PJ’s Daily Devotional for Tuesday, March 14, 2017.
Do you have friends that will stand by you no matter what?
Paul’s friends were tested in their commitment to stand by his side as He stood for Jesus. Paul’s life was characterized by comments such as, “I am already being poured out as a drink offering” and “I have fought the good fight” and “I was rescued from the lion’s mouth” (2 Timothy 4:6, 7, 17). Paul was most likely not a “let’s go hang-out” buddy; he had souls on his mind as the Spirit of God consumed his heart.
Being a friend with Paul was not for the weak of heart! Being a friend with a minister of the gospel is not easy work!
Did Paul have friends who would stand by him? What kind of friends did Paul have?
Listen to what Paul said about his friends in one of the last things he ever wrote to Timothy, “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” (2 Timothy 4:9-18).
There appears to be 4 categories of friends Paul talks about in this short personal greeting:
- THE FAITHFUL BY YOUR SIDE ON MISSION: The first category generally are our favorite friends because our lives are sharing a season together; our paths are constantly interacting with the commonality of purpose and activity. We know that Luke (the author of the Gospel of Luke and Acts) was with Paul throughout the most dangerous of times, including when he wrote this letter near the end of his life. Luke would go on to leave an eternal mark on people’s lives because of his faithfulness to Paul and his accurate and authoritative writings about Jesus and the early Church. Paul and Luke shared life together in a way that was uncommon and these friends are closer than family.
- THE FAITHFUL WHO ARE AWAY ON MISSION: These next friends are like family who are as close to us as the first group, but have been sent out on mission. Our lives are forever intertwined, but we are geographically displaced from one another. We yearn for these people, pray for them constantly, miss them terribly, and wish they were by our side in our times of greatest need. The older we get the dearer these friends are to us! Though Luke is the only one with Paul in person, Paul was strengthened to know that he had friends who were still joining him in the work of the gospel. Friends such as Crescens, Titus, Mark, and Tychicus. Their absence, though understandable, still stung Paul when he was at a very vulnerable time in his life: “At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me” (16). Paul felt alone, but listen to his heart: “May it not be charged against them!” He yearned to be reunited with these friends!
- THE FAIR-WEATHER FRIEND: Just like we all do, Paul had friends who are easily distracted by the temptations of the world. The third category of friends are what I call our “good times friends.” Paul says of one such friend, “For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica” (10). I can hear love and a bit of exasperation in Paul’s voice as he says this. Paul yearns for his friend to come back to him and the word “deserted” carries with it a sense of betrayal, but a betrayal that desires reconciliation of relationship; a repurposing of their friendship. He doesn’t want to hold against him that he is distracted, but he’s also disappointed that his friend wasn’t there for him when he needed him the most.
- THE OPPOSITIONAL FRIEND: The final category is the hardest to discuss for this is not the fair-weather friend who gets distracted, this is the friend who smiles to your face and stabs you in the back. This is the friend that we say, “with a friend like you who needs enemies?” Listen to Paul talk about this deep pain and I hear these words with a resigned regret: “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” (14, 15). Friends have the potential to hurt us more deeply than our worst enemy. The betrayal, the abandonment, the loss of friends is painful business that threatens our emotional health as equally as cancer threatens our physical well-being.
What kind of friends do you have?
What kind of friend are you?
I exhort you yourself to be in the first two categories. I exhort you to love your friends, no matter what category they fall into. A friend loves until the end!