2 Timothy 4:9-15 (NIV) 9 Do your best to come to me quickly, 10 for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. 12 I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. 13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments. 14 Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. 15 You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message.
On verses 9-15: Ministry is about serving God but it’s also about working with people. Because none of us is perfect, you and those you serve with are bound to encounter tension, disagreement and conflict from time to time. So what should you do? From these verses we see how a mature leader in God’s kingdom deals with hurt and conflict with fellow servants of God. In particular here are 3 things I learn from Paul’s example:
1. In all cases, when you have been wronged by someone, you need to extend forgiveness to that person (see verse 16: “may it not be held against them”). Forgiving that person is not just for that person’s sake. Even more, it’s for your sake, to enable you to move on and not live in the past. Otherwise, bitterness will start to rob you of peace and poison your life.
2. In some cases, when someone lets you down, it’s about giving them another chance. That’s how Paul deals with Mark in verse 11. Mark had previously let Paul down (see Acts 15:36-40). Now Paul was willing to give Mark another chance. He says, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” (v11) Is there someone you need to give another chance to?
3. In other more serious cases, when someone lets you down, you need to be extra cautious about trusting that person again. Remember that forgiving someone and trusting someone again are not the same thing. Forgiveness is free; trust is earned. We are commanded to forgive, but we’re not commanded to automatically trust again people who have hurt us badly. This was the case with Alexander the metal worker. Paul warns Timothy to be on guard against Alexander “because he strongly opposed our message” (v14-15). Is there someone you need to forgive but still be cautious about trusting?
2 Timothy 4:16-17 (NIV) 16 At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. 17 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.
On verses 16-17: By “first defense”, Paul is likely referring to a preliminary hearing that led up to his present trial in Rome. That hearing was an incredibly difficult time for Paul. Not only was Paul facing possible execution, but all the Christian brothers and sisters he expected would be there to support him didn’t show. Nevertheless, Paul extends forgiveness to them — “may it not be held against them” (v16).
Paul also testifies that God never left him, and that God strengthened him and used him to fully proclaim the message of the gospel in the highest court in Rome. In so doing God used Paul to bring the message of the Gospel to potentially more Gentiles than Paul could have reached if he were not on trial. Even more, at that latest hearing, the judge chose not to order Paul’s execution and as such he “was delivered from the lion’s mouth” (v17).
What can we learn from this? When you feel like everyone has deserted you and there is no one to support you, the Lord is faithful to stand by your side and give you strength. If like Paul you place your trust in Jesus, He will strengthen you in that difficult time and use you to proclaim the hope that is in Jesus. He will turn that difficult situation into a story of God’s glory. So if you’re going through a difficult time today, don’t give up. Be merciful toward those who disappointed you, and trust in God. He will protect you and work the situation out for your good and for His glory.
2 Timothy 4:18 (NIV) 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
On verse 18: Just as God had delivered Paul from so many trials before, Paul was confident that God would continue to rescue him from every evil attack. Even if any attack should lead to his death, Paul was confident that God would bring him safely to Himself in heaven. May we have a similar attitude when facing challenges. Instead of a panicky, worried, “the sky is falling” outlook, may you look at the challenges you face with faith, believing that just as God has protected and delivered you so far, He will continue to protect and deliver you until it’s your time to see Him face to face in heaven.
2 Timothy 4:19-22 (NIV) 19 Greet Priscilla and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus. 20 Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus. 21 Do your best to get here before winter. Eubulus greets you, and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers. 22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.
On verses 19-22: These final verses of 2 Timothy are also the last recorded sentences that Paul would write. From these final words it is clear that Paul had a tremendous heart for God and a tremendous heart for people too. There will never be another like him. Paul is one of the greatest examples of how a mature Christian loves God well and loves people well too. It’s not one or the other; it’s both. It takes a vertical bar and a horizontal bar together to form a cross. May you be an excellent lover of God and an excellent lover of people.
Heavenly Father, thank You for all the lessons we could learn from 2 Timothy. Just as Paul was so wise and loving in dealing with people, I pray I would be the same way. Just as he faced great adversity and even desertion by his friends with great perseverance, compassion, and faith in You, I pray we would do the same. Thank You so much for the example Paul left for us about how to follow You to the very end. Like Paul may we fight the good fight and finish the race You called us to run. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
This brings our look at 2 Timothy to a close. What were the most important lessons you learned from this book? Reply to this e-mail and let me know. I would love to hear from you.
For me, going through this book this time round, I am struck by: (1) Paul’s tender heart for Timothy as if he knew that this could be his last letter to him; (2) Paul’s heart for the church, how even in his most difficult moment Paul still spends much time and effort trying to combat false teaching in the church; and (3) the admirable way Paul faces adversity with faith and confidence in Christ.