2 Timothy 4:9-13
Paul’s words are powerful and convicting, and it would be easy for us to look at Paul’s life and words as somehow detached from normal life. Yet what he writes in 2 Timothy 4:9-13 reveals that even a faithful martyr—a witness for Christ who is ready to lay down his life for the gospel—has basic needs just like any other human. The apostle Paul is not only an apostle. He is not just a missionary, not just a martyr getting ready to give his life for the Lord. He is a person created by God with the dimensions that any person has.
This Scripture passage (2 Timothy 4:9-13) gives us a window into the practical, human side of serving Jesus. We look at people who have impacted our lives in extraordinary ways, and it is easy to forget that they are human beings, too. This passage reminds us that those we support in ministry have basic needs we must make sure are supplied. These verses instruct us that taking care of such basic human needs is not at all inconsistent with powerful ministry or self-sacrificing devotion, but rather is supportive of such a life.
Think through this with me for a moment. The fact that God includes this in His Word, which is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness, child-training, and discipline so that we can be equipped for every good work, means that it is important that we understand this side of serving Jesus. Serving Jesus is not a mythical, ethereal experience, but it is woven into our physical realities, mental realities, and social realities as to who we are. Not only did God put this in His Word, but He put it in the DNA of what it means to be human. God created you with the needs that Paul is talking about, not just as a spirit being but as a physical being, an emotional being with social needs. When Jesus Christ came to earth, He came not just as a spirit. He came as a human being – completely God as well as completely man – and He experienced these needs Himself. When God saves you, He doesn’t save just your spirit. He begins to transform your mind (the renewing of your mind – see Romans 12:1), changing how you think and changing your social interaction with other people. When it is all said and done, Jesus does not just save your spirit and take you to heaven when your body dies. He is going to renew your body and make it immortal. That means as the Creator, Savior, Redeemer, God cares about you in all your dimensions, and He expects us to care about others in all their dimensions. We see this beautifully portrayed from the pen of the apostle Paul.
Faithful Martyr, Basic Needs
- Need for Social Interaction (2 Timothy 4:9-12)
- Need for Physical Care (2 Timothy 4:13a)
- Need for Mental Stimulation (2 Timothy 4:13b)
I. Need for Social Interaction
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.
Paul is a faithful martyr, but he has needs. He has a need for social interaction. He is a tough guy who goes through a lot. When we see him in this dungeon in the latter part of his life, it would be easy to think of him as battle-hardened, grinning and bearing it without the circumstances touching him at all. Yet, we see that he has a great longing and loneliness. He frequently mentions his fellow workers for the kingdom of God. He is the most well-known of them, but he serves with an army of other servants of Christ. Paul is not a lone ranger. He values the company and labors of others. The same is true of us. We do not serve alone.
To Timothy he wrote, “do your best to come to me soon.” “I long to see you” (2 Timothy 1:4) We do not know if Timothy made it to Paul before he was executed, especially when you consider the time it would have taken for his travel. Why so urgent?
Paul had been deserted by long-time friends who traveled with him. He has sent others to take care of ministry elsewhere. He feels he has lost the support of churches in Asia (2 Timothy 1:15). He’s in a dungeon; winter is coming; and execution can be any time. One’s relationship to close friends becomes intensely valuable at such times. We need the comfort of other human beings who have a heart for the same cause we do and have a heart for us. When you are down and out, you need friends or a friend like no other time in your life. We need to be sensitive to this need in others around us.
Paul sent greetings from Demas in his letter to the Colossians written during his first imprisonment. He mentions him in Philemon 24 as one of his fellow workers. This is a man who is a veteran missionary along with the apostle Paul. He is possibly from Thessalonica since he is mentioned along with Aristarchus, who was from that city (Acts 20:4, 27:2). If so, his taking off for Thessalonica was basically heading for home.
In some way Demas’ leaving was a sort of betrayal of his commitment to Paul—a desertion (same word used in 4:16). What is more alarming is what Paul identifies as his heart reason for doing so: “having loved this present age” — the now age, in contrast to the age of eternity over which God rules (1 Timothy 1:17; 2 Timothy 4:18). Somehow the present temporal, tangible world and its comforts and rewards captured the heart of Demas and diverted him from his commitment to the King of the ages and His everlasting kingdom. If you are all tangled up with the cares of this world, you will make judgment calls that are going to leave people in a lurch, basically amounting to deserting the cause. Guard your heart! If you get your sight set on this world, you will make some critical errors in your service for the Lord. Be careful not to fall in love with God’s gifts instead of God the Giver.
Paul sent Crescens to Galatia, which is modern-day Turkey. There is no other mention of him, but he was a key servant of the Lord in a region that was close to Paul’s heart and was troubled by the Judaizers.
Titus had been dispatched to Dalmatia by Paul. Dalmatia was a Roman province directly across the Adriatic Sea from Italy. Modern-day Croatia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina are in this region. Titus was redeployed from Crete (epistle to Titus). Titus was like another Timothy to Paul.
I remember when my dad’s church grew to the size that it could begin planting other churches. When they finally began their first one, a couple of key leaders who had a vision in dad’s church went with the new church plant. Dad was depressed for about two years. Every time I saw him he was down in the dumps. For a little while it seemed to set the church back. This happens, but God has a way of showing us that He is the One who makes things work, not particular people. Nevertheless, it is tough to work alongside people and then to see them go. Paul experienced that, but Luke remained with him.
Luke was the only one with Paul of the original group. He was the beloved physician and missionary companion through many of Paul’s missionary journeys. Luke had a heart for people from every background. We are indebted to him for the events Acts records, along with the Gospel of Luke. He was a capable historian, medical doctor, and a faithful co-worker. Luke was a giant of a man who was there with Paul, providing some of the company he needed.
Then we have a surprise.Paul says, “Bring Mark. He is useful to me for the ministry.” Remember that John Mark went AWOL on the first missionary journey. He was the cause of Paul and Barnabas splitting up on the second journey. Paul said, “No way.” Paul went on a journey with Silas, and Barnabas took John Mark. Over the years Mark spent time with Barnabas and with Peter. He became useful for the ministry, not only in the eyes of men but also in the eyes of God, who used him for one of the Scripture writers. Mark was the author of Peter’s gospel, the Gospel of Mark, according to historical testimony published shortly before or after Peter’s execution, which occurred about the same time as Paul’s. What a testimony to God’s ability to restore a man who stumbled in his service to the Lord. He was not a lost cause, and Paul now affirms the fact! Failure need not be the last word on any believer.
So the church experiences this double hit: two giants – the apostle Peter, as it were the apostle to the Jews, and Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. Both were executed within a year of two of each other. At that same time, according to historical testimony, the Gospel of Mark comes out and presents the suffering Sovereign who willingly suffers to fulfill the will of God but who is nonetheless the Sovereign who is all powerful. It was a message that the world needed to hear and that the church needed to strengthen them at the time of this empire wide persecution when two giants of the faith had been destroyed. Mark was certainly useful to the ministry. What a testimony! What a testimony not just to Paul’s willingness to see a man who developed from what he was to a mature minister of the gospel, but also a testimony of God’s ability to restore a man who stumbled in his service to the Lord. Sometimes we catalog people as lost causes that God still has a future for. Paul affirms the fact that Mark is no lost cause and that he is valuable. Failure does not have to be the last word for any believer. If you think back, you can recalll people who have had great failures. Perhaps they had moral failures that brought great shame or failures that moved them from a place of ministry and set them as it were on a shelf. Yet in time as they sought the Lord and the Lord worked in them, they became very valuable to the ministry. Mark was one that Paul longed to see.
Tychicus is likely the courier for this letter, a service he rendered for Paul’s letter to the Ephesians as well. Paul entrusted him with returning runaway Onesimus to his master in the Colossian church, and he is first mentioned as one of those traveling with Paul to bring the relief funds from the Gentile churches to the believers in Jerusalem who were suffering in a time of famine (Acts 20:4). You may think a courier for a letter is not a big deal. It may seem a humble task, but it is hard to calculate the value of it. What if these letters had never been delivered? What about the dangers associated with all the difficulties you would encounter taking the letter across the miles in those day? And what would we do if we did not have the letter to the Ephesians or to the Colossians? It was a huge job that would help millions and millions of people have spiritual direction and perhaps even come to Christ. There is not a task in the work of the Lord, there is not a task that isn’t full of mundane, self-denying service to Him. It is important to understand just how valuable it is.
Who are your co-laborers in serving Jesus?
What individuals would you name as prayer partners, persons who encourage you and confront you, persons you encourage?
Have you noticed a person in need of companionship?
Are you lonely for solid Christian friendship?
What are you doing to meet the need?
II. Need for Physical Care
13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas . . . .
Sometimes we neglect what the human body needs almost with a sense that doing so makes us more holy or helps us fight the flesh better. Such is not the case—asceticism or severity to the body does not curtail the flesh and cannot do so (Colossians 2). Do you know what conquers yielding to the flesh? It is yielding to the Spirit. When you yield to the Spirit, it enables you to use your body for what it is for. It does not mean you mistreat the body; it means you actually treat the body in the way it was designed to be treated, to be well cared for and to be used for God’s glory.
Winter was coming and Paul needed a cloak to keep warm. The garment to which Paul refers was somewhat like a parka. It was a sleeveless outer garment made from a single piece of heavy material with a hole in the middle for the head. It was very useful in traveling to keep out rain and cold. It is possible that Paul was arrested in Troas and that that is why the cloak was there.
How do you respond to prayer requests for physical needs? (The spiritual and the physical are connected.)
How do they relate to spiritual priorities?
How can neglect of your physical health interfere with your mission for Christ?
Is there any physical need you need to take care of in your own life that reduces your effectiveness in serving Jesus?
What kinds of physical needs do you notice in the lives of others? How can you help supply the need?
III. Need for Mental Stimulation
13 When you come, bring . . . also the books, and above all the parchments.
Books were biblia. They were in scrolls (the codex form of books that we know today did not come along until later), likely made of papyrus, the precursor of paper. Parchments were made of animal skins and were more durable. Surely among these would have been copies of various Old Testament books, and some New Testament writings completed; but Paul’s sermons and letters show that his reading was not just the Scriptures but was broader, even though so much of his life was on the road. He quotes from quite a number of Greek writers as he gives out the gospel (such as Aratus, Menander, Pindar, Aristophanes).
For him to ask for reading material shows that reading that stimulates meditation and thinking is not impractical, but is of high value even when what’s left of life is short. Recently I had a conversation in one of the leaders in South Carolina Christian education. We talked about the need to train lawyers to become better writers. Studies showed that to improve writing, you must improve thinking. To improve thinking, one needs to read a lot of good material. It actually stimulates your ability to think things through. In today’s society it is easy to let watching displace reading. If the happy man who prospers in all he does is one who meditates on the Scriptures day and night, he must be a reader. He must take time to read and make it a habit so much so that days before execution, Paul is still committed to growing intellectually.
A believer needs to meditate, to reason, to be able to articulate truth. Reading helps him do that.
What are you reading that feeds your soul?
How well can you communicate with others?
Given how wide Paul’s reading was, in what ways do you show you put value on reading what puts you in connection with the culture and times in which you live?
Paul tapped into these sources in his gospel witness. In what ways could you do the same?
Jesus Christ – the God-man – demonstrated needs in these three areas as well. When He saves us, He transforms these three areas. God Himself cares about these basic needs whether you are a faithful martyr or a faithful Christian doing whatever God has called you to do.
Faithful Martyr, Basic Needs
- Need for Social Interaction (9-12)
- Need for Physical Care (13a)
- Need for Mental Stimulation (13b)
Pursue it and ask God to supply your needs!
Pastor Drew Conley
Hampton Park Baptist Church
February 1, 2015