2 Timothy (10) “Getting Personal”
2 Timothy 4:9-22
When I was a teenager the Beatles were in their prime. One of their famous hit songs, Eleanor Rigby, has the refrain: All the lonely people. Where do they all come from? All the lonely people. Where do they all belong? Yes, back then, in the 60s, the Beatles sang about people who were lonely. Society today is no different. You can be in a crowd & still feel lonely.
One of the blessings of being a Christian & of belonging to the family of God is we actually are not on our own. We have the fellowship & the support of brothers & sisters in the Lord. However, despite this there are times when even Christians feel discouraged & lonely. Some struggle with depression. Today as we come to the last message in our series Passing the Torch based on Paul’s 2nd letter to Timothy, we discover that at times even the great apostle struggled with discouragement & loneliness.
Like all of us Paul had feelings & emotions. He was not a super saint. He lived in the real world. Obviously the fact he was facing execution must have affected his emotions, but having to deal with people was another factor. Paul knew that while some people are a delight to work with, others are not very easy to work with!
1. Coping With Discouragement (vrs 9 & 10)
Paul faced times of loneliness & discouragement. In v.9, he writes to young Timothy, & says, “Do your best to come to me quickly.” Right at the end of the letter in v.21 he says, “Do your best to get here before winter.” Paul did not know how much time he had left. He didn’t want Timothy to delay. Winter was coming & travel from Ephesus to Rome might be difficult. Paul urged Timothy to come as quickly as possible.
One of the things Elizabeth & I hope to do fairly soon after I officially ‘retire’ is to fly to South Africa to see my Mother. She is not facing execution but at almost 97 she is not getting any younger. I know she is looking forward to seeing me, her oldest boy, & her lovely daughter-in-law. And of course we are really eager to see her & spend time with her.
Are there people in your life who need you to visit? Are there those who need your encouragement & practical help?
Paul knew the disappointment of seeing former friends & co-workers growing cold in their faith & no longer following the Lord as eagerly as once they did. In v.10 he mentions a brother who had backslidden in this way – “…for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me & has gone to Thessalonica.” Demas had let Paul down. He had deserted Paul in his hour of need. The problem was not that Demas had gone to Thessalonica. The problem was he “loved this world” more than the kingdom of God.
What made Demas turn his back on the Lord & on Paul? One reason may be that right at the start he did not count the cost of following Jesus. Maybe he began full of faith & enthusiasm but when opposition or hardship came along he pulled back. This happens to some people today – they hear about the blessings of the Gospel & decide to follow Jesus & even get baptised, but when things do not work out quite as they expected or when things don’t go their way they pull back.
Another problem with some people is they lose the sense of challenge & the thrill of being a Christian. They start taking the blessings of the Gospel for granted. If this is your problem, I encourage you to start counting your blessings. A sister in our church recently was feeling discouraged & sorry for herself. That same day she heard from an old school friend, not a believer, who poured out all her troubles to her. The sister in our church was able to encourage her friend & she also prayed for her. As soon as she did this & started counting her own blessings, her own depression lifted completely.
Another problem, & this may be what happened to Demas, is that some people lose their first love. Instead of loving the Lord they start loving the world. They start living according to worldly values & begin to crave worldly pleasures. Well, dear friends when we do this we are never going to find true joy or satisfaction. The things the devil promises – more money, comfort, success, power, material wealth, pleasure, etc – cannot satisfy. In fact if we fix our hearts on these things sooner or later we will drift away from the Lord. As Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) If we do not want to lose our first love, our love for the Lord, we must keep our hearts focussed on Him.
Sadly, as happened with Demas, some of those who start well don’t continue. They drift away from the Lord. In some cases they get so busy they have no more time for God or church. They have no idea of the blessings they are missing, or of the dangers they face.
Yes, the apostle Paul felt deeply disappointed with Demas, his former co-worker. And you & I sometimes also feel disappointed with people. It is important, however, to remember such things are part of life. They are part & parcel of ministry. We must not dwell on our disappointments. We can only hand them over to the Lord.
And the other thing we must do is remember & give thanks for all the encouragements we receive when serving the Lord. This brings us to our second point:
2. Encouragement & Warning (vrs 10b-15)
Seeing people helped closer to God through our witness is fantastic. Elizabeth & I have had the great privilege of serving amongst you these past 10 years. Seeing people come to faith, seeing them grow in the Lord & seeing them shine for Jesus means more to us than words can tell.
There were many people & many situations that encouraged Paul. Demas may have deserted him but he goes on to mention two others who had also left but, it seems, not for any negative reason. He says, “Crescens has gone to Galatia, & Titus to Dalmatia.” Maybe they went because Paul himself had encouraged them to go. Maybe they went to those places to serve the Lord, much as KO & Stella went to Tokyo to serve the Lord. In v.12 Paul says, “I sent Tychicus to Ephesus.” Obviously Tychicus was sent with the blessing of Paul & for a special purpose. In your planning, if you ever think about moving house or perhaps moving to another city or country, it is most important you seek the will of the Lord. If He wants you to move then you must move – if not then you should not move.
In v.11 Paul speaks about Luke who was there with him in Rome. Luke, “the beloved doctor” as Paul called him, was a special friend & had travelled with Paul on many of his journeys. The Lord used Luke powerfully, not only to serve alongside Paul, but to write the Gospel of Luke & the book of Acts. Luke was an outstanding writer & historian, as well as a doctor.
Over the years it has been my privilege to serve with many incredible people – many right here in MBCC! And looking back to my time in Hong Kong & travelling around the world recruiting Christian professionals for service in China, I met many amazing people. I remember, for example, meeting a young couple at a meeting in Switzerland where I shared about China. They were in their final year of medical study at the time but later after completing specialist studies they joined JHF & are now highly respected medical specialists serving in a major hospital in northwest China. And they also took time to learn Chinese – & bring up 3 kids!
Also in v.11, Paul mentions Mark. As a young man Mark was the one who dropped out part-way through Paul’s first missionary journey. Things got tough for him so he turned back. A year or two later when planning a second missionary journey, Paul & his co-worker Barnabas had a sharp disagreement about Mark. Barnabas wanted to take Mark along, giving him a second chance, but Paul refused. He did not want to risk taking Mark, the drop-out.
Now, some 17 years have gone by, & Paul says to Timothy, “Get Mark & bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” The one who had been a drop-out was now a valued helper & a gifted Christian leader in his own right. As we know, it was Mark who wrote the Gospel of Mark. Mark turned out really well.
What a lesson this must have been for Paul – & what an encouragement too. And what an encouragement it is to us as well. When we see young believers struggle & even give up, we must not give up on them. We must not think of them as hopeless failures, for God is not finished with them yet. In some ways, all of us fail, sometimes, but the Lord does not give up on us!
There were many things that encouraged Paul, despite his circumstances. Yes, he had physical needs – a prison cell in Rome in the winter could be very cold. No doubt this is why he tells Timothy in v.12, “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas.” Despite facing a very uncertain future Paul wanted to keep his mind active & he wanted the comfort of God’s Word. This is why he asks Timothy to bring, “…my scrolls, especially the parchments.” (v.13) Those scrolls & parchments would have included his writing materials but also parts of the Old Testament Scriptures & possibly even some of the Gospels.
If you are feeling discouraged or lonely, I encourage you too to care about your physical well-being (exercise, diet, proper rest are all important). Keep an active mind & read the Bible. In the Bible you will find all the comfort you need, for you will hear the Holy Spirit speaking to you.
In v.14 Paul warns Timothy about a person called Alexander. It seems Alexander may have been an informer or a spy. At first he seemed to be a brother in the Lord but later it became obvious he was not. Paul says, “Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message.” (vrs 14 & 15)
Believers in some countries have to meet in secret. They have to be very careful who they invite to their meetings. They must make sure they can trust the person. They do not want to welcome those who are actually informers for the police. This guy Alexander may have been an informer who gave information to the Roman authorities, & got Christians into trouble. Paul knew the Lord would deal with Alexander, but he also wanted to warn Timothy to be on guard against him.
And so we come to our last point:
3. People Matter (vrs 19-22)
Half of the books or letters in the New Testament were written by the apostle Paul. As we said in the first message in this series, 2 Timothy was the last of the letters he wrote & therefore surely what he says is of particular significance. In 2 Timothy Paul reveals his heart, his feelings & his priorities – sound doctrine, steadfast faith, confident endurance, hope & love. And what strikes me about the very last section of this letter, 4:9-22, is that Paul’s focus is on people. Paul gets very personal. Apart from Timothy to whom he was writing, he refers by name to 17 people & mentions as well “all the brothers & sisters” in Rome who sent greetings.
Paul really cared about people. Of course in his ministry travelling all over the empire preaching the Gospel he must have met & worked with many people. He had come to love many of them very dearly, people like Timothy.
Two other very special people, close friends & work-mates of Paul, were Aquila & Priscilla. Like Paul himself, they were tentmakers or leather workers by trade & when Paul first met them in Corinth he worked with them. In v.19 Paul says to Timothy, “Greet Priscilla & Aquila.” Both in Corinth & later when they had moved to Ephesus, this couple opened their home & it became the meeting place for a church. Yes, in the Early Church believers used to meet in homes. We are so blessed to have our wonderful church facilities but never forget that you can also use your home for the Lord. Your home will be blessed when you open it to others offering hospitality & maybe using your home as a venue for a Life Group meeting.
We do not have time to look at all those Paul mentions in these closing verses but let me just mention Trophimus. Paul tells Timothy, “I left Trophimus ill in Miletus.” (v.20) Didn’t Paul pray that Trophimus would be healed? I am sure he did – but in His sovereignty God chose not to answer Paul’s prayer for healing, at least not at that time. God can & does heal but not always in the way or at the time we might expect. Don’t be discouraged if your prayers for healing are not answered. It doesn’t mean God has failed you or that He has not heard your prayers.
Paul closes his letter with a blessing or benediction asking that the Lord be with Timothy & that His grace be upon Timothy & all God’s people. He says, “The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all.” (v.22) What a great way to end – by blessing others! I find this remarkable. Here is Paul the great apostle facing execution yet obviously thinking of other people & praying for them. What a great example this is to us!
I am reminded of my dear friend David Adeney – an amazing man of God. He & his wife served with the China Inland Mission (now OMF) in Henan Province in rural evangelism & then with university students in Nanjing. After the communists came to power the missionaries had to leave China & for 10, 20 almost 30 years there was no news, no contact. Did Mr Adeney forget his former friends, students, & co-workers? Of course not! He prayed for them every day. He started the Pray for China Fellowship which later became OMF’s Global Chinese Ministries Prayer Letter. This now goes out to thousands of interested prayer friends around the world. And of course, after China began to open its doors to the outside world in the late 1970s & early 1980s, Mr Adeney was able to visit China again. He was able, in many cases quite miraculously, to meet up again with many of his old friends. He saw that God had indeed answered his prayers.
The apostle Paul did not live to see all the fruit of his ministry but there was fruit, fruit that lasts. Even though the Christian church was persecuted for a long time, the Gospel reached to the very heart of the empire & beyond. Constantine (emperor 306-337 AD) himself turned to Christ & in 313 AD Christianity was made legal throughout the empire. And of course the things Paul wrote, letters like 2 Timothy, continue to speak to God’s people today.
So then, when we feel discouraged or lonely let us remember we need not be defeated. We are not alone. Let us count our blessings & give thanks for the many encouragements & opportunities the Lord gives us day by day. And when people let us down, remember the Lord is not finished with them, nor is He finished with us. And let us remember, people are important. Let us pray for others & bless others. Who knows what the Lord may do in the lives of those to whom we witness & in the lives of those for whom we pray! We will find out one day in heaven & I’m sure will get some wonderful surprises!