Abandoned But Thankful. -2 Timothy 4
The Second Message in the Church Hurts series is all about being thankful in God who is with us, even if our fellow man has deserted us.
Last week we looked at Zacchaeus who was rejected by the crowd around Jesus, but Jesus looked past all of that and called Zacchaeus by name. He went to his house, and Zacchaeus was a changed man. Zachaeus was Abandoned but Thankful, by this I mean that he may have been abandoned by man, but was accepted by Christ. We talked about the fact that sometimes the people around Jesus come in between Jesus and the people who need him.
Last week focused on people who would have been hurt by the church or rejected upon their entrance into the church or when they were merely interested in the faith. Today’s message will hit home for those who have served faithfully within the church. People are left feeling deserted when they try out church but don’t feel accepted or welcomed. They walk away saying, I guess I just didn’t fit in or the people in the church all have really longstanding relationships with one another so I was always on the outside looking in.
People are left feeling abandoned when they jump into church life and ministry with both feet. They show up every time the doors are open, they volunteer in any possible way that they can, and then in their time of need, when they need to be on the receiving end of that ministry, they were forgotten or neglected.
Zacchaeus who was an outsider that was made to feel like an outsider. Now Jesus made him feel like an insider by going over to his home and dwelling with him- that’s what Jesus does, he makes the outsider feel like an insider. He welcomes the rejected.
This week we are looking at Paul who was the absolute opposite of Zacchaeus. As much as Zacchaeus may have been an outsider when he was rejected, Paul was an insider when he was abandoned. Paul had been an outsider but he had clearly been changed by the gospel and had served the church for decades when he wrote some final letters to his apprentices in the ministry.
This passage is one of the final passages that Paul wrote, and he wrote it to Timothy who had been saved, trained, and appointed as a pastor under Paul’s ministry…He wrote it after being imprisoned for his proclamation of the gospel, being shipped to Rome for trial, on that journey he was shipwrecked but made it safely to an island. On that Island he was bitten by a snake.
It had been a really rough patch for Paul.
Paul would eventually be killed by the Romans for his proclamation of the gospel. He would be martyred, but it seems that facing death wasn’t the hardest part, it wasn’t the shipwreck, or the snake bite, or the prison, or going to prison for a second time. The worst part of all this adversity was when Paul had to face it alone. There came a point when Paul looked around and no one was standing with him because his fellow man had abandoned him.
There is no greater adversity than facing difficulty alone.
That’s what this passage is about… It’s here at the end of the letter to Timothy that Paul begs him to please come quickly.
2 Timothy 4:6-18
The Gospel is an offense to the unbeliever.
The gospel put Paul on trial. The gospel put Paul at odds with Alexander the Coppersmith.
Something that I’ve always struggled to wrap my head around, I’ve really struggled to understand, is that there are people who don’t like me. I mean, can you believe that?
Not everyone likes me and thats no surprise. People act incredibly angry with me at times that I feel compelled to apologize even though I was nothing other than a pastor.
Ministry relationships are hard.
RC Sprout, on page 67 of his book titled The Holiness of God, tells the story of a professional golfer whose name is intentionally left out of the story. He played a round of golf with fellow pro Jack Nicklaus, then president Gerald Ford, and the evangelist Billy Graham. A buddy asked the unnamed pro what it was like to play with Ford and Graham after the round. “I don’t need Billy Graham shoving religion down my throat”, he said as he stormed toward the driving range. The buddy followed and stood by while the pro smashed balls off the driving range. Once the pro had calmed down the buddy asked, “So Billy was pretty rough on you out there huh?”
The pro let out an embarrassed sigh and said, “Honestly I don’t think he said anything about religion. I just had a horrible round.”
Because we are at odds with the world, we need relationships and friendships within the church in a very real way. However, ministry relationships can be incredibly hard.
We feel abandoned when people “in the church” are selfish.
Demas has deserted/abandoned/forsaken me loving this present world. (Paul took it personally)
We don’t know why Demas left for Thessalonica. It may be that a potential business opportunity had opened up or had been offered to him, or it could have been that there was a woman back in Thessalonica or maybe he wanted to go home. Whatever the reason, Demas didn’t leave to follow Jesus’ call on his life. He wasn’t leaving Paul to go and do kingdom work, he was leaving Paul to do what suited him.
Macarthur points out that the verb “has deserted me” is a very strong verb. It starts with the root verb meaning to leave and then it compounds it by adding two prepositions at the beginning of the word which makes it doubly intense so that it has been translated in sort of an American slang “leaving me in the lurch.”
The ideas is that Demas didn’t just leave, he left Paul in dire straits. He left him at the worst possible moment. Demas left when Paul needed him the most.
Of course when Paul needed him the most is when things would have been at their most adverse and difficult. As the situation worsened for Paul, it would have become harder and harder on Demas.
Sadly, when the going gets tough many people start going and we end up alone in the most difficult of times.
Paul was desperately lonely. He pleads with Timothy to come quickly and to bring some basic necessities like a cloak and some books. Paul must have been cold in the prison and without any study materials.
Of course, Demas wasn’t the only person who could have helped Paul there were others that were his friends, but apparently they weren’t much help either, lets talk about why-
Selfishness leads to abandonment at times and other times its because of unselfishness.
We feel abandoned when people in church are busy.
Verse 10 tells us of Demas leaving because he quit and it also tells us that Crescens and Titus are both away on a mission. Paul is writing to Timothy in Ephesus and Paul points out that he has sent Tychihus there as well.
While some leave because of selfishness, others leave for the exact opposite reason, because they obeying God’s call on their life- that is definitely more noble, but that doesn’t make it easy.
Titus and Crescens and Timothy and Tychicus were away serving God in the churches and Paul was glad. However, the fact that they were busy doing the work of ministry didn’t change the fact that they were not with Paul facing this adversity together.
Paul knew that these men were with him in Spirit. Paul knew that these men cared about him, but also knew that he wanted them there in the flesh to bring him some comfort. Titus and Timothy would have given anything to be there with Paul during this time and stand with him at the trial, but they couldn’t.
In verses 20-21 Paul notes that
“Erastus remained at Corinth” and “Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus.”
Then he asks Timothy to “Do your best to come before winter.”
Sometimes ministry deployments separate the body of Christ, sometimes sickness and illness separate us, and sometimes the very seasons of life bring distance between us. There were a variety of noble reasons that Paul’s friends couldn’t be there and there were a variety of reasons that outside of their control, but it was still hard. Whatever the reasons are that have left you feeling alone and abandoned, whether they be immoral or noble, this abandonment is hard. Loneliness is difficult.
We feel abandoned when people in the church fail to show up.
In verse 16 Paul says that at his first trial, “No one stood with me. All deserted me.”
Paul doesn’t list anyone that should have been standing with him and he doesn’t give any explanation as to why they weren’t there, but he does say they didn’t stand with him and asks God not to lay it to their charge. Luke wasn’t with Paul at the time of his trial. He may have been on his way to Paul but didn’t get there quickly enough.
The bottom line is that someone should have been there for Paul, with Paul and no one was. Paul must have felt so alone.
I want you to picture this scene.
Paul is going on trial in Rome and Rome is becoming increasingly divided. The conditions were pretty good in AD 60-62 and he was actually able to have guests and do training and mentoring. Paul immediately returned to ministry and preaching after his release.
Some people think Nero started a fire himself that raged for six days to create a crisis, but that is uncertain. However, Nero blamed Christians for the fire and used the moment to start publicly killing Christians in horrifying ways.
Nero had some Christians sown into the skins of wild animals and then let wild dogs attack them and tear them apart. Nero had Christians burned on pikes as torches during garden parties. He blamed Christians for the fire. He made them out to be the enemy. So the mood in Rome has changed drastically.
Paul stands on trial for being a Christian and proclaiming the gospel. He has to stand and give his defense and there is not a single familiar face. Picture Paul standing in a large hall with Greco-Roman architecture in front of a large crowd of bloodsport loving Romans. This context may explain why no one else was there, but also explains why Paul so desperately needed someone there.
This scene reminds me of a story that John Piper retold from John Paton’s biography.
A hundred years ago. John Paton from Scotland, took the gospel to the New Hebrides in the South Pacific. Within months his wife and son died. He was once surrounded by a mob seeking his life and spent a terrifying night hiding in a tree above them.
I hear that story and I think, how lonely that must have been. How abandoned he must have felt.
I think of Paul standing in that great hall full of enemies. It’s full of people who are holding him captive. He doesn’t see a familiar face or any of the people that he ministered to…
I think of people who have given themselves to ministry, people who have sacrificed their time and money. I think of those who have given of themselves until there is little left to give. When it came to their hour of need no one showed up.
My heart breaks to think of the times that I have failed to show up.
My heart sinks to think of times I looked up hoping to see a friendly face and found none…
Thank God that all of us are able to say what Paul says in verse 17.
The Lord stood with me.
17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.
If you feel hurt by the church and abandoned underline and treasure verse 17.
Jesus never forsakes us even when we are imperfect and the gospel puts us at odds with the world.
The Lord strengthened me…
Even in the moments that Paul was the most alone, God was with him AND strengthening him. He was using him for the sake of the gospel.
This passage shows that Paul knew the Lord stood with him, but also for the sake of the nations. Paul says, the Lord stood by me and strengthened me so that the nations might hear the gospel. As Paul stood there in that great hall full of unfamiliar people, he knew that the Lord was with him. Every one of those faces was the face of someone who needed the gospel.
The Lord uses us to further his kingdom.
God used that moment to reach the gentiles and the nations. It may be that there in the group were people from all other that God would speak to their hearts. Paul’s defense would be read by many who were following the court proceeding.
Paul felt abandoned by those that he served with and that the church had failed him. However, he knew there was still a need to proclaim the gospel. The Lord was still right there with him.
John Paton, who hid in the tree from an angry mob, said this in his autobiography
“I sat there among the branches, as safe in the arms of Jesus.”
“Never, in all my sorrows, did my Lord draw nearer to me, and speak more soothingly in my soul . . . I will not grudge to spend many nights alone in such a tree, to feel again my Savior’s spiritual presence, to enjoy His consoling fellowship.”
Paul was never alone.
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