Difficult Relationships and an Unfailing Friend | 2 Timothy 4:9-22

/////Difficult Relationships and an Unfailing Friend | 2 Timothy 4:9-22

Difficult Relationships and an Unfailing Friend | 2 Timothy 4:9-22


At first glance, this text looks like a hodgepodge of disconnected ideas.  Some people skip right over it and figure Paul’s personal business back then is of little consequence to the church today.  But the faithful student of God’s Word has a much different view of this text.  They know that every scripture is important.  It is God-breathed.  All scripture is profound and deep and moving and significant and compelling.  With this text, we will need to just dig a little bit deeper.

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This text reminds me that God is concerned with the big issues in life and the little ones.  He is concerned about travel plans and false teachers and sick workers and missing coats.  He wants us to bring every need before him.

Friendship Folder:  Sometimes when I get this little book, I freeze.  I have a thought that runs through my mind that goes like this:  I don’t have cancer and I didn’t just come into a huge inheritance.  I don’t think I have any burden or and praises that I need to share with the church this week.

And yet, God is concerned with every issue in our lives.  (..with travel plans and false teachers and sick workers and missing coats…)  Those who are committed to be intercessors here at Canyon want to share every joy and every challenge you face, no matter how big or how small.  We can’t love one another and rejoice with one another and pray for one another unless we know what is happening in each other’s lives.  You and I need to be in the habit of praying over everything.

Last Sunday was family Sunday so several of the children submitted prayer requests.  One of the prayer requests was memorable and I asked his family’s permission to share it.  This little boy wrote: please pray:

  • For there to be no bugs in my house
  • That nobody gets hurt
  • That no one is sinful
  • I hope that one day Jesus will come down to earth

He’s praying about everything.  You and I should pray like that.  What a beautiful and simple and hope-filled request from a child!

This week as our intercessors prayed for you, the needs in our church covered a number of different topics and vast array of emotions.  Some were joyful, others were sad.  Some people were brokenhearted.  That strange combination of feelings and requests is characteristic in the Christian life:

  • Some people were rejoicing over the Lord’s provision
  • Some people were sad over loved ones who have serious medical issues.
  • Some people were broken hearted over people who had rejected Christ or over families torn apart by sin
  • And one little girl told the Lord she would like a camera

The end of 2 Timothy sounds a lot like the ongoing prayer needs in the church.   Paul’s closing words are characteristic of the Christian life.  His words are full of joy and sadness.  Paul is both broken-hearted and hopeful.  Paul addresses some physical needs, but he mostly mentions relationships.

Paul gives us a glimpse into his interpersonal relationships here.  Some of his friends and companions were a source of great joy.  Others, like Alexander the coppersmith, opposed the church and were very difficult to deal with.  They were dangerous.  Paul is showing us that the relationships in a Christian’s life can be both dynamic and difficult.

The last section of 2 Timothy Chapter 4 is a messy collection of personal thoughts and experiences from the Apostle Paul and yet it is still divinely inspired:

  • Timothy, I hope you can come before winter (v.9, 21) because I miss you and because Demas bailed on me (v.10)
  • Watch out for Alexander the coppersmith… He’ll hurt you (v.15)
  • Nobody came to my trial and I was lonely (v.16) but the Lord stood by me (v. 17)
  • Greet my dear friends Prisca and Aquila and Onesiphorus (v.19)
  • Trophimus is sick (v. 20)
  • The brothers greet you (v. 22)
  • And so on

Hope and happiness and sadness and broken-heartedness are all intermingled.  They used to teach in seminary that the proper way to preach on Sunday was to have three points and poem.  Preferably all three of those points should start with the same letter.  This scripture touches on at least a dozen or more different topics with little or no connection or transition between them.  I’m not sure any formulaic approach will suffice.  It’s a scattered text and I think it merits a scattered sermon.  This morning I’m not going to cover the dozen or so topics listed here, but a few things stood out to me.

To really understand the message here, we need to understand some of the burdens that Paul was bearing as he wrote this text.  Ministry had been difficult for Paul physically, but this text focusses on how Paul’s faithful witness for the gospel was difficult for him relationally.

Paul was planting churches.  The Lord was working powerfully through him.  Miracles were being performed.  Paul had a team of ministry workers who were all part of the dynamic work of planting new churches and sharing the gospel.

  • People were getting saved.
  • Lives were being transformed.
  • Hard ground was being taken back from the enemy.

But, the enemy still had a few tricks up his sleeve.  Distracting ministry workers at the early stages of this ministry could be damaging to the new church plants.  It could be both hurtful and discouraging to Paul.  So Satan turned his attention to Demas and enticed him with the temptations of the world.

Some people will choose to walk away from dynamic, impacting ministries in order to pursue the things of this world.

Demas was first mentioned in Colossians.  Colossians was written roughly five to seven years before 2 Timothy.  Colossians was written during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome.  (He was under house arrest then)  At that time, Demas was one of Paul closest companions.

  • Colossians (4:12-14) indicates that Luke, Epaphras and Demas were all working together with Paul in Rome.
  • The Book of Philemon was written about the same time as the Book of Colossians.  Paul lists Demas with a group that also included Mark, Luke and Aristarchus. (v.24)

Roughly five years before the writing of 2 Timothy, Demas was close companions with Paul, Luke and Mark.  Demas was hanging out with three men who were personally responsible for writing most of the New Testament.  The Bible does not mention much about Paul’s relationship with Demas, but it would be safe to assume that Paul had invested a great deal of time and effort in Demas.  Any man included in this inner-circle would have been exposed to intense training in order to be well-equipped to carry on the ministry.

This close association with Paul during his first imprisonment would have put Demas at risk of facing persecution and even prison.  It seems, though, as the risk continued to increase, Demas’ resolve began to decrease.  It became apparent that Demas was not all in.  He still loved the world a little bit.  In fact, it became clear that he loved the world more than he loved the Lord, the Lord’s people or the Lord’s work.

In 2 Timothy 4:9-10, Paul says to Timothy, “Do your best to come to me soon. 10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.”  Demas may have put up such a good façade that he passed as a Christian leader for years.

  • It’s possible that Demas abandoned Paul because he made a huge mistake.  He was saved, but was scared when persecution began and he left in fear of being killed.
  • It is also possible that he had fooled Paul and Luke and Mark into thinking he was a dedicated leader in the church, while, like Judas, he remained unconverted in his heart.

1 John 2:15 says, “15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Love for the world makes ministry impossible.  People who love the world either leave the ministry or they try to make the ministry worldly…. BECAUSE…if they can make the ministry worldly enough, they might still feel comfortable there.  Under Paul’s leadership, there is no way that Demas would get away with worldly ministry…so he left.

Christians in our culture, both young and old, need to carefully and continually examine their relationship with the fallen world around them.  Secular, God-ignoring thinking can easily enter the church and it can easily enter our lives.  There is a love of the world that produces people who deny and demean God and then distort the message of the Cross.  People who deny, demean and distort the message of the gospel are incompatible with those who are trying to rescue the world from its sin.  Demas’ didn’t survive in the ministry with Paul.

The text said he “deserted” Paul.  The Greek word is a strong one.  It means to leave somebody helpless in a dire situation.  In our modern vernacular, we might say that Paul was “left in the lurch.”  I wonder what was so appealing in Thessalonica?  What was so attractive to Demas, that it drove him to abandon his post and turn his back on Paul?  We don’t know for sure, but I could make a couple of guesses:

  • Maybe there was a women there.
  • Maybe it was home and he was homesick.
  • Maybe he was given a business opportunity and he though, “instead of going to prison with Paul, I’m going to make money and buy some stuff.”
  • Maybe Paul was just too intense and Thessalonica seemed like a safe, comfortable distance away from the overly-passionate Apostle.

What we do know is that Demas did not go to Thessalonica in order to follow Jesus.  He deserted Paul and he deserted Jesus in order to embrace the things of the world.  Now, we don’t know if Demas ever repented.  Some people walk away from the Lord and never come back.  Others walk away for a while, and then like the prodigal son, come running back later.

If Demas would have repented, I’m confident that Paul would have received him back.  The reason I can be confident about Paul’s reaction has to do with his attitude toward Mark.  Paul’s interaction with Mark proved that good friends can sometimes let you down and still be good friends.

Good friends can sometimes let you down and still be good friends.

Mark, who was sometimes called John or referred to as John Mark, was a native of Jerusalem.  One of the very first Christian churches met inside his house.  It’s possible that the Last Supper was held in the Upper Room of his mom’s house.  He was a promising leader in the new Christian church, so Paul and Barnabus took him with them on the first missionary journey.

Here’s a map of that first journey.  They travelled to Perga in Pamphylia.  Perga is on the southern coast of modern day Turkey.  Something happened there and Mark decided to go home.  No details are given as to why he went back home, but Paul did not seem to think he left for a good reason.  Paul was super-intense and he had absolutely no tolerance for men who were uncommitted.

Several years later, Paul and Barnabus were planning to set out again to “visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” (Acts 15:36b)  Some time had passed.  Barnabus wanted to take Mark with them again.  Paul did not.  They got into a “sharp disagreement” and it was so heated that Paul and Barnabus went separate ways.  Paul took Silas and Barnabus took Mark.

The name Barnabus means “son of encouragement.”  Barnabus often lived up to his name.  Barnabus and Mark were cousins and Barnabus seems to have had a huge influence in Mark’s life.  From the time of the first missionary journey to the time of Paul’s final imprisonment, Mark totally turned around.  He was no longer half-hearted.  He was a totally committed follower of Jesus.  Mark had proven himself not only to Barnabus, but also to Paul.  It was possible that he was writing The Gospel of Mark during the time of Paul’s final imprisonment and he was now considered by Paul to be a devoted fellow worker (Philemon 24).

Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:11, “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.”  Previously Mark had let Paul down, but now Paul sees him now as useful and devoted.  What a change!  One seminary professor said, “If Christ can bring victory out of the failing of Mark…, He can make something out of all of us!”  Good friends can sometimes let you down and still be good friends.  A good leader knows that no failure is final.

Consider Luke.  Verse 11 says, “11 Luke alone is with me.”  Luke had stuck with Paul through thick and thin.  He was a tough friend who stayed with Paul during tough times.  He refers to Luke as his beloved physician (Col. 4:14).  Luke wrote a biography of Jesus that we refer to as the Gospel of Luke.  He also wrote the Book of Acts, which is largely the biography of the Apostle Paul.  Certainly he is Paul’s closest friend in Rome.

But look down to verse 16.  It says, “At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me.”  No one came to his trial.  Where was Luke?  I suppose that Luke may have been sick, or attending to church business or perhaps he was in jail too.  We might be able to excuse Luke’s absence during the trial, but what about all the other Christians in Rome?  Don’t you think that one of them could have shown up?

In verse 21, Paul lists an entire group of Roman believers, “Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brothers.”  Here are people who Paul considers faithful enough to send greetings as Christian friends to Timothy, but none of them showed up to stand with Paul during his trial.  Where were they?

Sometimes there is a good reason why people don’t show up.  Sometimes there is not a good reason.  Either way, notice Paul’s response.  Look at verse 16 again, “16 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! Whatever reason they had for not showing up, Paul does not hold it against them.  He sends their greetings in his own letter.  He doesn’t bitterly say, “write your own letter.”  That leads me to conclude: good friends can sometimes let you down and still be good friends.  There are so many reasons that could explain why they weren’t there that day, so Paul is careful about jumping to conclusions.

In our lives, we also have to be careful about jumping to conclusions when people don’t show up when we think they should.  In my fifteen plus years of being a pastor, I’ve missed a few things.  Sometimes I had a good reason.  Sometimes I made a mistake.  There are dozen’s of people who could rightly say of me, Pastor Mark didn’t show up when I thought he should.  I can’t always meet people’s expectations- but I also know that we can’t always meet the expectations of those in their own family.

In over a decade of biblical counseling, I have heard many accusations in my office:

  • A wife will say, “If my husband really loved me, he would have known it was important to be there at that critical moment.”
  • Or a teenager will say of a parent, “If they cared about me at all, they wouldn’t have missed my game or my performance.”

Be careful.  Sometimes there is a good reason why people didn’t show up, sometime there is not.  Either way, bitterness can creep into your heart with those kinds of statements.  You and I need to be careful about jumping to conclusions.  AND… we need to be quick to forgive.

  • On the basis of what Paul does here, I plead with you not to hold it against them.
  • On the basis of what Jesus did on the cross for us and for the eleven disciples who abandoned Him on that awful day, I plead with you, don’t be unforgiving.

It is possible for somebody to love you deeply and to still let you down.  Just because people let you down doesn’t mean it’s time to end that relationship.  You and I are imperfect and so are our friends imperfect but there is still great joy to be had in good friendships.

There is joy in Christian fellowship, even if it’s imperfect

Jesus went to the cross to die for us so that we could enjoy him forever.  But our restored relationship with Jesus does not take away our need for fellowship with other believers.  Jesus always intended that your friendship with Him would be the heartbeat of your friendship with other people.   Christ-centered relationships are intended to magnify the worth of Christ to an even greater degree as we share Jesus as our common treasure.

So where do I find that in the text?  Look at verse 17.  Paul says, “17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me…”  Someone might say, “See that?  If I have Jesus, I don’t need anybody else!”

Is that what Paul concludes?  Look at verse 9.  Paul says to Timothy, “Do your best to come to me soon.”  And then in verse 21 he says, “Do your best to come before winter.”  Paul loves Jesus, but he also has a deep desire for friendship.  He often spoke about the joy of Christian fellowship:

  • Romans 1:11 “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you”
  • Romans 15:23b “I have longed for many years to come to you,
  • Philippians 4:1 “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
  • 1 Thess 2:8 “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”

Sincere and warm relationships with other people are critical for effective spiritual leadership.  Jesus never intended that the enjoyment of His presence would replace our enjoyment of fellowship with other believers.  Christ didn’t die to create isolated worshippers.  Christ gave his life for the church.

The church by nature is a fellowship of people who have been redeemed.  A church is all about friendships and relationships.  One of our four goals as a church plant is to create a new family of God where one did not exist previously.  Look at the statement on the back of your bulletin.  It says, “A Community of Loving People:  Biblical commands regarding how to love one-another are expressed in a true community of believers.”

The Bible never encourages us to live in isolation.  Proverbs 18:1 says, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;   he breaks out against all sound judgment.”  Only an unwise man avoids relationships out of the fear of getting hurt.  Paul cherished relationships with imperfect people.  One of the great benefits of the Cross is that believers have the opportunity to have deep, meaningful, Christ-centered fellowship with one-another.

Verse 17 also points out that even though good friends can sometimes let us down, Jesus never fails.

Jesus is a friend who never fails.

Verses 17-18 are the deepest and richest and most hope-filled verses in the whole text:

…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. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

As much as you and I might love our friends and our family, they can’t always stand with you.  Nor can they rescue you “from every evil deed.”  There is only one friend who can do that for you.  Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”  That friend is Jesus.

Demas has no idea what his friendship with the world was going to really cost him.  James said, “ Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4b)

Only Jesus can rescue you “from every evil deed and bring

[you] safely into his heavenly kingdom.”  Without Him, you won’t go to heaven.  What good is all the wealth and pleasure and power in the whole world if it leads you or me to an eternity without Jesus?  What could be so appealing in this broken world that could possibly cause you or me to walk away from Him?

Demas saw the appeal of the world and it led him to a dangerous rejection of Jesus.  It is no small thing to be in love with the world because love for this world leads to a rejection of Christ.  Don’t follow his example.  Instead, do these things:

Life Application:

From our rather scattered text today, I can draw four diverse applications:

  1. Bring every request before the Lord.  God wants to hear about missing coats and books you’d like to read and broken relationships and dangerous people.  There is no need so small that He doesn’t care about it.  There is no need that is so big that He isn’t bigger still.
  2. Seek Christian friendships.  Call out to your Timothy to come see you before winter.  Invest in people.  Invest in relationships.  Make a trip to see somebody.  Take time for friendships.  Use those friendships to magnify the worth of our savior
  3. Be quick to forgive.  Sometimes good people won’t show up when you think they should.  They’ll let you down.  Don’t let the failure of your friends lead you to reject Jesus or to reject God’s people.  People will sometimes let you down, and you will sometimes let people down.  People can be inconsistent and unpredictable, but Jesus will always stand by us.
  4. No matter how unpredictable people are, Jesus remains totally faithfulJesus is always there.  He will lead you into an everlasting friendship with himself and in eternity you and I can look forward to perfect fellowship with the most wonderful, perfected human beings we could ever know.


Teaching Outline

Some people will choose to walk away from dynamic, impacting ministries in order to pursue the things of this world – v.9-10, Col 4:12-14, Phile 1:24, 1 John 2:15,

Good friends can sometimes let you down and still be good friends – v. 11, 16, 21, Acts 15, Col. 4:14

There is joy in Christian fellowship, even if it’s imperfect – v.9, 17, 21, Romans 1:11, 15:23b, Phil. 4:1, 1 Thess. 2:8, Pro. 18:1

Jesus is a friend who never fails – v.17-18, Pro. 18:24, James 4:4b


Bring every request before the Lord.

Seek Christian friendships

Be quick to forgive.

No matter how unpredictable people are, Jesus remains totally faithful


About the Author:

Pastor Mark Stafford served on staff at Canyon Bible Church of Prescott Valley for almost 6 years. He and his wife, Lara, felt called to church planting and Canyon of Prescott Valley sent them to plant a new Canyon Bible Church in the Verde Valley. Mark is a graduate of the Biblical Studies department at Arizona Christian University with highest honors and has served for more than a dozen years in full-time pastoral ministry. Mark loves music and is an active musician playing electric and string bass, acoustic and electric guitar, & keyboard. He has served with several professional Christian touring groups and has been nominated for a Dove award. Pastor Mark is currently bi-vocational while he plants Canyon Verde. He owns a small printing and design company called Ablaze Media. When he is not preaching, leading small groups, playing music or designing graphics, you might find him in his F250 cruising around the back roads of the local national forests, cycling with his sons on the streets around the Verde Valley, or running in a 10K. Pastor Mark and Lara have 4 children and have been married for over 15 years.

One Comment

  1. Nicholas January 29, 2018 at 1:22 am - Reply

    Please pray that our school,CAMP DAVID GREEN ACADEMY will grow to become an international Christian school and one of the top centres of academic excellence in Kenya.

    Waiting upon the Lord.

    God bless you!

    Nicholas Nganga

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