Spiritual Friends

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.

Spiritual friendships are gifts from God. We don’t experience them all the same way or in the same numbers or even intensity. Some of us may have many long lasting significant friendships, while others may not. Even in seasons of life it can be different; maybe when we are young and old we have a lot of spiritual friendships, but maybe those middle years not so much. We are all different and we all experience friendships in different ways.

Last week we looked at Paul’s friendship with Timothy as a very positive example of faithful friendship, and then we looked at Paul’s relationship with Demas and saw it as an example of a difficult, disappointing relationship. Timothy was a faithful friend and Demas was not. We too experience diversity in friendships. In fact, none of us experience them in the exact same way.

Today we will look at some of Paul’s relationships in ministry and see how God used different people in different ways to minister to Paul. What we really see is God’s faithfulness to deliver to Paul what he needed, when he needed it, and how God used whomever He pleased in this process.

Have you ever stopped to consider and recount all the people God has used to grow you spiritually? In my life, I think of people like my dad and mom who faithfully took me to church every week growing up. I think of pastors in my local church growing up. I think of my wife Tammy, who teaches me more about the love of Christ than any other person, and my kids whom God uses now to help me see and understand spiritual truth. I think of my in-laws who model for me the Christian faith and Christian marriage. I have many of you – my fellow elders who show me the Lord weekly and many, many of you that have such significant influence on me spiritually. So many people, God uses so many people in our lives. I don’t know if we acknowledge this enough and thank the Lord enough.

I think of even how He has used people I’ve never met, like Martyn Lloyd-Jones. People who have written books, preached sermons, and greatly influenced me.

The coordination on God’s part is really incredible, that so many could affect us so much. But He does that, He does that for us.

I want you to see this in Paul’s life this morning and just notice God’s work, God’s provision for Him and God’s creativeness to use so many to aid Paul in his work as a minister of Jesus Christ.

First he mentions Crescens, and then Titus. “Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.” Who are these men that Paul speaks of?

Well this first man we know very little of. In fact, all we know of him is what is said right here! But just from this mention we can discern that he was a faithful friend and minister of the gospel. He did not run like Demas did, but was sent to minister in Galatia. He went to an area where Paul had founded many churches, and Paul would not have sent him there if he didn’t trust him. Crescens must have been a man dedicated to the church. It might be interesting to know more, but really, this alone is a great deal, and it especially tells us of what is important: that he was a faithful man. If you were to get a mention in the Bible, wouldn’t that be enough?Crescens was a faithful friend and servant of the Lord.

Next we see Titus. Titus went to Dalmatia. We do know more about Titus. Paul even wrote a letter to Titus after his first letter to Timothy, that is the book of Titus. Titus is mentioned many times in the Scriptures, and Paul speaks very highly of him. In Titus 1:5 we see how highly Paul thought of Titus and how much he trusted his judgment by the task he gave him.

Titus 1
5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you

Titus had the awesome job of appointing leaders in the churches. Paul could not be everywhere and do everything, but God put faithful men in his life to carry out ministry when he could not.

Next we hear of Luke: “Luke alone is with me.” Crescens was a faithful friend and Titus was as well, but neither was with Paul at this time. Luke on the other hand was with Paul in his final days.

Luke was a longtime friend of Paul’s. Not many could stay in Rome because of severe persecution, and there were ministry opportunities in other places anyway. But Luke was there and had been with Paul a great deal of time. In Colossians 4:14 we see Paul’s love for Luke: “Luke the beloved physician greets you.” Luke is also described as a fellow worker in Philemon 24.

So speaking of friends, faithful spiritual friends, we have seen three today: Crescens, Titus, and Luke. As far as we know these three were faithful friends and faithful to the gospel for Paul’s entire ministry.

But next we see another situation, and again, this shows the diversity in types of friendships that God gives us, and how even some difficult situations come our way. Paul says this: “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.”

Paul is asking for Mark. This is interesting, but only if we have a little background. Paul has a lot of history with Mark, or as he was sometimes called, John or John Mark. It was Mark’s mother’s house where many were praying for Peter who had been in prison. They were praying for his deliverance. You might remember this story, but Peter was miraculously delivered from prison. When he went to the house where many had gathered to pray, he knocked on the door and no one believed it was him.

Acts 12
12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13 And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. 15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” 16 But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.” Then he departed and went to another place.

So this was John Mark’s mother’s house. Now Mark was recognized as a leader and was chosen to travel with Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey. They were companions in the work of ministry. But then after they set out, we read in Acts 13:13 that Mark left Paul and Barnabas and returned to Jerusalem. Whatever the reason was, Paul did not think it was a good reason for leaving them. We know this because some years later Barnabas wanted Mark to go with them again and Paul wouldn’t have it. In fact, Paul insisted that Mark not come with them. The conflict rose to such a level that Paul and Barnabas ended up going separate ways. Paul did not see Mark as committed to the ministry, and so he put his foot down. We can assume that somewhere along the way, and most likely while with Barnabas or just before that, Mark had a change of heart.

Many years later Paul said this in Colossians 4:

Colossians 4
10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him), 11 and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. 12

We see Paul saying that Mark is useful to him for service! Some friendship, even among Christians, can be very rocky along the way. Paul and Mark experienced that. But as Mark changed, Paul did not hold the past against him, and even got to a place where he longed to see him.

We have to be careful not to write people off. People will disappoint us, they will sin against us, and they may even act in ways where we may question whether they have a relationship with Christ at all. But let’s not forget that God can and does change people. It is one thing to be offended and get mad at a friend, and have that last many days or years, but it is quite another thing to commit to pray for those who may offend us or even offend our Savior.

We don’t know what all Paul may have done after Mark walked away and before he returned to minister the gospel, but we do know that at the proper time, Paul received Mark back into fellowship and ministry.

Holding grudges, becoming bitter, these are not how we are to relate to one another. We are called to more.

Ephesians 4
32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 5
1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Next we see Tychicus: “Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus.” This man seemed to be a real servant, he had delivered letters to the churches for Paul. It is interesting and insightful that although there was a sense in which Paul was suffering and alone to a large degree, he didn’t try to keep everyone with him. There was still work to be done around the world, and Paul still had his eye on global ministry. He still sent people out where people were needed, he did not selfishly hold everyone back for his own comfort.

Now, in the middle of all this instruction and mentioning of so many people, he did have other requests.

2 Timothy 4
13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.

What did Paul want? He wanted a coat! A big coat! Winter was coming and prison conditions were horrible, and if you needed stuff then you had better have friends bring you those things. A cloak was a heavy wool coat that also served as a blanket. This just shows what sort of needs he had. He had very basic needs, he just wanted a coat. Covering is what he needed. And this from the man who had learned to be content no matter what.

He also asked for books. Books would be used for ministry. The books may have been papyrus scrolls of the Old Testament. He also asked for parchments, which may have been blank sheets for writing. He probably had more letters in mind to write as he waited in his prison cell. So a coat, books, Old Testament writings, and paper to write on – these are the things he wanted. That was it. It was, in many ways, a very simple life. Not an easy life, but a simple life. His friends somewhat scattered, ministering where they could, the winter coming soon, and he had reading and writing on his mind. Oh, and he was well aware that this was probably as good as it would get until he left this earth to be forever with Christ. And he was okay with it all, in fact he rejoiced!

No matter what was at hand, no matter who was near, no matter what material things he had, he would say this:

Philippians 2
17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

Philippians 3
1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.

Philippians 4
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Paul knew what it was like to suffer, and yet he refused to let suffering steal his joy.

We have so much. And much of what we have is Christian friends that God uses in our lives to provide for and comfort us. He gives us each other to encourage us and to help us see Christ. That doesn’t mean our relationships are perfect, but it does mean God works though them for our good.

Rejoice in the Lord and thank Him for the people He puts in your life!

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.