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Title: The Anxiety of Missions
Text: 2 Timothy 4.9-22
Introduction: Winter is coming; Fall is here. How quickly it all comes upon us. I wish the colors of fall would linger, but alas, they don’t. The stormy weather hits in such a way as to cause the leaves to fall too quickly. Cold weather moves in and the oppressive heat of summer becomes a distant memory. Winters here aren’t too bad. They can be hard at times, but they usually aren’t too bad.
I saw some snow flurries this past Tuesday at Venture. Nothing stuck, of course, but snow flurries they were nonetheless. It was a reminder that soon the colors of fall will depart and the trees will be stripped bare. The grass will lose it green, as has already begun in parts of the yard. Yes, winter is still a little over a month away, but she is coming.
I like winter. I like snow. Yes, shoveling it can be burdensome, but that doesn’t happen much around here. I won’t say it has never happened, but I can say it hasn’t happened in the last 13 winters. After Christmas, our family will gather in Colorado for our family Christmas. There will be lots of snow and I plan to ski as much as I can. I also plan to hang out with some sweet little girls that I’ve been missing.
I like the spring. I love to see the buds on the trees and watch in anticipation as the buds spring forth and turn into leaves. The flowers in Tyler are incredibly beautiful and it is fun watching the different plants produce their blooms. Reds, pinks, purples, whites. My favorite: I love looking for the dogwoods to bloom. You can walk the bike trail at Faulkner and just be amazed by those trees.
Summer brings its own anticipation. I love camping – although Lisa’s organizational skill is what makes camping so much fun. I’ll trim off a few pounds to climb some more 14ers and get excited once again to spend alone time with Stephen. He really pushes me when it comes to climbing, but it is the time talking that means the most to me. I always look forward to summer.
But fall is my favorite time of the year. Lisa makes every season wonderful. But fall, she makes that the best season of all. Fall in Texas is Camping, Football, and new TV shows! It means pulling out the winter clothes and blankets. We start fires in the fireplace. Hot chocolate. Cheeseburger Soup, Chicken N’ Dumplings, Cornbread. Yes, I like Fall most of all. And the thought of winter coming means that fall will end all too soon.
Something I think most people miss is how God communicates to us through our everyday lives and the seasons are one way God does speak to us. The seasons are a reminder to us to ‘count our days’ and remember that our days here on earth are few and fleeting. That can be depressing, but it can also be a wonderful thing if we’ll listen.
This passage is beautifully poetic – it is beautiful in its imagery, but also in what it is communicating to you and me – that is, if we’ll listen.
We come to some deeply personal information about Paul at the end of his final letter, 2 Timothy. The timing of his letter appears to be in the fall of the year. And, if we look closer, we’ll see the parallel of his life – that Paul is also in the fall of his life. 4.21 tells us that winter is coming. It sounds like winter is bearing down upon them in such a way that Timothy must be expeditious in his travels. There is an ominous feeling about the closing of this letter – Paul is indeed in the fall of his life. He has told us that he expects to die soon. That’s where we pick up in the closing of this letter… rd 4.6-8; and now he begins his closing remarks…
Let’s stand and read these words together. Rd 4.9-22
The title of my message is The Anxiety of Missions and in keeping with our theme on missions in the month of November. In the 1st week we looked at The Foundation of Missions: the Word of God (2 Tim 3.14-17) and then last week we looked at The Duty of Missions: Keeping our Focus (2 Tim 4.1-8). Next week we’ll close out the month with a look at George Mueller. 2 Timothy 4.9-22 brings to light some of the struggles Paul dealt with, and I’d like to simply highlight them for us this morning:
- The Certainty of Time Constraints
- The Struggle with Relationships
- The Importance of Supplies
- The Reality of Suffering
I. The Certainty of Time Constraints (9)
exp.: consider v9; Do your best to come to me soon. This truth of time constraints was actually the final point of my sermon last week: Timothy, keep your eye on the moment. Time is fleeting; the opportunity for service is momentary. Winter is coming and winter means some work will have to stop; travel will be more difficult, if not impossible. Some materials are needed now. Encouragement is needed now. The lost people around you are not the same people who will be around you in the future. Carpe diem.
app.: These time constraints bleed over into the other areas of focus for us this morning: Relationships, Materials and Supplies, and Suffering.
t.s.: So, with this thought of time constraints, and understanding that I spent so much time on it last week, let’s look at the other struggles facing Paul and Timothy – and also, contemplate them for our own lives.
II. The Struggle with Relationships (9-12)
exp.: look through this list:
- Those who are not there with Paul:
- Timothy: v9, Phil 2.19-22: 19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.
- Demas: v 10a; has abandoned him, abandoned the mission. A negative term. We’ll see others leave Paul to go and work – those are not negative per se.
- Crescens, Titus, Tychicus: v 10b, v 12
- There is someone there with Paul:
- Luke: 11a – Luke: with him; Luke joins Paul in Acts 16.10; There is a short time in there where Paul is separated from his men, Luke, Tychicus, Timothy, but they join back up with him in 20.5; and, is with Paul from through to the end at Acts 28 (v16); Luke appears to be the one constant companion in Paul’s life. Here’s my guess: all of the boys who are discipled by Paul appear to be called into ministry and mission, too. That is, all of the boys except Luke. I don’t get that his calling is like theirs.
- Mark: technically, Mark isn’t with Paul. We see this story come alive in Acts 13. In Acts 15, at the very end, we see such a sharp disagreement between Barnabas and Paul that they part company. It is at about this time that Paul meets Timothy and Luke. And yet, here we see the Mark has been restored to Paul, so much so, that Paul longs to see him again and to work with him.
ill.: Let’s stop in the midst of the relationship. This particular story gives us a perspective on all of these relationships. Everything here really hinges on relationships. I mean here in the text and I mean here in life. Everything. Relationships are hard. Relationships are messy. But don’t you just love this story? Two brothers estranged and now, in ministry together, again. I hope Demas was restored – although there is not any evidence to support that. These brothers are all working in ministry and mission – fulfilling their call. And something that helps them all is their relationship with and to each other. Demas is mentioned two other times before he quit. Crescens isn’t mentioned anywhere else. Tychicus is mentioned quite a bit, too. Of course, you know Titus, Timothy, and Mark.
app.: We’ll meet more brothers and sisters later in the letter, but for now – just note the importance of relationships in Mission and Ministry. Relationships are vital to our Mission and Ministry.
t.s.: the next struggle deals with Materials and Supplies.
III. The Need for Materials, Valuables, and Supplies (13)
exp.: rd v 13a; now, I don’t know who Carpus is. I don’t think he moves in the same circle as those men mentioned above. I take it that Carpus is a man of faith in Troas who has kept some of Paul’s things. For sure, Carpus kept his Cloak. This action doesn’t seem to take place inside the book of Acts – so, I’m going to assume that after Paul’s imprisonment in Acts 28, he was released, he didn’t make his way to Spain, but rather was in Troas, or at least was with Carpus when he was arrested. So, Carpus kept it for him. If Paul was in Troas and had his cloak, his books, his parchments with him when he was arrested, then that would make even more sense here. The Truth is we don’t know for sure. I’m pretty sure that his work of Timothy’s would have been on his way.
Map: Ephesus to Troas – a circuitous route.
Map #2: Where he was going.
We have the shipwreck of Acts 27, which occurred because the Captain wanted to make it to Rome before Winter, but of course, that didn’t happen. I’m sure it is this personal experience that pushes Paul to challenge Timothy to get to Rome before winter (cf.: v21).
Now, these items are personal items. This something we don’t get to see too much of in Scripture. This is a deep, personal moment.
- Cloak: a blanket-type of material that had a hole in the center for someone to slip their head through and have this covering for warmth and protection from the elements. It could be used as a blanket to cover up with at night.
- Books: this is probably not the whole bible, per se. We don’t even know that it would be any books fo the bible – but it is definitely possible. It would be too overwhelming for Timothy to bring all of Scripture. That would be too big and bulky. But it is possible that Paul owned some of his own books.
- Parchments: these would be animal skins that Paul probably wrote on, or kept notes on. The truth is there is no way of knowing what was written on these parchments or what was contained in the books. Sentiment leans many preachers to push for these being the Scriptures of both Old and New Testaments that we possess. But, there is no way of knowing. I guess, that some of it may be just that – but to have the whole of it would be practically impossible.
app.: Whatever they were, they were near and dear to Paul – and he desired to have them near him as the end of his life approached. I think we to easily forget the sacrifices made by those who surrender their lives to missions and ministry. Missionaries, by way of necessity, must leave some very personal and intimate belongings behind. Some things have to be left behind when missionaries travel overseas. Often times, missionaries will liquidate their materials and keep only the smallest, most personal items. Some of those things are left here with family and friends until they can return someday.
t.s.: Paul faces the struggle of relationships, he faces the struggle with items near and dear to his heart being elsewhere, and finally, Paul faces the struggle of suffering.
IV. Suffering (14-22)
exp.: and this comes from people, as well as, circumstance and situation. Consider, the fact that he’s in prison;
- People: rd v 14-15; Alexander; 1 Tim 1.20; Alexander and Hymenaeus; but more than that, many people flee at Paul’s persecution and leave him to go it alone! Rd v 16;
- Persecution: 17; from the lion’s mouth! This has echoes of Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Now, I don’t think this means he was thrown to the Lions and they left him alone. I don’t even think Paul means that he has had some preliminary trial and that he escaped being thrown to the lions. It could that, but I’m not thinking that here. But rather, that this is a reference to Satan; Satan would love to destroy Paul, but God has delivered him. Satan creeps around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. But God has rescued him. And, as it says in v 18, God will ultimately deliver him. rd v 18;
app.: Paul’s suffering is real. People have abandoned him. He is imprisoned. He lacks sufficient covering for the coming cold weather, not to mention other items that would be a source of encouragement to him. He has faced tremendous persecution: 2 Cor 11;
far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
That is the physical suffering by Paul. But this next verse is most near and dear to me. I’m not sure anyone of you here can begin to understand the anxiety of missions and ministry unless you have actually endured it.
28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
The Truth of the matter is that the internal anguish a minister or missionary feels is indescribable. Paul has faced many physical struggles, but he has also faced the internal anxiety of his concern for his churches.
t.s.: I understand why he put this here with all of the physical struggles. I hope you can see that, too.
Conclusion: The question begs to be asked by us: did Timothy actually go and make it before winter?
There is an old famous sermon by Clarence Mccartney, pastor of 1st Presbyterian Church of Pittsburg, entitled Come Before Winter. Mccartney is famous for his leadership, along with J Grisham Machen, in the push toward conservativism in the early 1900’s. In his sermon on this text, the Mccartney imagines Timothy wanting to finish up some work around Ephesus before heading off to Rome. But he takes too much time and then can’t get a boat to Rome until after winter. When he does finally get there, he can’t find Paul. He goes to the houses of those people listed at the end of the chapter – Pudens, Linus or Claudia. They tell him that Paul passed away last December. Paul had hoped you’d come – he prayed for it. He told us that every time he heard the keys to the prison door, his heart would leap with anticipation that you had finally come. But, alas he wanted you to know he loved you dearly. He was beheaded last December.
Well, I’d like to think that Timothy made it. That he got this letter, packed up his and Paul’s belongings and brought them to Rome.
But, in all of this, it does make me think that there is this anxiousness about missions. There is suffering that is endured when one surrenders to work in Missions. This time of year, our missionaries are missing their families.
Make note of this first application: These will have Thanksgiving Dinner alone, or possibly with other missionaries. They’ll spend Christmas alone with their families back on the mainland. For those serving in Churches as pastors, worship or youth pastors – they will be with their church families for the Christmas Eve service. It might be too far for them to travel to be with family on that evening. Or, if they do travel, most families will already be in bed. Maybe you know of a pastor or a missionary who will not be able to be with family. Pray for them. Encourage them. Acknowledge their obedience to the call of God and their love for you.
Here’s a 2nd application: Once again we’re reminded that our time is brief and fleeting fast away. Winter is coming. Paul desires to pass the torch to Timothy now because his time is all but over. He longs to see his son in the faith, dear Timothy. He longs for the sentimental possessions he has been missing. His life is in the final stages. You and I will be there one day.
Invitation: here’s a possible 3rd application: I think about us – Christians in the United States who worry about family and possessions and our comfortable lives. I wonder if God just might be saying to us – maybe specifically to one of you here today – Come before Winter. Give yourself for my cause: missions. The sacrifice is great – but well worth it.
We’re going to be dismissed in a moment. We’ll have a moment of silence and then someone will come and pray. If you’d like to talk about this, we’ll be at the back of the worship center, experiencing fellowship over coffee and cookies. Let’s talk…
During this moment of silence, consider what God is doing in your life.