aloneThis you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.” II Timothy 1:15.

Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me.” II Timothy 4:9-11a.

At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.” II Timothy 4:16.

It is always sad to see some of your friends doing things that make you think they are turning away from the Lord. I know that’s hard when it’s people you’ve kind of looked up to and respected. I’ve had to go through that kind of thing a little bit myself. I mentioned Paul in a previous message, and how all his friends abandoned him. Think about it. He was a prisoner in Rome there in II Timothy, in the city where the believers were that he’d written Romans to. A whole group of believers there, and not one of them would even so much as come to speak for Paul to save him from death! How that must have hurt him!

Maybe it seems kind of weird to try to encourage you with a story like that, but I guess what encourages me is that Paul was still satisfied, even after all of that! If it’d been me, I’d have thought about all the things I’d given up for my ministry, all the pain and suffering and torture and rejection to bring the gospel to these people, and now, after all my love and concern and work and now even giving up my life, these people (who should have had Christian love and care, especially for maybe the most selfless servant of God there has ever been) didn’t even give him the time of day at this, his darkest hour! And, since Paul was God’s minister, all of these people whom he’d turned to God must now have turned (at least partly) away from Him, to reject Paul like that. Yet, he wasn’t discouraged, he wasn’t upset, he didn’t conclude that his life had just been a waste. He was actually happy, because he’d finished his course and been faithful to God! He knew that, in the Resurrection, he’d be with God, and receive more blessings than he could possibly think of! It wasn’t his ministry, or saving souls, or even serving believers that he’d given his life to. It was God, and He hadn’t forsaken Paul, and Paul knew that God was pleased with him. Also, those people who’d forsaken Paul would have to answer to God for it themselves, Paul wouldn’t. He’d preached God’s message, so, even though he apparently ended up “unsuccessful,” he knew that his reward would be waiting for him when he rose from the dead.

The other thing that encourages me about this passage, is the fact that Paul still did have some friends with him. (I mentioned this in a previous message) Luke was with him. Did you ever wonder, since he says Luke is with him, why he also says he had to stand before Caesar alone? I remember hearing someone speculate once…was it Chuck Swindoll?…that it was because Luke had made himself Paul’s servant so that he could travel along with him. After all, would the Romans, who paid for Paul’s passage to prison, etc., want this prisoner to be dragging his friends along with him? And Luke was with him in the prison as well! There’s probably no way they would have done this…unless Luke was Paul’s servant. In this case, they naturally would allow him to accompany Paul. This would also explain why Luke couldn’t stand for Paul before Caesar…what kind of witness could a servant give? I think this (if it’s right) shows what kind of love Luke must have had for Paul, to give up his freedom for him. And remember, Paul was writing this letter to Timothy, who also (I think we can assume) didn’t abandon him.

So I think though sometimes we have to go through hard times, and maybe see our friends turn away from God and from us, if we stand for God, I also think that we will find that God has provided us with true friends, those who truly love us and stand with us. May we learn who those true friends are, and thank God for them.

Anyway, I hope I’ve been something of an encouragement to any of you who may have friends who seem to be drifting away from God. You can’t always count on people, but you surely can count on God, and even if everyone did abandon you, you’d still have Him. I know that God will provide people around you who truly love Him and you.