“At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. [Notwithstanding] the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me… And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever” (2 Timothy 4:16-18, my italics).
When Paul uses the word notwithstanding in this passage, He means simply, “in spite of.” He is telling us, “The Lord stood with me and strengthened me in spite of all the troublesome times I faced.” Paul knew that if he drew near to the Lord, Christ would honor him by standing with him.
The apostle declared, in effect: “Everywhere I turned, there was trouble and distress. Yet, when others let me down — when I was alone and all I could see were hard times — the Lord came to me and poured His strength into me. He delivered me from my fears. He gave me an assurance that He would keep me from every evil work, and He will continue to keep me until I get to heaven.”
Paul thrilled to see his spiritual children grasping this idea of notwithstanding in their lives. Year after year, he saw the Lord strengthening them and enabling them to stand steadfast in the midst of even the most difficult times.
Beloved, you can’t obtain this kind of assurance and strength anywhere but in the presence of the Lord Himself. We know Paul was in constant communion with Christ through prayer, and that is why evil news or trials could not shake him. Every time Paul faced another terrible trial, he escaped to prayer, running to Jesus to unburden his heart.