Realities of Life in Christ

2 Timothy 4
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.

When we see danger in the path of those we love, those we care for, we should be willing to warn them of the danger. If you see me about to walk off a cliff, I hope you will stop me! Paul experienced harm from many people, and he experienced again and again the Lord’s faithfulness to deliver him. When I say deliver him, I don’t mean that God took away all of Paul’s problems and challenges in life. We know that’s not true from passages like 2 Corinthians 12 and Romans 7.

In 2 Corinthians 12 we see not a perfect and easy life free of trouble, but a life committed to Christ and free from despair. Here is how he describes his troubles and how he responds to them.

2 Corinthians 12
7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 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. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

And then in Romans 7 we see another case where Paul is very transparent about his personal life, his personal struggle with sin. Again, not a life free from temptation and battles with the flesh, but a life not consumed by or given to despair over those things.

Romans 7
11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Paul had significant trials in life, more than most of us will face, but in his struggles he would keep a focus on Christ. He would keep the main things in view – that is, that God was in charge, God was watching over Him, and God would ultimately deliver him to a place where no such struggle will exist.

We see this too as he talks about a man who was apparently just hateful toward him and toward the gospel message. Paul tells of this man and also warns Timothy of his presence and his enmity toward the gospel. This is a warning for Timothy not to be naive in an effort to help Timothy avoid some of the same harm that he had endured. Paul was that kind of friend – he cared for Timothy, and so he says this:

2 Timothy 4
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.

This man Alexander was trouble for Paul. He was quite possibly an idol maker like Demetrius, the silversmith mentioned in Acts 19:24. If so, then Alexander may have seen Paul as a threat to his business, a threat to his livelihood. If that was the case, then we can see why Alexander may have so strongly opposed Paul. But really we don’t know that he was an idol maker. We do know that many are fiercely opposed to the gospel whether their livelihood is threatened or not. Many are offended by the gospel, and for a variety of reasons. The gospel is offensive to the lost, it is offensive to those who are not being saved. The gospel says you are a sinner, you are an enemy of God, and you must change. The gospel says you must give your life to another, you are not your own, you cannot save yourself, you must depend on the work of another. This is offensive to those who think they are good, that they are good enough to reach God, good enough and deserving enough to find favor with God. The gospel brings people down before it lifts them up in Christ. So Alexander may have been a regular old guy who simply hated what the gospel of Christ stands for and loudly opposed its teaching.

The truth is that many are opposed to the truth, but some are more outwardly passionate with their opposition. Apparently this would have been true for Alexander the coppersmith.

Paul knew that God would repay Alexander. Paul was not out to do Alexander harm or return evil for evil. In fact, Paul quoted from the Old Testament in Romans 12:19 where he said:

Romans 12
19 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.”

God deals with people in ways that we are not to deal with them, right? While we may be tempted to repay with evil or be vengeful, we are taught another way that is uniquely Christian. Paul goes on to say this in verse 20:

Romans 12
20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink;

And here is the warning from one brother to another:

2 Timothy 4
15 Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message.

Paul knew that Alexander’s issue was not just with Paul, it was much bigger than Paul. Alexander had an issue with God, God’s Word, the message of truth that Paul had been proclaiming. And so if Timothy is proclaiming the same message, then it was likely that he too would be in line for Alexander’s wrath. So Paul says, “Beware, be careful. There is danger ahead, so keep your eyes open and don’t fall for the false teaching of this harmful person.”

2 Timothy 4
16 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me.

This is an interesting statement. In the Roman judicial system someone accused would have two hearings. The first would be a hearing to clearly establish what the person is being charged for, and the second would be to establish guilt or innocence. In Paul’s case, no one came to stand with him. He said all deserted him. Paul was in serious trouble, and the cost for standing with him could have been high. No one stood with him. This does not mean no one wanted to. He had faithful friends, we know that. But at this moment, at this hearing, he was alone. Alone in that no person stood with him.

Paul said, “May it not be charged against them!” Paul was not bitter about this, in fact he responds with compassion. “May it not be charged against them!” Many were weak, and Paul knew that. Paul’s faith and strength were not in other people standing with him. If that was what he depended on, he would have lived a miserable life. Paul did not put his faith in people, his faith was in Christ. People disappoint, people fail to be faithful, people are fickle. If your trust is in your friends, your spouse, any other person, then be prepared to live in disappointment, and maybe bitterness and resentment. Christ never fails. And Paul proclaims that right here. Listen to this:

2 Timothy 4
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.

It is okay why? Because the Lord stood by him and strengthened him! Strengthened him for what? So that he could be comfortable, or at ease, or be popular, or be respected by people, or honored by his enemies? No – God has bigger plans for Paul and for us. God stood with Paul and strengthened Paul so that Paul could do an amazing work, a work that would impact thousands of souls for all eternity. The Lord stood by Paul and strengthened Paul so that the gospel would be preached, proclaimed, so that the Gentiles would hear it! You see, Paul was appointed to this, and God saw to it that it would happen.

God continues and finishes the works He starts. Do you believe that? We can ask a million times in our short lives, what in the world is going on here? Why is there such chaos around? Why does the world seem to be insane? Why are people treating me this way or that way? Why, why, why? But we know the answers. At least we know in a broad sense. God is at work, and His plan is being accomplished. That was true for Paul, and it is true for us as believers in Christ. Where is God? He is with you as a Christian! He stands with you as a Christian. He will strengthen you as His child as you rely on Him. He cares and He is near. Paul goes on to say:

2 Timothy 4
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.

Do you see Paul just boasting in the Lord? He was rescued from the lion’s mouth! It is like, “Oh yeah, Christ also rescued me from the lion’s mouth!” Being rescued from the lion’s mouth was a common metaphor for being rescued from great danger.

Psalm 22
21 Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

God had rescued him again and again from great danger, and he says:

2 Timothy 4
18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.

This is the ultimate statement from Paul that he would cling to, the ultimate belief for him as it should be for us. We must, we have to look beyond what we see now, look beyond all that we face here. We must glory in what is to come, what is promised to us: a rescue from sin, from our own sin and from sin committed against us. A rescue from pain and anguish, whether self-inflicted or heaped upon us from others. We have a great deal to look forward to, and this thought carries us through all kinds of earthly trials and circumstances.

Paul was confidently assured of a coming day which would make any trouble he faced in life seem very small. A day was coming that would eclipse his current trial. John wrote of this:

Revelation 21
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

This reality was coming quickly for Paul. And so he ends with:

2 Timothy 4
To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

It was not, “Woe is me for my troubles!” No, it was praise and glory to God even while facing troubles. “To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” This is descriptive of how we are called to live – praising and glorifying God who is near, and who cares, and who will take us safely home to live in His presence. He is worthy of all our praise, worthy of all our worship, worthy of our lives.

As we sit here today, I know it is sometimes hard to focus on and grasp all of what it means to be in Christ and to focus on what lies ahead for us. There are so many things shouting at us, vying for our attention, and even this morning our minds may be wandering miles away from the message of Christ and His love for us.

We are here today, in part, so that we can refocus our minds away from all the junk that demands our attention and refocus on the glories of Christ. We are here for that, we come here for that.

Today we will take the Lord’s Table together, and we can glory in Christ as we do. We are called to remember Him and to look for His coming. The second to last verse in the Bible is one of the greatest of all found in the Scriptures. It says this:

Revelation 22
20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!