Compiled from The Lonely Soldier.
The Crushing Load of the Cross
According to one missionary, "the crushing load of the cross is putting your ‘hand to the plow’ and not turning back." Jesus, of course, knew this, and that’s why he said those words. He spoke them to his disciples who would be engaged in a Great Commission lifestyle.
At the heart of this crushing load is the experience of loneliness: always saying "goodbye" to the spiritual children you’ve raised, loved, and nurtured. Now they’re standing tall on their own, and it’s inappropriate and stiltifying for you to linger.
In 2 Tim. 4, Paul has written at length about his ministry, God’s work on earth, His Eternal Plan, the future… Then, exhasuted, he writes about the crushing dissapointment accompanied by great discomfort. He is held in the infamous Mamertine prison, a hole reeking with pestilence. He knew there was no escape. It was just a matter of time before execution. Indeed, he was beheaded and stuck on a pole on the Appian way, according to Eusebius.
It was at the climax of the Neronian persecution, and all around him his dear brothers and sisters were being cruelly executed as traitors of Rome and sabateurs of the fire which almost destroyed Rome. Christianity was gaining a reputation as the most despised plauges on Roman society. Yet still, "I’ve…kept the faith," he says.
Physically, he was cold, tired and discouraged. CS Lewis made the correct observation: "Our bodies and souls live so close together, they catch each other’s diseases." His physical plight affected his spirits, undoubtedly.
Most painful surely was his separation from his friends: "All who are in Asia have deserted me… Demas, having loved this present world… Alexander the Coppersmith is on a rampage… all my friends have deserted me… only Luke is with me."
Yet, you detect a noble solemnity. So courageous, yet weak and in need of Timothy’s companionship. Strong, yet so frail.
The Dissapointment of Defection
Demas "loved the present world." This dessertion was incredibly painful. Demas is mentioned in the same context as Luke as a travelling companion for years. But now, he defected. He talks about "those who love the appearing of Christ," but this one "loved the present world." Perhaps he defected out of cowardice, considering the present persecution. But Paul counted on him, and in his moment of greatest need, Demas defected.
Defection is a rampant disease in this culture among Christians. All the time you see moral, spiritual betrayal and defection, so many "having loved this present world."
Alexander the Coppersmith v.14-15 "opposed Paul", possibly an informer? He opposed Paul in every way – a great and powerful enemy of Paul and Christ.
"You have no enemies? The boast is poor. He who’s engaged in a duty the brave endure, must have made foes. If you have none, small is the work you have done. You’ve hit no traitors…" You’ll make enemies if you stand for something.
They’ll say this shouldn’t bother you if you’re trusting the Lord. It sounds great, but when there’s problems in the church, it doesn’t feel good no matter what people say. "Out there" was an enemy working ceaselessly against Paul.
The biggest problem with someone like an Alexander: if you’re not careful, he becomes the whole church. You forget he’s just one among many. You dwell on him to the exclusion of all the other affirmative people. It’s the tool of the devil to discourage you. Consider all the names who are not Alexanders… Paul was clearly dwelling on his enemies at this point in his life.
Despair of Desertion
His "first defense" allows for someone to voluntarily stand with the accused. It was always so easy to trump up charges against Paul: atheism, cannabalism, incest were among the few.
It was a moment of crisis, unlike routine daily life. A time when we need help. These are such lonely moments. This must hav been much like Christ’s Gethsename, where they all forsook him and fled. Here’s the victorious apostle writing such lonely words.
Can you handle this? This is where the rubber meets the road…
The seeds of the answer are found in the problem… This same chapter has the solutions.
2 Tim 4:13 – he wants his coat. It’s cold in that Roman cell. Sometimes we need to start with the most basic needs and meet those. 1 Jn.2 "if someone is naked & cold…" One of the ways we meet our spiritual needs is by resolving the basic physical problems.
2 Tim. 4:11 – "bring Mark," who was a desserter. He wants to restore that relationship.
2 Tim. 4:9, 21 – "come and see me…i need your friendship." The same Paul who had seen even Jesus Christ still needed a friend. People say, "Jesus is all I need," but understand this: human companionship is one of God’s provisions for us. It was God who first said, "It is not good for man to be alone."
Everyone needs not just friends in general, but at least one special friend, to spill your heart to. Even the great Paul need that with Timothy.
He also wanted some encouragements from the Bible. Thus, "bring my parchments," to occupy his mind. Nothing is more encouraging than finding the right book to meet our needs. It’s so unfortunate we’re not a reading people. TV occupies a copmletely different mechanism in our mind. To tie into a book is therapeutic, mentally.
4:17 The Lord "stood with me..delivered me.." There are moments when the presence of the Lord is everything. We need a coat, friends, books, etc. But when our soul is hurting, we need God.
Sometimes life takes all the human props away. This has kept Christians throughout the ages, even in the most bleak circumstances, true to their faith. We see everything in perspective, when we "love the appearing of His coming." He doesn’t remove us from the truth of that painful situation, but He does reveal the truth of how to handle it.
- The Real World
- Preach the Word