St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

A View From A Cell

Sermon on 2 Timothy 4:9-18

Text: 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.
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. 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.

Have you ever been lonely? Have you ever felt that you were all alone? It may have happened when you left home for the first time to go to school, where you probably didn’t know anyone. You may have been craving human interaction, but everyone was busy, so you sat at home. Whatever the circumstances, it’s no fun to feel lonely. This morning, we are going to talk about some men who felt lonely. As we hear about their situations, we will be able to sympathize with them, because, in some ways, we have felt their loneliness. Let’s join them in their VIEW FROM A CELL.

Our text for this morning comes to us from Paul’s second letter to Timothy. As you read through the letter, it becomes clear that Paul knew that his time on this earth was coming to an end. Just prior to our text, Paul wrote, “I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near.” (2 Timothy 4:6) With this looming in the future, Paul writes to his co-worker Timothy, “Do your best to come to me quickly.” (Verse 9) He longed to see his son in the faith one last time. He asks Timothy to do his best to come quickly. Later, in this chapter, Paul notes that winter was coming soon, which would have made it difficult for Timothy to come to Paul. We also note that Paul wrote, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” (Verse 11) Paul wanted Mark to come along with Timothy, so that the gospel ministry might continue to be carried out.

This is part of the reason that Paul was lonely. We read in verses 10&12, “Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia . . . I sent Tychicus to Ephesus.” While Paul would have found comfort in the company of these men, he was not about to let his personal comfort stand in the way of the proclamation of the saving message of Jesus Christ. So he sent Crescens to Galatia, which is in the north central part of modern day Turkey. Paul sent Titus to Dalmatia, which is in modern day Croatia. He sent Tychicus to Ephesus, quite likely to deliver this letter, since Timothy had been serving as pastor there. It’s possible that Tychicus would replace Timothy, so that Timothy could come to Paul’s side. Part of the reason that Paul was lonely was that he had sent these men out with the gospel, to go where he could no longer go.

There is a more sinister reason that Paul was lonely. First of all, we read in verse 10, “Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.” Demas had been with Paul during his first imprisonment. He is mentioned as a co-worker in Paul’s letters to the Colossians and to Philemon. Now, Demas had forsaken Paul and gone to Thessalonica. Maybe, Demas left because of the persecution that was ongoing in Rome and went to Thessalonica, where it was safer. It is more likely that Demas was attracted by the allurements of this world and he felt that Christianity was too restrictive. Whatever the reason, Demas abandoned the faith and left Paul. You can understand why Paul would feel deserted.

Another reason that Paul felt all alone was: “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me.” (Verse 16) When Paul stood before the Roman tribunal, no one came to his defense. No one spoke up for him. Where was everyone who could have come to his defense? We don’t know. All we know is that Paul was on his own.

However, although Paul was on his own, he was not alone. He writes in verse 17, “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.” Paul never forgot the assignment that God had given to him, to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles. Even at his trial. Paul was able to carry this out. He knew that the Lord was there beside him, giving him the words that he spoke. Even though his human companions had left Paul in a lurch, his divine helper, the Lord, stood by Paul. As a result, Paul felt brave and strong.

Furthermore, Paul had hope. “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.” (Verse 18) This is not to say that Paul expected to come out of the trial with his life. As we indicated earlier, Paul fully expected that he was going to die soon. Yet, he knew that each day that God gave him was a gift of his grace. He also knew that whenever his life would come to an end, the Lord would bring him safely into his kingdom. In the face of persecution and certain death, the apostle Paul had hope.

On this Festival of the Reformation, we also think of Dr. Martin Luther. On October 31, 1517, he posted those 95 theses or points of debate on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This is rightly called the birthday of the Lutheran Church. Four years later, Dr. Luther was called by the Emperor to a meeting in Worms, Germany. Upon being asked if he would recant what he had written, Dr. Luther made the speech that many of us are familiar with, ending with the words, “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.” What a beautiful statement of faith in front of a hostile emperor and the established church.

As a result of this statement of faith, Martin Luther was declared an outlaw, whom anyone could kill. Fearing for Martin Luther’s life, Elector Frederick arranged for Martin Luther to be “kidnapped” and taken to a castle called the Wartburg. Very few knew where Luther was. While at the castle, Luther grew out his hair and beard and was known as “Knight George.” He stayed at the castle for over a year. He had a little room that was given to him to stay in. Martin Luther referred to this time as his “Exile on the island of Patmos,” referring to the Apostle John’s situation as he wrote the book of Revelation. It was a lonely time for him. Ultimately, he couldn’t stand the seclusion and began to write letters to some of his co-workers back in Wittenberg. In some of those letters, Martin Luther speaks about his loneliness. He sent greetings to many people and wanted to know who they were doing. In other letters, he wrote to advise his co-workers about the ongoing reformation of the church. Martin Luther wanted to make sure that the gospel ministry was still being carried out. To that end, he used his time at the Wartburg Castle to translate the New Testament into German. Before this, the Scriptures were, for the most part, only translated into Latin. Martin Luther wanted to make sure that God’s Word was available in the language of the people. They could read and know for themselves what God said. Martin Luther may have been lonely, but he was not alone. He had trust in his God. As he would later write in his explanation of the Seventh Petition “But deliver us from evil,” “In conclusion we pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would deliver us from every evil that threatens body and soul, property and reputation, and finally when our last hour comes, grant us a blessed end and graciously take us from this world of sorrow to himself in heaven.” Martin Luther had the same hope as the apostle Paul did, because they shared the same faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior. As a result of this faith, there was persecution, but they trusted that God would rescue them.

Do you ever feel lonely when you stand up for your faith? You tell someone that they are doing something or holding to an opinion that is contrary to God’s Word. They don’t want to hear that, so they say something to you to try and defend themselves or attack you for your views. You had hoped that perhaps someone else that was there would jump to your defense, but, for whatever reason, they were silent. You think of those people who at one time held to the faith that you are confessing and now they, like Demas, have loved the world and have deserted the faith. For that reason, you are able to identify with Paul in Rome or Martin Luther in the Wartburg. You may even begin to question if it’s all worth it.

I am sure that Paul and Martin Luther would tell you that it is absolutely worth it. The reason for this confidence is the content of our faith, Jesus Christ. We know what and who we are by nature. We are sinners, who dare to transgress against our God in so many ways, including our hesitancy to witness about him to others. We also know what we deserve because of our sins, namely, an eternity of punishment in hell. There was nothing that we could do to change our situations. Yet, in his love for us, our God did everything for us. Jesus, the Son of God, came to the earth to rescue us from our sins. Through his perfect life and suffering and death on the cross, all in our place, Jesus satisfied the demands that are placed on all who would enter heaven. All sins have been paid for. In God’s eyes, we are perfect. Through the faith that the Holy Spirit created, we receive the blessing of eternal life. This is a gift that has been freely given to you.

Because of this faith, we know that we are never alone when it comes time to speak up for what we believe. At the end of the encounter, we can confidently say with Paul, “The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed.” (Verse 17) It is not us speaking of our own accord. The Lord is right there beside us, giving us the boldness and the words to use as we proclaim his Word. We also have the same hope that Paul writes in verse 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.” We know that God is right there beside us He will bring us through every attack that is launched against us, whether it is a verbal attack, a social attack, or even a physical attack. Sometimes, we will experience harm. Yet, we have the confidence that the Lord will bring us through every attack and, at the last, bring us to his heavenly kingdom. There we will be free forever. There we will live in peace like we’ve never known. We have this confidence because Jesus is our Savior. With and in him, we have everything we need.

Being a Christian can be lonely. Just ask Paul or Martin Luther. It can be a risky thing. Again, look at Paul and Luther. Yet, dear Christian, keep this in mind. Although Christianity may, at times, be lonely, you are never alone. The Lord who stood with Paul and Martin Luther stands beside you, as well. And, as Paul wrote to the Romans, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) Amen.