I’m encouraged by Paul and his example to us because he went through such harrowing situations. 2 Corinthians 11:22-28 is one of the passages that remind us how often he was shipwrecked, beaten, stoned, and even left for dead for the Gospel’s sake. While some Christians will go through one of those situations in their lifetime, most of us don’t go through what he endured. He is a great hero of the faith.
But there is an area where he suffered just like we do that we often forget. Though he was a great servant of God – Paul’s ministry and service to God often brought about loneliness as well. Paul was enduring discouragement because he served God and His church he often experienced the loss of his friends and companions. There were many reasons for this but the two main catalysts were geographical separation and people simply quitting on the ministry or church in general.
Can I remind you that while Paul ministered to people everywhere he went –his focus was the churches of God in various cities. He knew that the church of God was the “pillar and ground of the truth,” (1 Tim 3:15). He was not making a ministry for himself, rather, he was working for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ through the local church that Christ gave Himself for.
As Paul is writing 2 Timothy chapter 4, it is from a dark, damp, miserable prison cell. He goes on to list his present discouragements. It is interesting that his discouragements did not include what might think. He did not list the limited substandard food he received or the crowded conditions. No complaint over the limited or lack of movement, the terrible sanitary situation, or the lack of relief from the cold. The one thing that was on the heart of Paul was the loss of friends and companions in the Lord. When left alone to think in weariness and in the midst of a trial, we often do the same.
Notice his words in 2 Timothy 4:9-21.
- “Do thy diligence to come unto me” – Paul wanted to see Timothy – his son in the faith, to encourage him in his time of trial.
- He lists those that had departed (geographically separated), which were faithful servants of God whom he had developed close friendships with, but may never see again. Those listed were – Crescens, Titus, and Tychicus.
- Then he mentions those that had departed the faith – Demas, who loved this world more than God; and Alexander the Coppersmith who had done much damage – likely a rebellious person who acted spiritual but was self-centered and took away people from the church.
- Then there were those he was hopeful for. He had Luke with him and even looked forward to Mark being used of God again.
- In the last verse he greets several who had blessed him in the past.
These were highs and lows – good memories and bad. But then Paul goes on and displays two great attitudes that that kept him on track and should help us today.
The first was that he held no bitterness or resentment toward any of them. He even asked God to not lay it to their charge in verse 16. Oh, that we could have the same spiritual perception that Paul did. That even though people hurt him and departed from him, he neither held bitterness in his heart, nor did he hold a grudge against them or against the Lord. He knew that would destroy him.
The other great example in his attitude that Paul left for us is found in verses 17-18: “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me… And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Paul knew and had experienced in his own life, that though he might be at his lowest point at times, he had the greatest friend in the universe – the one that would always stand by him and always preserve him. It was the Lord Jesus Christ! That truth reigned in his life and kept him living for and serving the almighty God of heaven through all his pain, every trial, every setback, every loss, every hurt, all the lonely times and through every sorrow.
Friend, if you are trusting in Christ alone as your Lord and Savior, you too have the same friend and companion that Paul had. What a blessing it is to know that no matter what I go through in life, God is there with me, protecting and preserving, and does not allow anything to come my way without his knowledge and allowance. Oh, spend time with your Lord today, He is there for you. He wants to comfort you and meet your needs.
In my darkest times, in my times alone, in times in the wilderness, and even when I have been backslidden, God has always been there for me. There were times I did not see it, but that was because of my sin – that’s because sin oppresses us. It strains our relationship with God. But when I confessed my sin, got back on track, God would always clear my spiritual vision and see that He is with me and still loves me.
“What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bare; what privilege to carry everything to God ins Prayer. Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh, what needless pain we bare. All because we do not carry – everything to our God in prayer.”
Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.