Summary: The text from 2 Timothy 4 reveals the Apostle Paul's true condition in his final days before his death in Rome. He was never truly alone because of God's presence with him.
Never Alone (Paul's last days)
Loneliness is one of the major mental-health issues in America today. A lot of folks dread the holiday season because, it highlights the losses they’ve had in life. All the celebrating … and the big family gatherings … just emphasize their feeling of being alone.
What can we do to help people who suffer from loneliness? What can we do in those times when WE feel all alone? Well… it may not help much to go to therapy. One popular counseling method is called “existential psychotherapy.” The theory behind this is that an individual can overcome their angst by confronting 4 truths about existence.
1. Death is inevitable
2. You are responsible for your choices
3. You are alone
4. Life is meaningless (Cooper, 2003)
Feeling better? There is some truth in #1 and 2 --- but 3 and 4 are the exact opposite of God’s truth. But a lot of people live life believing all four of those “givens.” Albert Einstein wrote, “It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.” Ernest Hemingway wrote, “I live in a vacuum as lonely as a radio tube when the batteries are dead.” Even the comedian Lilly Tomlin said, “We’re all in this alone.”
Scripture tells us that God has gone to great lengths so we will never have to be in this alone! We’re near the end of a series called The Story where we’ve studied the entire Bible. From Genesis through Revelation the Bible declares that we are NOT alone and that our lives are FULL of everlasting meaning. This is true even in times when we feel all alone.
Today we’re going to focus on the last days of the Apostle Paul’s life. These were months when Paul was cut off from almost all his companions.
We can sense how painful this isolation was for Paul when we read the letter he wrote to Timothy, his son in the faith, from a dark prison cell. Do your best to come to me quickly. And then he expresses how alone he feels; Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. 2 Timothy 4:9, 11
This situation would be hard on anyone, but especially on Paul who was definitely a “people person.” Paul was an energetic, goal-oriented man who thrived on interaction. For example, when he wrote a letter to the Roman church, he greeted no less than 26 people by name --- even though at that time Paul had never even been to Rome.
(I don’t know about you, but I probably couldn’t’ name 26 people from a place I HAD visited!) Paul also mentions 8 people who were travelling with him. In this last letter Paul wrote (2 Timothy), he names 19 people he had dealings with.
Some people are extroverts by nature, and others are introverts, but EVERYONE has the need for relationships. That’s how God made human beings. We see this way back at the beginning of The Story when God looked at Adam and said, “It’s not good for man to be alone. I’ll make a companion for him.”
I just finished reading this book called What Are You Afraid Of?: Facing Down Your Fears with Faith by Dr. David Jeremiah
Dr. Jeremiah says, “Going without food or water will kill the body, but the lack of relationship will kill the mind and spirit.” (p.120)
An article in Psychology Today said that Isolation “has been shown to be a central agent in the etiology of depression, paranoia, schizophrenia, rape, suicide, mass murder, and a wide variety of disease states.” (p. 121)
That old song, “People, people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” They’re not the luckiest people … they’re the ONLY people in the world! EVERYONE needs companionship.
The need for companionship is why technology like Face book or texting becomes so addictive for people. I’ve heard there’s a new phobia among young people. It’s called “no-mo-phone-a-phobia” (fear of not having a phone) Even my 10 year old granddaughter is begging for an i-phone! (Isn’t it crazy that just a hundred years ago most people had never talked on a phone and now, we panic if we forget our phone when we run a quick errand!)
This need for connection is why it’s so important for Christians to do more than sit in a service once a week. This is why we have Sunday school classes and Pueblo groups and service groups. We need connection with other Christians.
If you’ve been in a circumstance of forced isolation, you know how painful loneliness can be. This is why it’s so important for us to make the effort to seek out people who simply need companionship. People who are sick and confined … or in prison as Paul was … or simply new in the community or church --- these folks NEED others who will reach out to them --- because one of the most basic human needs is the need for Companionship.