Virtual Reality | Day 28
Christian leaders lay themselves down in service of others in accordance with God’s plans to spread the good news (2 Timothy 2:2)
In 2 Timothy 4:9-22 we read:
Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brothers. The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.
In these verses, 17 people are specifically mentioned as having interacted with Paul in one way or another: Demas, Crescens, Titus, Luke, Mark, Tychicus, Carpus, Alexander, Prisca, Aquila, Onesiphorus, Erastus, Trophimus, Eubuls, Prudens, Linus and Claudia….
Not all of them are positive relationships, the Demas and Alexander relationships certainly aren’t. These last words of Paul remind us that at the end of one’s life a person will not remember the successful or unsuccessful business deals but successful or unsuccessful relationships. People matter.
In this text we discover six elements critical to living faithfully and dying relationally fulfilled. I’m going to explore these elements over the next two days.
ELEMENT #1: Successful Relationships Are Built on a Clear Understanding of Priorities
Healthy relationships function best when there’s understanding.
Verse 9: Do your best to come to me soon.
Verse 21: Do your best to come before winter.
The phrase, “Do you best” is actually one word in the Greek: spoudason, meaning “Make every effort” or “Do your diligence.” It’s repeated in verse 21 and there it is more specific because Paul asks Timothy to ensure he travels before winter (see also 2:15). Shipping stopped in the winter so no one would be able to come to him after the seasonal storms begun (Titus 3:21). Paul was lonely, close to the end of his life and wanted Timothy with him. It’s hard to believe that Timothy would not have taken the request seriously but nonetheless I like the way Paul puts this: “Do your best.”
In his first letter to Timothy Paul was quick to issue a command concerning Timothy’s movements: “As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain in Ephesus” (1:3). The word “urge” is the word paraklesa, meaning “to implore, call for, invoke”. In his first letter Paul obviously felt he could urge Timothy to move to or not move from a certain place. In his second letter he phrases it more carefully: do your best. In other words, “I know you have challenges to overcome with this but here’s what I’d like you to do.”
Why, I wonder, wasn’t Paul as authoritative with his last words? I can’t help but conclude that the difference between the two instructions is Paul’s realization that all things, including his own desires, fall under the priority of the Gospel. Timothy should do his best, but it wasn’t a command from the Lord because it related to friendship not Lordship.
In 1 Timothy the issue was about Lordship and Timothy’s role as a bondservant of Christ. In 2 Timothy the issue is friendship and Timothy’s role as a mentee of Paul. One of the difficult aspects of friendships is trying to balance Lordship—what God is calling us to do—with friendship – what our friends want us to do. There’s only 24 hours in a day and when the call of Christ clashes with the demands of friendship a leader must always put his desires on the back burner.
All successful friendships function well because we understand where priorities lie. Ultimately the priority is the Gospel and, like Paul, when asking a friend or mentee to do something outside of their commitment to the Gospel we need to recognize that we have the right to ask the question, but we have no right to enforce a demand. They serve Christ not us.
Think of close friendship you have. Do you know what their priorities are? Do you know the call of Christ on their life? Do you make demands on them that could cause them to put you and your needs above Christ and His? Are your requests perceived more as demands than appeals?
ELEMENT #2: Successful Relationships Are Built on Our Willingness to Express Vulnerability
Paul demonstrates vulnerability in his relationship with Timothy. In verses 10 and 16 he is willing to express emotional fragility.
Verse 10: For Demas…has deserted me.
Verse 16: At my first defense no one came to stand by me.
As we’ll see later, this isn’t an accusation so much as a confession of pain. It’s an expression of vulnerability. When it comes to healthy relationships, trust is built on vulnerability. Teams that truly trust are those who learn to be comfortable with being open, even exposed, to one another about their failures, weakness, and fears. Sometimes we think that trust needs to be established before vulnerability can be expressed. In the book, The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, Daniel Coyle reveals that vulnerability precedes trust. He writes,
Normally we think about trust and vulnerability the way we think about standing on solid ground and leaping into the unknown: first we build trust, then we leap. But science is showing us that we’ve got it backward. Vulnerability doesn’t come after trust—it precedes it. leaping into the unknown, when done alongside others, causes the solid ground of trust to materialize beneath our feet.
Patrick Lencioni, in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, wrote this about leaders who are incapable of admitting vulnerability:
Vulnerability-based trust is predicated on the simple … idea that people who aren’t afraid to admit the truth about themselves are not going to engage in the kind of political behavior that wastes everyone’s time and energy.
Paul is not one of these leaders who lives with the idea that he has to preserve himself. Paul willingly puts himself at risk for the Gospel, openly shares that with Timothy while not being afraid to share the pain associated with it. Leaders who reproduce well are those who are able to express vulnerability within the context of their commitment to Christ, while demonstrating a supreme confidence in God. Vulnerability isn’t about manipulation so much as transparency.
But this transparency to be godly, and must be built on the third element…
ELEMENT #3: Successful Relationships Are Built on Confidence in God
No matter what obstacles Paul faced, He still expressed His trust in God. Successful reproducing relationships are those where one party’s confidence in God rubs off on the other one.
Verse 16: May it not be charged against them!
Not “May it be charged against them,” but “may it not”. Paul’s confidence was in God and to Timothy. He demonstrated a willingness to let go and allow God to deal with people.
Verse 17: “But the Lord stood by me…”
Verse 18: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed.”
In his last days the apostle Paul demonstrated an incredible confidence in God that went far deeper than the pain of abandonment and the scourge of loneliness. He believed God. One of the hardest yet vital decisions we can make in a relational crisis is to trust God. M. Holmes Hartshorne puts the importance of trusting God in all things like this:
Faith without doubt is dead; but doubt without faith is death. Doubt that is not grounded in an ultimate confidence in the Cross of Christ is doomed to skepticism, cynicism and despair, for it cannot see that in the loss of our certainties there is given to us the greater certainty of God's redemptive presence. It cannot see that through doubt we are delivered from the great lie that we are gods and our truths are eternal truth and our standards timelessly valid. But where doubt is rooted in faith, it becomes the source of honesty, humility and joy.
You may doubt people BUT never doubt God’s controlling power even when people fail you.
Tomorrow, March 1, I will continue this examination of 2 Timothy 4:9-22 by revealing the final three elements of the Christian leader’s responsibility to reproduce the tender care for their laborers demonstrated by the apostle Paul.
Food for Thought:
Which of these essential elements is your weakest? Ask the Lord to help you develop this element so that it reaches its fullest expression in your life.
 Daniel Coyle, The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, Bantam Books: New York (2018), p. 107
 P. Lecioni, Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Field Guide for Leaders, Jersey Boss: San Francisco (2005) p. 14
 M. H. Hartshorne, Faith Without Doubt Is Dead, Religion and life (April 1956), p. 69-70.