evil or bad things happening to good people. So our reason wants to delve into the mind of God and figure out why he did things the way he did and why he doesn't do them differently now.

But who can know the mind of God? Who can know the depth of the riches of his wisdom? Who can search out his decisions or trace out his paths? (Romans 11:33-36) Only the Holy Spirit can reveal the mind of God. He does that only through the words he gave the prophets and the apostles (1 Corinthians 2:10-13). Anything that goes beyond the Scriptures to try to figure out God's mind is superstition and unbelief, no matter how pious or logical it may sound.

From his Word, God does reveal truths that give a partial answer to the question of why do bad things happen to good people But God's aim isn't to satisfy our human reason. He has a much higher goal. A much more practical question rather "Why?" is "How?" How do I make it through those times when bad things happen to me and my loved ones? How do I bear up under the evils of life, like sickness, disease, lose, disaster, tragedy, slander, gossip, ridicule, failure, setbacks, and even death? How can I keep going and not give up? How? Even if you had a perfectly logical answer of why bad things happen to good people, it would not be enough to survive the evils of this life. So God doesn't focus on the why, but rather the how. How do we make it through evil times?

A. How do we make it through evil times?

The words of the text take us to the time near the Apostle Paul's execution. What evil he is going through! Chained in prison, he knew that the Roman government would not be releasing him. Many of his friends had deserted him. Lonely and suffering, he writes his last letter to his dear friend, Timothy, a fellow worker in the church.

Yet listen to his words again and see if you can tell what his strength is: “Finally the crown of righteousness is laid away for me, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that day -- not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing . . . The Lord will rescue me from every evil work and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him the glory forever and ever. Amen” (2 Timothy 4:7,8,18). Do see his strength? His strength is the Lord. And it is trust inside the Apostle that leans on the Lord as his strength. The Apostle's words drip with that trust, trust in the Lord. The Lord will give him that crown of righteousness. The Lord will rescue him. The Lord will bring him safely to heaven. Yes! He trusts the Lord.

But why? Why trust the Lord? Where was the Lord when he was arrested and beaten? Where was the Lord during all the other bad things that happened in his life? The Lord was right there at his side. For the Lord is the faithful God. He is the unchanging I AM. He does not go back on his Word. He keeps his promises. He is trustworthy. He is faithful. He is the Lord. And trust knows that he is with us even when all seems against us.

For not only is he the Lord. He is my Lord. That's what the Apostle, that what you and I, that what all who love the Lord's appearing can confess: "Jesus is my Lord." He has purchased us to be his own people. He ransomed you with his blood. He redeemed you by his death in your place. He is your Lord. So he is with you even in the darkest days. He carries you, his blood-bought lamb.

He is my Lord. That is your confession. And so with the Apostle you too can say: "He is my Lord. So his righteousness is mine - a gift he freely credits to me. When death brings me before his judgment seat, I stand with confidence in him. For his righteousness covers my guilt. His righteousness brings me the verdict that gives the crown of righteousness. Not even death can separate me from my Lord. How much less the other evils of life. He is with me. He is my strength. He is my Lord."

That's the trust that drips from the Apostle's words. That's the trust the Holy Spirit works in you. And that is how we make it through the bad times. Trusting our Lord.

The evils of life show how fragile everything else we might trust in is. Everything shatters when the evils of life become too heavy. But your Lord stands firm. Lean on him. Trust in him. That's how you will make it through those times when bad things happen to you. For the trusting heart calls out: "Dear Father, rescue us. Deliver us from evil." And that heart knows that no matter what we see happening to us, our Lord is faithful. The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit answer that pray.

B. How does our Lord rescue us from evil during our day-to-day life?

But how does the Lord rescue us? So often it seems that troubles just keep on coming one after another. How does he answer this prayer and deliver us as we live our day-to-day lives?

You know many of the answers God tells us in his word. We've reviewed some of them in the hymns and readings today. Sometimes he keeps evil from us, so that we don't even know the harm that could have happened. He uses his angels to watch over us. He works evil into good for us. He makes evil serve as discipline to keep us away from sin and close to him. He uses his Word and Sacraments to strengthen us to bear up under trial and tribulation. Those are some of the answers. And as we take the text to heart, I think we can see yet another way.

How does our Lord rescue us from evil during our day-to-day life? Well, one of the cruel consequences of going through bad times is that they leave us feeling that our life is pointless, meaningless. We suffer the loss of a loved one, a parent, spouse, or child. Our health declines. Disaster robs us of our treasures. The joys of life evaporate. And then we wonder what's the purpose. Why go on?

Once again, dear friends, take to heart the words the Holy Spirit gave the Apostle Paul. This was not the first time in life that he suffered evil. Think of his missionary journeys How often he suffered ridicule and opposition in town after town. Stoned, imprisoned, beaten, and the list goes on. But from his trust in the Lord also sprung his purpose. “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). These are words of purpose. He knew as long as the Lord gave him breath, his Lord had purpose for him in this life. So he fought on.

As long as the Lord gives you breath, he has purpose for you. This is one way he rescues us from evil during our day-to-day lives. For doesn't it give us courage and strength to fight on despite the evils when we know that there is a purpose? We might not be able to put it exactly into words, but the very fact that your heart beats and your lungs breath means that the Lord has purpose for you. What is that purpose? To fight the good fight. To finish the race. To keep the faith.

The words Paul uses for fighting the good fight aren't military words. They often refer to an athletic contest. Think of the Olympics going on. Think of a wrestling match. Paul has wrestled the good match. Like a runner or swimmer, he has finished the race. He has kept the faith. No matter what hurdles or evils came at him, he pressed on keeping his eyes on his Lord, trusting in his Lord for the strength. That was his purpose in life: To remain faithful to his Lord, who had ransomed him.

So also no matter what evil are hurled at you, know that the Lord has his purpose for you. So press on with more determination and fortitude than any Olympic athlete. For the Lord is your strength. Press on for you have a much greater purpose and goal than winning eight gold medals. You have your purpose from the Lord: to remain faithful to him. Yes, like Paul fight the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith. And like Paul, look to your Lord for that strength. For as we look to him, we call out, "Dear Father, rescue us. Deliver us from evil." And one way he answer that is by reminding us of our purpose so that we don't give up or grow weary. He reminds us of our purpose to remain faithful to him, that is, to faithfully use his Word and Sacraments, to faithfully call on him in prayer, to faithfully serve others in love, to faithfully tell his Good News, to faithfully bring glory to our heavenly Father. What a purpose he gives! What reason to fight on!

C. How does he ultimately answer this pray to rescue us?

And then at the right time, he brings about the ultimate rescue for you and me -- the ultimate rescue when he delivers us from every evil forever. The Apostle Paul talks about that. “The crown of righteousness is laid away for me . . . The Lord will rescue me from every evil work and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:8, 18).

Do you see where Paul's vision is focused? He's looking at the finish line. He's looking at the victory circle. He uses the word for crown that refers to the crown or wreath that the winner was given in the ancient Greek Olympics. Think of our gold medals. Paul's vision is clearly focused on the future victory celebration. For he knows and believes that his Lord has risen from the dead and has given the victory to him and all who believe.

Oh, evils, trials, and darkness of this life can make that crown, that gold medal, seem like an impossible dream. But then, dear friend, look to the empty tomb. Jesus has won the victory for you. We're simply waiting for the award ceremonies. So keep running the race, keep wrestling the match, keep fighting the fight. Why drop out and lose what Jesus has already won for you?

For what a celebration when we finish the race! At another time Paul had written: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Now he puts those words into practice as he suffers in the Roman dungeon. For he knows that God will answer his pray. God will deliver him from every evil. How? By taking him safely home to heaven. For the ultimate answer to the Seventh Petition of the Lord's Prayer is when our heavenly Father takes us from this world of sorrow, this vale of tears, and brings us safely home to heaven, to Jerusalem the golden, our eternal victory. That is how we make it through the greatest evils in life, trusting our Lord to bring us safely home to heaven at his right time. Until then, keep running the race with your eyes on the finish line.“The Lord will rescue me from every evil work and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him the glory forever and ever. Amen” (2 Timothy 4:18).

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313