Pleasing Christ

2 Timothy 1
15 You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. 16 May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, 17 but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me— 18 may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.

Paul, the great apostle and writer of much of the New Testament, the man who played a major role in the spread of the church, through the gospel, the man whom the men in our church are studying right now on Wednesday nights, studying his God-given leadership attributes in an effort to be better leaders ourselves, this man Paul begins now to tell of a sad story of abandonment.

Though he preached powerful truth, though he was relentless in his love for others, many, and perhaps even most, decided to walk away from him later in his life, many for a false gospel, a more palatable gospel. It seems that for most who turned away, it was not about leaving Paul, but leaving the truths that Paul preached. It was not like leaving one gospel-centered church and going to another, like we may see commonly today; in this case it was turning from Christ.

Where was this happening? Well from our passage today it was happening in Asia. This area would have have been a large part of modern day Turkey, at least the western part of Turkey.

Paul says, in writing to Timothy, “You are aware.” Paul wasn’t sharing anything new with Timothy, but was reminding him of what had happened to him regarding the turning away from the gospel. Now remember that this letter is one of encouraging Timothy to do what? To stand, to persevere, to keep focused on the gospel. Listen to ways Paul does this in this book.

2 Timothy 1
8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord,
13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

2 Timothy 2
15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

2 Timothy 3
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it

2 Timothy 4
2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

And so Paul is reminding Timothy that some have and some will continue to turn away, so don’t be surprised by it, just be faithful.

We can be such people pleasers that we will allow our thoughts and our actions to quickly conform to what others think of us. We can be so tossed to and fro by what other people think. We sometimes overanalyze everything to the point of basing what we will do on how others will react. That is a dangerous kind of living. That is living not for Christ and the truths of His Word but living on the whims of other people. I say ‘we’ because I am guilty too.

Think of it like this: if we are doing what is pleasing others, if that is what primarily drives our behavior, then what about Christ? If our focus is on others, then where is Christ in our thoughts and decisions? Do we care more about what people think or about what Christ thinks? Do we live for other people or are we living consumed with a love for Jesus?

Now I realize that sometimes loving Jesus means doing things that make others happy. We can, out of a love for Christ, seek to please our spouse or our parents or other people. But even then, our great desire should be to please Christ first, realizing that sometimes that results in pleasing others.

For instance, God tells us to think of others as more important than ourselves. Our drive to do that should be our love for Jesus, not simply to please that other person. If our motive is to please others, period, then we will drive ourselves crazy trying to do just that.

Loving Jesus should compel me to better understand your preferences and desires and lead me to not offend you. But it is first about loving Jesus.

Think about our passage today. Two people mentioned specifically, Phygelus and Hermogenes. These two people turned their backs on Paul. They turned away from him and subsequently, it is assumed, turned their backs on the gospel and Jesus Himself. Since they turned away that must mean they were at one time with Paul and for Paul and his preaching. They were for him and they turned away. Why exactly, we don’t know. And they weren’t the only ones, just the only ones mentioned here.

What did Paul do to cause this, we may ask? What did Paul do wrong, we may wonder? What did he do to drive these men away? Why, having been with Paul, are they now leaving him? Is this Paul being a trouble maker, or being insensitive?

If people are walking away, and especially in large numbers, are we to assume the one being left is the problem?

In this case, no. Paul was committed to truth and standing on the foundation of God’s Word. And he knew that there would be some who would not stand for it in the long run, but he was unwilling to compromise and give in to some other gospel.

2 Timothy 4
3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

What if, for the sake of making everyone happy, Paul would have changed his message to make it more acceptable to more people? He may have gained larger crowds, it may have kept him out of jail, he may have achieved a more comfortable life. But at what cost? At the cost of rejecting the One who saved him and had secured him in the faith. Paul would not do that, but how often do we? How often do we bend to the masses or just bend our ways to be more liked by our friends or family?

It was tragic that these men turned their backs on Paul, and I’m sure it was painful for Paul, but how much more tragic would it have been for Paul to turn his back on Christ to gain their approval?

We are here, Paul was there, to glorify God, to live for Him, to show love for Him. Christ who has died for us and won us for salvation, He is our Lord and our Master and has every claim over our lives. And He is the One who deeply loves us and will pour out His grace and kindness for eternity.

Now, while Paul mentions these two who turned from him and the gospel, he also mentions another who chose otherwise.

2 Timothy 1
16 May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, 17 but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me— 18 may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.

Onesiphorus stands in sharp contrast to those who abandoned Paul. There is a sense, a real sense in which all we need is Christ. Many have stood alone for Christ in their day and time, and I love hearing of those who have. I think each of us should be willing to stand alone for Christ, if all others walk away that we would say, “Here I stand!”

But even knowing that, even knowing that we are willing to stand alone, isn’t it wonderful and a blessing to have other faithful men and women stand with you? It is a grace of God that He puts people around us who share the same convictions for truth and a shared love for Jesus and His gospel.

Paul was blessed by this man named Onesiphorus. As Paul waited in prison and as he watched many fall away, Onesiphorus was a shining light for him, a beacon, a true companion. And it wasn’t like there wasn’t a cost for this man. He had to take a stand and he was not embarrassed by Paul’s chains. The Bible says that when he came to Rome he searched earnestly for Paul and found him. He searched for Paul, this speaks of great effort, and he was determined to find him, this we see is his earnestness.

One brother searching out another brother for what? In order to give him refreshment during a difficult time. This is what Jesus speaks of in Matthew 25.

Matthew 25
36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

God loves this, He loves for us to seek out and refresh each other during times of hardship.

Hebrews 6
10 For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. 11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

It is so easy to overlook those around us who are hurting. I mean, who is not busy enough already with their own things? But to stop and observe and really care for others, that takes time and effort, and a love not just for people but for Christ. And so when we reach out we are reaching out in Christ’s name, and it is as if we are giving aid to Christ Himself. That is really how we must view serving others. We are serving Christ, isn’t that right?

That is what Jesus was saying: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

2 Timothy 1
18 may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.

You know, as Paul suffered in life, he had this ability to look to future things and be encouraged even more. In verse 18 Paul tells of his desire for this one who encouraged him while suffering. He asks that the Lord would bless him. Not right then and not even in this life, but in the life to come. He says: “may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day!” What day? On the day when we meet our Lord face to face.

It is the same day that Paul mentioned back in verse 12:

2 Timothy 1
12 which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.

And the same day he mentions in chapter 4, verse 8:

2 Timothy 4
8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

We can get so caught up in the here and now that we fail to look ahead to our meeting face to face with our Lord. It is there where mercy will be given to all who believe. And every man will be dependent on the mercy of our Lord.

Paul could not repay Onesiphorus for his kindness. But he knew that God could reward him for his kindness to him. In Luke 6 we are reminded of this.

Luke 6
35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

Whether we are loving our friends or enemies, being kind to our friends or enemies, it is God who looks upon us and sees all and will reward according to our works.

We have seen two kinds of people. Those who turned from Paul and truth and one who was faithful to Christ, the gospel, and his friend. There are two things I want to end with.

First, which of the two groups will mark our lives? Is it our aim to really walk with and please Christ, or are we simply going through the motions in order to please someone else? Is your faith genuine? Is your love for Christ real? Parents, are you going through the motions until your kids are raised and then you will do something else? Young people, are you going through the motions until you leave home and then you’ll choose something else? This happens all the time unfortunately. In time we see what is real, what we really believe. May God keep us close to Him and increase our desire for Him.

Secondly, Jesus is our perfect example of faithfulness. He is not ashamed to call us His people. He does not leave us when we mess up or fail. He is our faithful husband, our protector and provider, and will lead us safely home. He cares for us, has searched us out, and has given us comfort.

Onesiphorus is a type of Christ, a picture of Christ. We are so blessed to have Jesus with us and to know we can always rely on Him. He is a good Savior, a faithful master, a caring friend.

2 Timothy 1
15 You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. 16 May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, 17 but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me— 18 may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.