Recently I heard a sermon by a preacher named Bayless Conley titled “Life Lessons From the Man In Jail.” It was about the trials and disappointments which Paul experienced. Pastor Conley’s focus text was 2 Timothy 4:9-10.
“Come to see me as soon as you can. Demas loves the things of this world so much that he left me and went to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus has gone to Dalmatia.” Almost as a postscript, verse 11a says, “Only Luke has stayed with me.” (CEV)
After spending some time elaborating on other passages which describe Paul’s other painful experiences, he pointed out that, in all os his mistreatments and betrayals, Paul never lost heart but trusted in Jesus Christ and those on whom he could rely to be an encouragement to him.
Then he made his point. Never let dark times eclipse the bright; never let unfaithful acquaintances dim your view of faithful friends on whom you can still count.
And he used the eclipse of the sun as an illustration to make his point. The moon is such a small thing in comparison to the sun, yet it is able to blot out the sun’s light. And he left his example there.
When he finished his sermon, I sat back and pondered that illustration. The sun is almost 400 times the size of the moon, yet that relatively tiny ball is able to darken the sky. But why?
Because the sun is so much farther away from the earth than the moon is.
Suddenly, I realized one of the major reasons why I find myself in despair when a trusted relative or friend has been allowed to level me with criticisms or attacks. I hold them in closer regard and higher esteem than I do faithful kin and friends who are there to comfort, encourage and stand alongside me when I am in a crisis.
And rather than keeping my focus on the Lord and those faithful companions, I go inward and focus on me and the sad estate I perceive myself to be in. There is no more lonely place to be than all wadded up inside myself and throwing a pity party for poor little old me.
Paul knew the key to emotional and spiritual survival, as evidenced in verses 11b and 13.
“Mark can be very helpful to me, so please find him and bring him with you. . . .When you come, bring the coat I left at Troas with Carpus. Don’t forget to bring the scrolls, especially the ones made of leather.” (CEV)
Paul was still relying on Luke. He reached out to Timothy, whom he knew he could trust, and he asked for Mark, who had grown in his faith. As for those who had hurt him and let him down, such as Alexander (verse 14), he said, “The Lord will pay him back for what he has done.”
There’s a saying which goes, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” That is terrible advice, if Paul’s example holds any truth at all. And it does.