Summary: Sermon from II Timothy 4:9-13 which shows how Paul dealt with great disappointments and heart-breaks due to the unfaithfulness of others.
What Really Matters
How to Deal with Heartbreak
I’ve been a dedicated believer in Christ now for the last 44 or 45 years, more than 26 as a pastor. One of the things I’ve learned in that time is that a key to persevering in Christian life, and in particular in ministry, is learning how to deal with disappointment, even unsettling, heart-breaking disappointments and losses. For especially in ministry they are inevitably and often regularly a part of a Christian’s experience.
I was painfully reminded of this fact myself this week when I received news, now for a second time, of a former elder of this church who has now completely fallen away from following Christ and has confessed that he has lost his faith entirely. And this was a devoted believer whom at one time I would have counted as my closest friend and confidant, a wise man who was devoted to the Word and prayer in great ways. Now, he shall remain nameless for the time being, as the person who confirmed what I had only previously suspected asked that the details of the situation be kept confidential. But this was a shocking and heart-breaking revelation, though it’s only one in a series of such revelations about this individual which has occurred over the course of several years.
And so the question which I faced this week once again, and the question which so many of will face at one point or another in our Christian lives is, what do we do when we receive heart-breaking news like this—when people, perhaps even our own children, or for that matter, our parents, or close friends, or fellow believers, deeply disappoint and hurt us, when beloved friends abandon us in times of our greatest need, when someone like my friend even apparently abandons not only his walk with Christ, but his faith altogether. How can we keep from being terribly discouraged, disillusioned ourselves to the point of perhaps even wandering away from following Jesus ourselves?
This morning we come to a place in Scripture which addresses just exactly those kinds of circumstances in II Timothy 4:9-13. It so happens that it’s none other than the venerable Apostle Paul’s who has experienced the hurt and the heartbreak of a close friend, a ministry associate who has abandoned him and the Lord in his time of deepest need. Paul’s experience at this point in his life serves as a reality check for us. Here we have this man, perhaps the greatest Christian of all time among mere mortals. He is at the end of his life and he is imprisoned, lonely, experiencing abandonment from many believers in a time of great persecution, and now the apparent apostasy of one of the members of his own missionary team at the time of his greatest need, when he is in prison about to be executed for his faith. Paul, though clearly wounded by these experiences, is stalwart in his faith, fully assured that no matter what happens, Christ is with Him and will see Him into His heavenly kingdom, and here provides the example of how to deal with great and heart-breaking disappointments. What his words and his example provide for us this morning is this:
When unfaithfulness & heartbreak come, remember and seek out the faithful, especially your gracious God and His Word.
As we come to verses 9 through the end of II Timothy we find Paul’s letter filled with a list of personal concerns and details about his ministry and the ministry of his missionary team, which at this time may number as many as 10 of the people mentioned in these concluding verses. Each of the people he mentioned here is a story in and of himself. Some of the stories we know more about than others, and such is the case with Demas, who had clearly been a part of Paul’s team of missionaries for a number of years.
We know that Demas, for instance, was part of Paul’s missionary team during his first Roman imprisonment, for he is mentioned in two other places in the New Testament. He’s mentioned alongside Luke in Colossians 4:14 as Paul wrote that letter from Rome. And in Philemon 24 he is mentioned as one of Paul’s own fellow workers, obviously a member of Paul’s missionary team, a man who clearly at some point had so gained Paul’s respect and trust that he had qualified for inclusion on this missions team. Demas had been a man who had elder qualifications and I’m sure had passed the test regarding those qualifications for such ministry as Paul had recorded them for us in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
Now Paul’s first Romans imprisonment had occurred between 59 and 61 or 62 A.D and the book of Colossians and Philemon are thought to have been written in 60 A.D., so by the time of the writing of II Timothy, Demas had been a member of Paul’s missionary team for at least five or six years. So what Paul writes about Demas at this point is shocking. He urges Timothy to come quickly to him in Rome, because of what, in part, Demas has done. Chapter 4, verse 9: “Make every effort to come to me soon, for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.” Paul then mentions several others who are also absent, but who are apparently dutifully following through with their ministries in other places: “Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia (which is modern-day Yugoslavia), and in verse 11 he confesses, “Only Luke is with me.”