Summary: How to deal with desertion, loneliness and imminent death
2 Timothy 4 verses 9-22
Last words are important. In every film where someone is dying there are usually dramatic words of instruction passed on to the living. We hold on to last words as being precious and important. I know the last words my grandfather said to me a few days before he died. They are very important to me and precious to me. I am sure you have similar such memories. In our reading this evening from 2 Timothy we have Paul’s last words to his young protégé, Timothy. Turn with me to 2 Timothy 4 verses 9-22. You know that Paul is in prison in Rome awaiting trial, which will ultimately lead to his martyrdom for the sake of the gospel. Winter is approaching (verse 21) and he sends some final instructions to the young Timothy, who is the recipient of this letter.
Verses 9-13 Deserted by his friends.
In verses 9 and 21 Paul urges the young Timothy to make every effort he can to come to Rome as quickly as possible. Paul realises that time is short and he longs to see his young friend one last time. It is not just out of sentimental reasons that he longs to see Timothy but to encourage Timothy to stand firm in the gospel and to fulfil the call of God in his life. A call which was confirmed by the laying on of hands and commissioning of the young Timothy. A fact which Paul had reminded him of previously. However, the other reason Paul wants the young Timothy to come quickly is because he has been deserted by the believers in Rome, with the exception of Luke. In verse 10 Paul begins with the word ‘For’ and now we will hear the reasons for his request that Timothy should leave Ephesus and come to Rome.
Verse 10 – Demas has loved the world more than the gospel and deserted Paul. Demas was a trusted fellow worker of Paul. In Colossians 4.14 and Philemon 24 he is described as a ‘fellow worker’ in the gospel. The precise details over his defection are not given but Paul does say that he loved this world more than the gospel. What changed in Demas’ life that he would desert Luke and Paul for the world? You know I think it is fair to say that Demas did not just waken up one morning in Rome and decide to give it all up and desert Paul. Paul tells us that he loved the world more. The world became more attractive to him than the hardships, the long journeys, the dangerous persecutions and the opposition that they endured in preaching the gospel. It may well have been that Demas over a period of time compromised one step at a time until he found himself far from the Lord Jesus, far from the gospel and he just walked away. If you look at verse 8 you will see that in contrast to Demas Paul has set his love, his hope, on the return of Christ, on eternal things. Demas allowed the world to take his eyes from the eternal to the temporal. Friends, there is an important lesson for us all there. We can be like Demas, a trusted fellow worker in the gospel and yet all the time our eyes are being distracted from the things of God to the things of this world. The world can become very attractive and is very seductive. You know we can even convince ourselves that we are not giving up on the gospel but becoming more relevant to the world in which we live. I would suspect that Demas convinced himself he was not walking away from the gospel but just from Paul and the missionary journeys. Demas has deserted his first love (Rev.2.4). You know the startling thing is that Demas has his freedom whilst Paul is in prison but ask yourself: “Who is really the free man here?” Demas may appear to have freedom but he is actually in bondage to the world. Paul may be in a physical prison but if you look at verse 18 you quickly realise that he is in fact free. Demas has been seduced by the mass of ideas, opinions, hopes, impulses, aims, aspirations and speculations of the world and he has found them more appealing than the gospel. There is a real danger out there that we sometimes fail to appreciate as Christians, especially as Christian leaders. Just because someone is today working alongside us in the gospel does not mean that tomorrow they will not side with the world and desert the work of the gospel. The world continues to be attractive to us all – hence Paul constantly reminding the recipients of his letters of the battle that they face for the sake of the gospel. Please note as well the graciousness of Paul in writing that Demas has deserted. He does not indulge in recriminations nor does he indulge in soiling his character. Nor does he deny the good work that Demas has done in the past for the gospel. It is obvious that Paul had a genuine affection for Demas and his desertion hurt him.