As a church family we’ve spent the first three months of the year looking at the last letter of the Apostle Paul. In these final words he has hammered away at what he believes are the most important things: Being true to the Word of God, living a life of Integrity, living with an eternal focus, and being aware of the times in which we live.
Paul’s instructions and counsel have come to an end. What we look at this morning are some personal items. But even here we can discern some valuable lessons that will help us in our own discipleship. Let’s look again at the text.
This list of people at the end of this personal letter to Timothy is a reminder that relationships are important. That is certainly true when it comes to the Christian community. It is a great deal easier to serve the Lord when we serve alongside our brothers and sisters. With that in mind we see our first lesson.
Serving the Lord is Sometimes a Lonely Endeavor
9 Timothy, please come as soon as you can. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus has gone to Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you when you come, for he will be helpful to me in my ministry. 12 I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. 13 When you come, be sure to bring the coat I left with Carpus at Troas. Also bring my books, and especially my papers. . . 16 The first time I was brought before the judge, no one came with me. Everyone abandoned me. May it not be counted against them.
This is a somewhat sad picture of the Apostle Paul. He is awaiting death and he feels alone. Luke accompanies him but many of the others have gone on to continue the important work of proclaiming the Gospel. Paul would not have it any other way. But it is hard to feel alone.
In verse 16 Paul talks about facing the judge the first time with no one by his side. He said they ‘abandoned him’. He mentions others that have opposed him. I trust you can feel the pain in those words.
Perhaps you have some idea of what Paul was feeling
- You stand alone as a Christian on a campus or a classroom that is hostile to (or at least uninterested in) Christ. You are considered anti-intellectual and primitive because of your beliefs.
- You are a businessman who tries to run your business by Christian principles but the people who cheat and lie and do sub-par work make it very difficult for you to survive because they undercut every bid.
- You are part of a family that comes from another religion, one hostile to Christianity, and you stand alone facing the wrath and rejection of your family.
- You are discriminated against (picked on) because you do not share the same values of those around you. You are called narrow-minded, heartless, and even a bigot because you believe the Word of God is the one and only non-negotiable truth.
- You face the ridicule of friends, co-workers, and classmates because they know you try to practice what you believe. They ridicule you and say you are being judgmental even though you say nothing.
- You are charged with hate speech because you say Jesus is the only way to Heaven.
The loneliness is even more acute if you live in non-Christian countries. For your own protection you must be very careful who you trust. The threat of persecution can come from your own family. The pressure is so great that some who were part of your group may give in and expose the rest of the faith community to persecution. Thus out of necessity it becomes a very lonely discipleship.
Jesus told us to count the cost before we become a disciple. He warned us that when we follow Him we will be walking the narrow road while everyone else walks the wide road. We will swim against the current of contemporary culture and at times it can be exhausting.
Paul called for his coat and his “papers” or parchments. He needed the coat because it was getting cold. The cloak may have been one of the only luxuries Paul owned. The parchments or books might have been the Old Testament. They may have also been written accounts of the words of Jesus. Most Pastors love their books! Paul was no exception!
People Do Change (Mark)
Bring Mark with you when you come, for he will be helpful to me in my ministry.
Mark is an interesting story. His mother’s home was one of the meeting places of the Jerusalem church. Some believe this was the same home where the Last Supper took place. Mark was an eyewitness to the life of Jesus and may have been the young man who ran away naked at the arrest of Jesus (Mark 14:51-52.)
When Paul went on his first missionary journey with Barnabus they took Mark with them. For some reason Mark went home early (Acts 13). Later, Barnabus wanted to take Mark with them on another trip but Paul refused feeling Mark had “deserted them”. Paul did not feel Mark was trustworthy. The disagreement was so strong that this missionary team split up. Barnabus took Mark and Paul went another direction taking Silas.
Now at the end of his life, Paul has changed his mind about Mark. He has become a trusted colleague. He was with Paul in his first imprisonment (Col 4:10) and in Philemon 24 Paul calls Mark his “co-worker”. Mark later went on to author the gospel that bears his name. It is an amazing story.
What happened? We do not know. Lets not forget that Paul used to be known as Saul. He used to be a terrorist who persecuted the church. He had Christians killed. He was, if you will, the Osama Bin Laden of the Jewish establishment. When Paul met Jesus He had a dramatic change of heart.
Suppose Osama Bin Laden had been captured by Seal Team 6. Suppose he had been brought back to the USA and he said he had changed his mind about Americans. Where once he hated them, now he had deep respect and love for them. Suppose the American people dared to believe him. They embraced him so much that he went on a speaking circuit. Then he was elected mayor of a major city. Then, because of his skill as a leader he was asked by the President to serve in an advisory committee. Let’s push it even further, let’s say he was named TIME’ “man of the year”.
Here is the question: Could that ever happen? Would we ever believe that someone like that could be that transformed? It is unlikely. We would say, “People don’t change.” We might say, “He doesn’t deserve an opportunity to prove he is a different man.” But here’s the thing: that is exactly what happened to Paul. The terrorist Jew became the church’s greatest and most influential teacher outside of Jesus. He went on to author half of the New Testament. We study his words and marvel at his testimony. His is an amazing story of God’s grace and ability to transform a life.
Paul, I believe, was able to believe Mark was a different man because he knew what God can do. That is such an important message for us to hear. You may look around this sanctuary and not even realize where some of us have come from. You may look at others and remember things people did in the past and you wonder why such people would dare to be part of this church. May God forgive you. God’s grace . . . the very same grace that you and I depend on . . . still transforms lives. We must never forget that if God could change the course of our lives . . . He can change the course of anyone. It’s true that some change is superficial. But some of it isn’t. Why not dare to believe in the power of grace?
Some People Help and some Hinder it is important to know the difference
Paul mentions a bunch of different people. Timothy, Titus, Tychicus, Crescens, Luke, Carpus, and Mark are all listed as positive workers for the gospel. Some of these men were sent out (undoubtedly BY Paul) to do other work. Luke remained at Paul’s side. He was Paul’s traveling companion and even his biographer. But then there are others.
Demas was a source of discouragement to Paul. He let him down. How did he do this? He deserted Paul. We are told it was because he loved the things of this world. In other words, his head was turned by all the stuff, power, and amusements of this world. When we love the wrong things, we live the wrong life.
It is hard to imagine someone who had been mentioned as a co-worker earlier (Colossians 4:14 and Philemon 24) who now had abandoned Paul. It is tough to invest deeply in someone and learn to trust them only to have them turn away and hurt you. Jesus had that same experience with Judas.
14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm, but the Lord will judge him for what he has done. 15 Be careful of him, for he fought against everything we said.
Alexander it appears was never a friend of Paul. He did Paul great harm. Some suggest Alexander may have been involved in Paul’s arrest. He may have been an idol maker who was losing business because of Paul. In 1 Timothy 1:20 Paul mentions an Alexander whom “he delivered to Satan”. It may or may not have been the same person.
Paul has two things to say about Alexander. 1) The Lord would judge Alexander. The Lord is the One who vindicates his people. We must never forget this. God defends those who live faithfully before Him. 2) He told Timothy to “watch his back” from Alexander. He told him to not have anything to do with this guy.
It is important that we recognize that different people are in different stages of their relationship with God. Some want no part of Him. Some are just taking first steps. Others are strong followers. When selecting leaders Paul warned that leaders should not be new believers. Why? You nee to find out whether these people are going to help or hinder the ministry of the gospel.
There are always people who talk a good game but when it comes to a time of conflict, they are not interested in resolving conflict; they want to win! They are not interested in advancing the Kingdom of God, they only want to get what they want. Paul told Timothy to steer clear of such people. They will destroy a church.
Prisca, Aquilla and Onesiphorous were longtime friends. Paul met Prisca and Aquilla in Corinth. He made tents with them and enjoyed their hospitality. Erastus and Tropimus appear to be additional friends who were not present because of their work.
The last mentioned people, Eubulus, Pudens, Linus (can you see the power of the media in the fact that we think of Linus as carrying a blanket?) Claudia and the brothers. We know nothing about these people. However, we see that unknown (to us) saints are a blessing to others through the ages. If you are a faithful friend you are following in their footsteps.
Wherever we serve, if we serve faithfully, the Lord will notice. Even if no one else does.
The Lord is Sufficient for All Things.
17 But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength so that I might preach the Good News in its entirety for all the Gentiles to hear. And he rescued me from certain death. 18 Yes, and the Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into his heavenly Kingdom. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen.
Paul is confident in his faith in these final words. When he was left alone to face the court, the Lord was with him. He said the Lord delivered him. In verse 18 he testified that the Lord would rescue him from every evil work and would bring him home to Heaven.
This is what made Paul the faithful man that he was. His faith was not in the world. He was not seeking worldly accolades or possessions. He didn’t care about health or wealth. All he wanted to do was serve the Lord who had snatched him from the mouth of Hell and had redeemed him. Paul never forgot where he had been. He never forgot his encounter with Christ. He saw the Lord work even in circumstances that were personally difficult. His faith was solid.
He ends this letter the way he lived his life: seeking to bring glory and honor to the Lord. That is the kind of legacy we should all be striving to leave.
Life can be very confusing. We are bombarded on every side by people who try to tell us what to believe, how to live, and what is important. It is easy to get sucked into the rat race so deeply that we become one of the rats.
It is possible to profess faith in Christ and yet live like He is irrelevant to our everyday duties and challenges. Such people are called practical atheists. In other words, they don’t say they don’t believe in God with their words. They say it with the way they live their lives.
Why doesn’t the church have a greater impact in the society in which we live? Why do we have churches of massive size yet these congregations seem to have no impact on our culture? Why is society devolving instead of getting better? Why do prominent Pastors speak out about elections yet nothing seems to change? Why is the Bible being pushed aside for pop psychology and moralist lessons? Where is the transformation?
Quite frankly, I believe the problem is that Christians are too often part of the “Christian Club” and not passionately committed to following Christ. The world dismisses the power of the gospel because in our actions WE dismiss the power of the gospel! Transformation requires that we embrace the discipleship that we see in 2 Timothy.
- We must decide whether we believe the Bible is God’s truth or not. We must ask, “What is our authority?” We must not only answer this question; we must live out that answer in our lives.
- We must decide whether we let the values of the world squeeze us into its mold. Will we will serve Him first or will we serve our hobbies, our families, our teams, or even our community above the Lord? And, if we are honest and recognize that we are having trouble serving the Lord first, we must stop making excuses and repent.
- It is time to decide whether we will lead our families as godly men and women or whether we will surrender our families to social media, to peer pressure, and to the values of the entertainment world and simply follow the current of contemporary thinking.
- We have to decide whether we will chase every fad and get upset by every offense or whether we will anchor deep with a body of believers through thick and thin. We have to decide whether we will be consumer Christians (constantly running to something “better”) or function as committed Christians. We must choose whether we will will adopt the intimidation tactics of the world or the ethics of the Kingdom of God.
The real question then is this: Have you truly turned to Jesus as the only one who can save you from the sin in your life? Have you asked Him to make you new and to fill you with His Spirit? If the answer to either of these questions is NO, then it is time to make a change. It is time RIGHT NOW to change the direction of your life.
These are important choices. They will determine the legacy that we leave. The Christians who are living now will determine what kind of faith will be left for the next generations (should the Lord tarry). 2 Timothy forces us to ask the question: How will we be remembered? Will we be remembered with a footnote that we were churchgoers, or will be remembered as those who were passionately devoted to following our Lord Jesus Christ? Will people say that they saw Jesus in us?
- Do they see the joy of one snatched from death and given life?
- Do they see the humility of one who was saved by God’s grace and not any works that we have done?
- Do they see the compassion of one who was filled with the Holy Spirit?
- Do they see generosity in our dealings with others?
- Do they see the commitment that leads to working through problems rather than running from them?
- Do they see the priorities that are sadly unique in a world of compromise?
What will your legacy be? It is important to ask these questions now. Your legacy is already being written. The only question that remains is: How will it end?
 The idea for this illustration came from John Alan Turner CRAZY STORIES, SANE GOD from the chapter on Acts 8.