Maturing Through Fellowship
 2 Timothy 4:9-16
By Paul Robison

"[Most Americans] are always looking for a quick fix to life’s problems.  Whether it’s the quickest weight loss fad or the fastest computer, we’re always looking for the easiest, fasted way to achieve our goals.  We’re a generation of [instant potatoes], microwave popcorn, and fast food.  [Sadly,] this mentality also passes over to our spiritual lives as well.  Christians are continually looking for the quick fix to spiritual maturity.  [We've been studying this year through the books of 1 & 2 Timothy, and] we’ve seen throughout this series that there is no quick fix to a deeper life with God.  Spirituality isn’t like a packet of microwave popcorn that you ... can enjoy just one minute later.  True Christian spirituality takes time, effort, and most of all relationships to grow deep.  Throughout these [sermons], we’ve seen that there are three ... essentials to a deepened life with God.  The first [essential] is accurate beliefs.  Our beliefs about God must line up with what God is really like or we can’t hope to develop a deeper life with [Him].  This is why 1 & 2 Timothy have emphasized the need for sound doctrine four different times (1 Timothy 1:10; 6:3; 2 Timothy 1:13, 4:3).  This is [why] these two letters emphasize the importance of the [Scriptures] so much as well.  This is why Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16 that all scripture is God breathed and therefore important to our spiritual development.   Accurate beliefs are essential because our actions flow from our beliefs.  The second essential is being involved in [godly] practices.  Numerous times these two letters ... encourage us to live godly lives.  Back in 1 Timothy 4:7, we saw the command to train ourselves to be godly.  [Paul gives Timothy about 45 commands in these two letters, and here's just a few that stress godly practices: pray for all people (1 Timothy 2:1); give attention to reading, exhortation, doctrine (4:13); do nothing with partiality (5:21); keep yourself pure (5:22); fight the good fight of faith (6:12); be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:2); be diligent to present yourself approved of God (2:15); pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace (2:22); endure afflictions (4:5)!  These are godly practices that all Christians should strive to demonstrate in their daily lives.]  It is impossible to grow deep with God without engaging in these [godly] practices.  The third essential is participating in authentic [fellowship].  We’ve seen that 1 & 2 Timothy have a lot to say about how to structure the church, how to select church leaders, and how to order our relationships with each other in the church.  In 1 Timothy 3:15, Paul called the ... church "the household of God" and "the pillar of the truth."  That’s how important it is for us to participate in [fellowship] with other Christians.  It is impossible to grow deep in isolation [because] we need the input of other followers of Jesus in the [church.  We, however, are often afraid of our brothers and sisters in the Lord.  Why?  Because we] are afraid of being hurt by other people, so [we] build up walls of protection around [ourselves].  Let’s face it: The closer you get to [members], the deeper [they] can hurt you.  ... So we avoid real [fellowship with the very group] where we [should] really let down our guard [and] get involved in [their] lives. ... [But] the truth is that if we engage in [real fellowship], we will get hurt.  The risk is a real one.  Yet without [such fellowship], we won’t grow deep in our life with God ... All the quick fix substitutes ... can’t compensate for a lack of authentic [fellowship]" (Peck).  Christian maturity comes only through our relationships with other brethren.  And there is an amazing range of relationships to be found!  Let's look at some of these different relationships that Paul experienced, and that we can experience as well. 
Verse 9 of today's text reads: "Be diligent to come to me quickly."  Now that statement is addressed to Timothy.  Also look over at verse 21: "Do you utmost to come before winter."  Paul knows that his days are numbered and that he is going to be executed.  But before he dies, Paul wants to see Timothy, his beloved son in the faith (2 Timothy 1:2).  He wants Timothy to leave Ephesus before too much longer and catch a boat that sails for Rome.  When winter comes, sea travel will come to a halt.  We learn from this that some brethren will sacrifice for you.  Timothy had been a good soldier fighting the good fight against the heretics over the past four years.  He has probably worked hard to establish new elders and deacons and revised the list of the widows who should get church funds.  But Paul wants Timothy to abandon his good work and to come and be with him.  That would take some sacrifice on Timothy's part wouldn't it?  But Timothy's close bond with Paul will cause him to do it.  My family has experienced this type of Christian love.  When our third child was born in Italy, a Christian sister in her 60s made a trip of over 600 miles by train to be with us and to offer her care as a substitute grandmother.  She sacrificed two weeks with her family to help us out.  You never forget brethren like that.  What are rich fellowship we share in Jesus!  Some brethren will sacrifice for you.
Verse 10 of our text states: "For Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica."  Demas may have come from Thessalonica and was a part of Paul's ministry team.  In fact, you find him sending his greetings to the church in Colosse and to the family of Philemon (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 24).  But something happened.  One commentator states that here was a case where "'the cares of the world and the delight of riches' choked out the word (Matthew 13:22)" (Spain).  The description of him as one who loved the world stands in stark contrast to those who love Jesus' appearing, mentioned a few verses earlier (Coffman).  Another preachers puts it this way: "[Demas] fell in love with this present world.  He probably grew tired of the hardship and struggles that characterized Paul’s ministry team: the long days, the dangerous travel, the beatings and imprisonments.  He grew weary of long journeys with not enough food, being away from his family for months at a time. ... So he went home, home to Thessalonica, home where it was safe and warm.  But he left Paul virtually alone [and disappointed].  Clearly, Paul writes with a broken heart when he thinks about Demas ..." (Peck).  We learn here that some members will forsake you.  Perhaps it's better to say that they will forsake Jesus, but in so doing, they forsake His family as well.  You have probably felt the same heartbreak as Paul did when you see someone who was once a faithful member in the church, but now he or she has fallen away and are pursuing earthly matters and fleshly desires.  The world's attraction is strong, so John warned us with great clarity: "If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. ... And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:15 & 17).  Some members will forsake you.
Now notice what the rest of verse 10 states: "Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia."  These men were also part of Paul's ministry team.  Crescens is a Latin name, and he works with the congregations in Galatia or some more modern manuscripts have Gaul (which is modern day France).  And that's about all we know about Crescens.  Titus is a little better known and is one of Paul's most trusted workers; Paul calls him "my partner and fellow worker" in 2 Corinthians 8:23.  Paul sent him to work with the church in Corinth in 56 A. D., and later, he sent him to work with the churches on the island of Crete around 63 A. D.  Now he is off to work with churches in what is modern day Albania.  This shows that some members will help you.  Despite the hardships, persecutions, and immature brethren, these good brothers continued to help Paul and worked unselfishly to help other brethren as well.  Paul must have been very appreciative of these men for they helped to further the expansion of Jesus' kingdom, even when Paul himself was confined to a Roman prison.  Some brethren will help you.  The brethren who run our children's homes in Morrilton and Paragould were very appreciative of the help we gave to them.  Jeremy and Rebecca Korodaj also wrote a note, which was put in one of our bulletins, thanking us for our prayers and the extra financial help.  Bro. Peter Solomon of India called my home recently and expressed his thanks for the extra funds we sent.  Several families here helped the Carters with their trips to Little Rock.  Yes, some brothers have serving hearts, and they will help you.
Now look at verse 11: "Only Luke is with me."  Luke was a very close associate with Paul.  As early as 50 A. D., we read how Luke travels with Paul during his second missionary journey (Acts 16:10).  So here we are 17 years later, and "the beloved physician" (as Paul calls him in Colossians 4:14) is still right with Paul, assisting and helping him right there in a dank dungeon.  Doesn't this show that some members will stay with you?  These are the those members who are very close to you, and they will always be there no matter what may happen to you.  When the storms of life hit full force or when you are feeling just about a low as you can get, you know you can count on these faithful brethren to be there if you call them and say, "Could you please come?  I really need you."  And they will come, and they'll stay with you until the storm passes or until you feel strong enough to make it on your own again.  Don't the "Lukes" in life make such a difference?  What a blessing they are!  Are you some other member's Luke as well?  Some members will stay with you.
Now the rest of verse 11 states: "Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry."  "On Paul’s very first [missionary journey] years earlier, Mark had been one of Paul’s first ministry team members, [but he] abandoned Paul early on in the trip (Acts 13:13).  When Paul and Barnabas wanted to go on a second ministry trip, Barnabas wanted to bring Mark again, but Paul refused.  After all, Mark had disappointed them earlier, and Paul figured that he couldn’t count on Mark to be there when they needed him.  But Mark was Barnabas’ cousin, so he wanted to give Mark a second chance.  The disagreement between Paul and Barnabas got so intense that they parted company.  So the book of Acts leaves us with the impression that Mark is a guy you can’t count on ... who disappoints you" (Peck).  But Mark changes for the better.  "We find Mark with Paul during his first Roman imprisonment, and [he is] even being commended by Paul to the Colossian church (4:10)."  Mark now has Paul's full confidence in 2 Timothy, and the word he uses for "vessels of honor or usefulness" in 2:21 is translated "useful" here (Spain).  "Of course, eventually Mark would go on to write the gospel of Mark, which is the second book in the New Testament" (Peck).  This just shows that some brethren will improve and mature.  A member here was talking to me about one of our elders and said: "Man, he has sure come a long way from what he was when he first became an elder!"  What a compliment!  That growth in our Lord was very noticeable, and this is how it should be for all of us!  "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18).  Seeing members improve and mature brings all great joy!
Now look at verse 12: "And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus."  Tychicus had accompanied Paul in his final trip to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4), and he had delivered the letters to the Colossian and Ephesian churches (Colossians 4:7-9; Ephesians 6:21).  Paul intended for Tychicus to act as Timothy's replacement while Timothy came to Rome for a visit.  This shows that some members can replace you.  Wise leaders often let others work with them so that they can be replaced easily when they pass on.  None of us in the body of Christ is so vital that the body can't continue to function without us.  Maybe the idea of a replacement can help us to be more humble.  Some members can replace you.
Now look at verse 13: "Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments."  It looks like Bro. Carpus must have been Paul's host while he was in Troas.  Some believe that Paul probably had to leave Troas hurriedly, and this is why he left his possessions behind.  He could have even been arrested in Troas.  Whatever the case, Bro. Carpus held on to Paul's possessions, and Timothy was to get these items while traveling on his way to Rome.  This shows us that some members will host you.  Peter commands us: "Be hospitable to one another without grumbling" (1 Peter 4:9).  The writer of Hebrews admonishes us: "Remember to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels" (Hebrews 13:2).  As missionaries who came back to the States on several furloughs, we were always very grateful for the families who would host us when we gave reports and updates to the congregation where they attended.  Most brethren did their best to make us feel welcome and at home.  We need to pass on that same kind of warm hospitality to others who will come our way.  Some brethren will host you.
Now look at verses 14-15: "Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm.  May the Lord repay him according to his works.  You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words."  Alexander was probably the same Alexander mentioned in 1 Timothy 1:20.  Remember that he was under Paul's discipline, but it looks like he didn't change a bit.  In fact, Paul's expression "he greatly resisted our words" means that he refused to repent or he may have even testified against Paul during his first defense.  Whatever the case, Paul said that he opposed him.  We see here that some members will oppose you.  When you strive to follow Jesus' teachings, you can always expect evil people to oppose you, but it often hurts even more when the person who opposes you claims to be a Christian.  Did you notice what Paul did here?  He doesn't take revenge personally; he turns the matter over to Jesus and tells Him to take the action He thinks best.  Paul practiced what he preached: "Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath, for it is written: Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord" (Romans 12:19).  Jesus Himself had opponents.  You can count on it, some brethren will oppose you, but don't let this destroy your faith.  Turn your hurt over to Jesus, and let Him take care of the situation.
Now look at verse 19: "Greet Priscilla and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus."  Paul had become a co-worker and good friends with Priscilla and Aquila about 18 years earlier.  They worked with churches in Corinth, in Rome, and in Ephesus.  Paul says that they had risked their lives for him, and all the churches of the Gentiles were indebted to them (Romans 16:3-4).  This shows that some members will be lifelong friends in Christ.  By Paul sending his greetings to the family of Onesiphorus, it has been suggested that Onesiphorus himself may have died after his recent trip to Rome (1:16).  Onesiphorus had been a great friend as well and was not ashamed about Paul's arrest and imprisonment.  Brethren like these make up for all the "Alexanders" in a Christian's life.  Lifelong friends in Christ is one of God's greatest gifts to us!
Now verse 21 reads: "Eubulus greets you, as well as Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brethren."  We know little about these people, but they were Roman brethren who somehow knew Timothy.  This shows that some brethren will have a special bond with you.  Isn't it wonderful that as Christians we can weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice?  When we share both the sorrowful and joyful times with other brethren, a special bond is forged.  Sometimes, a special bond can be formed by doing some project or some good work together.  Some of you have special bonds with the previous elders and ministers who worked here.  "How sweet, how heavenly is the sight when those that love the Lord in one another's peace delight, and so fulfill the Word.  When each can feel his brother sigh, and with him bear a part.  When sorrow flows from eye to eye, and joy from heart to heart" (Swain). 
Our relationships in the church can run very deep and broad.  Isn't it amazing all the lessons that we can learn from these different relationships?  Learning to cope with all these relationships helps us to mature as Christians.  Maybe Paul says it best again: "For what is our hope, our joy, our crown of rejoicing?  Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?  For you are our glory and crown" (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).  Is this how you feel about your relationships in the church?  Do you see others in the church as those who can help you get to heaven?  If you expect to spend eternity with all the saints, then you'd better be learning how to love each one right now.  If you need to grow in love for other brethren or if you need to become a member in the Lord's church, Jesus is the greatest example to follow to have great relationships.  Come to Him and imitate Him!