Finding Comfort in Christ in Times of Loneliness – 2 Timothy 4:9-22

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In life, there are many moments when we experience loneliness. The strange part is that we can be in a city like Mumbai that has 23 million people and still feel isolated!

We experience loneliness when our friends and companions abandon us. We can be alone when our family rejects us. We can be lonely when we are confronted with really tough situations like an illness, financial issues, job problems or conflicts within the family.

We can also feel lonely during our struggle with sin.

During all these moments we feel like we are all alone. We feel like no one can understand us, help us and be there with us. And because we don’t deal with this in the right way, it can often lead us to find comfort in the wrong places.

That’s why I think it’s important for us to pay attention to the Word and understand what God is trying to tell us today.

I hope this passage will not only provide the answer but also offer encouragement to us right now if we are experiencing a time or season of loneliness.

2 Timothy 4:9-22

9 Do your best to come to me soon.

10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.

11 Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.

12 Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus.

13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.

14 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.

15 Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message.

16 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them!

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.

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.

19 Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.

20 Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus.

21 Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brothers.

22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.

Sometimes when we think about Paul we only think about the number of churches he planted, the time he spent preaching and building up the church and the number of letters he wrote to encourage the church (13 out of 27 letters in the NT are written by Paul), the miracles he performed in his lifetime but we forget how his whole life was marked by persecutions and suffering.

In fact, the Lord told Ananias, the brother who laid his hands on Paul to give him back his eyesight (Acts 9) “for I will show him how much he must suffer for my name”.

Even when we come to the last part of his life, we see the same theme of suffering being played out. We read last week how Paul talks about his life being poured out as a drink offering and sacrifice for the church.

He knows that the time of his departure has come and he’s expectantly waiting to receive the crown of righteousness from his loving Savior – Jesus.

He’s a few months away from his impending execution and in this passage, he talks about a different kind of suffering – suffering emotionally.

Paul is experiencing a great deal of emotional suffering due to abandonment and loneliness during his last few days. And this is probably more intense and painful than physical suffering. He is experiencing emotional suffering due to two broad reasons:

1) Some companions deserted him – V10 talks about Demas who loved the present world and went to Thessalonica.

Who is this Demas?

Demas was a companion of Paul. 5 years back during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, Demas was with him in jail. (Col 4:14) All those prison letters like Ephesians, Phillippians, Colossians, and Philemon were written with him.

In Philemon 24 he refers to Demas as a fellow worker. It’s sad that after watching Paul so closely and seeing his devotion to the Lord, Demas still deserted Paul and left the ministry.

And it says that he loved the world! In our sin, many of us do not see our love for the world as a competing God in our life. If you are harboring a secret love for the world, then it’s eventually going to dictate your course of life and decisions in times of inconvenience, trouble, and suffering.

That’s what happened to Demas. The second imprisonment was possibly more intense and harsh than the first. And Paul himself was awaiting execution, so Demas didn’t want to associate himself with him and jeopardize his own life.

Demas’s life should be a warning for us because he was someone who was so involved in ministry yet loved the world. Eventually, his love for the world took over him. We need to repent of competing idols in our hearts.

2) His other companions went to serve in other churches – Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. (v10)

If you read through the book of Acts, you’ll see that these missionaries always did ministry as teams. They joyfully went to new areas with the gospel and even gladly faced persecutions due to the gospel.

Sadly, Paul’s last few months were spent alone without key members of the missionary team. And it wasn’t always due to desertion like Demas but sometimes it was due to the call to continue ministering to different churches.

In spite of Paul’s imprisonment, Crescens and Titus had to go to Galatia (modern day Turkey) and Dalmatia (Croatia).

To give you an idea on how bad was the emotional suffering, let’s look at v14-16

14 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.

15 Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message.

16 At my first defense, no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them!

Some commentators say that it’s possible that it’s the same Alexander from 1 Tim 1:20. If you remember he was a false teacher at Ephesus who was excommunicated and put outside the church.

He now vented his personal malice in accusing Paul before the Roman judges. Probably charging him for starting a political revolt and starting a new religion.

We don’t know for sure if it was the same Alexander but in any case, it’s clear that he caused a great deal of harm.

Paul still leaves the response to the Lord. Rom 12:19 says Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Coming back to v16 in 2 Tim 4, Paul says that during his first defense (the preliminary hearing before Caesar Nero)…remember Nero is a king who was known for his cruel behavior toward Christians.

He would burn Christians alive to be used as a torch at night, have dogs tear them to death, crucify them not because of public justice but because of personal cruelty.

So when Paul’s companions got to know that he was going to have this preliminary hearing, they deserted him. Nobody wanted to have anything to do with Paul because it would bring severe persecution.

Just imagine how lonely Paul would’ve felt at that point. He spent his whole life for people but was left alone when he was before Nero. But Paul forgives them and explains how he responded to that moment of emotional turmoil and loneliness:

1. Strengthened by Christ’s presence

17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me,

I think that word “but” is crucial here because it contrasts with the previous verses that talk about the companions that left Paul alone.

Even though everyone deserted Paul….yet the Lord remained faithful!! Jesus doesn’t disappear when His children are in trouble or danger. He stands by them! He stands with them!

How does God’s presence strengthen us?

It gives us tremendous boldness to know that the Lord and Judge of the entire universe is standing right beside us. All authority in heaven and on earth is given to Jesus (Matt 28:18).

No matter how powerful may be the person standing in front of you, the course of your life is determined by the Sovereign Lord who rules and sustains the entire universe.

In Matt 10, Jesus tells the disciples that in those days 2 sparrows were sold for a penny. Sparrows were the smallest of birds and pennies were of the lowest value in the Roman world. Yet not even a single sparrow falls to the ground apart from the will of the Father.

If God’s in control of a little sparrows life, isn’t He in control of the life of His children who are more valuable than sparrows?

He is the Lord who has numbered the hairs on your head. Do you know the number of hairs on your head? Does your family know the number of hairs on your head? What about your best friend? Believers in Christ have nothing to fear with Jesus by your side.

Illustration: A fearful child always finds security in the presence of the parent.

But how do we experience God’s presence?

We experience God’s presence by trusting, obeying, embracing, loving, receiving and talking to Jesus by abiding in the Word and prayer. It’s not a passing feeling.

We learned a few weeks back how God communicates with His people: through the preaching of the Word and the study of the Word. The closer your life is in line with the Word, the more assured and aware you will be of the reality of God’s presence.

I know some of you are probably listening to this and thinking “this is so basic. I know I have to read the Bible and pray. Give me something new”.

It is basic but could we honestly ask ourselves if we’ve addressed our problem of isolation and loneliness with being reminded of the presence of God? What if you weren’t created to experience loneliness? What if God intended that all of life be spent with Him?

2. Directed by Christ’s purpose

v17. so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.

There is a clear purpose to the Lord being there with us. Yes, God loves us and He cares dearly for us. However, I don’t want us to end up with a man centered theology. We are not the end goal.

Glorifying God’s name is the end goal! Paul realized what God was doing through His life. If God is Sovereign and governs everything in all the universe, then even the struggles, pain, suffering and other issues were meant to bring glory to God through your life!

The reason why God strengthens you with His presence is so that you may show unbelievers how valuable and treasured God is.

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Cor 12:9)

God is active in stripping away every ounce of self-dependence from His children so that unbelievers may see Christ being reflected in and through them!

So it’s time we aligned ourselves to that understanding. Some of the greatest testimonies that have convinced unbelievers about the truth of gospel have not always been success stories and miracles.

It’s been stories of faithful people who have persevered in sufferings, pain, illnesses, financial issues, conflict yet not departed from the faith.

They hold on and have this indescribable peace which can only be explained through the presence of the Lord Himself in their lives.

I don’t think Paul used this tough circumstance to crib over the people who deserted him. He used that as an opportunity to witness as he experienced the presence of God. Would you consider desiring the presence of God not for quick fixes to your problems but so that the world may see how beautiful and wonderful Jesus is?

3. Secured by Christ’s protection

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.

What Paul meant by being rescued from the lion’s mouth was being kept safe from death after the preliminary hearing before Caesar. But we know that he was going to be executed soon.

So what did he mean by the Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his kingdom….what he means that in Christ, his assurance of His eternal home is in absolutely safe and certain hands.

Even though he knew he was going to be executed soon, it doesn’t change his future.

38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:38-39)

What if we reminded ourselves of this truth about God’s love that protects us and brings us safely into the heavenly kingdom…don’t you think that eliminates the isolation and loneliness when you realize that it’s not just Christ’s presence right now but He has graciously granted His eternal presence to us!

I just want to close by saying being isolated and lonely was also a product of the Fall. When God created Adam and Eve, the intention was to enjoy total, free and uninterrupted fellowship with them. However, when they sinned they hid themselves from God.

They isolated themselves and went away from God’s presence. Jesus Christ came into the world to rescue us from our isolation. He did it by giving up His life for us…for our sins. Jesus Christ paid the price for our reckless and rebellious life.

He died and shed His blood and on the third Day he rose from the grave and brought us back into an unending, real, fulfilling relationship with God. We got an entry back into God’s presence!

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