Hope For Lonely Christians
We are a lonely bunch. Only slightly more than 1 in 4 Americans (27%) have a close group of friends according to a recent UCLA study. And less than 1 in 4 Americans (24%) believe that have close relationships they desire. The loneliness epidemic pervades Bible believing churches as well. We often feel detached from the person down sitting just a few inches down the pew from us.
And we cannot blame Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook for our lack of social interaction. Those who like to tweet and post as if the just release their first blockbuster film feel just as connected as those who thrown away their smartphones and unplugged their T.V.’s. According to the UCLA study, the main predictor of loneliness is time spent with people.
This axiom however does not tell us who to hang out with. Who should we spend our time with? With whom should we entrust our secrets, hopes, and odd sense of humor to?
The apostle Paul enters into this discussion at the end of 2 Timothy. As he concludes his letter to his beloved son in the faith, Paul discusses relationships. He encourages Timothy and the readers of 2 Timothy, to avoid those who deny the gospel, to graciously entrust themselves to those who love the Jesus, and to fully depend upon God.
Do Not Trust Those Who Reject the Faith
Paul warns Timothy about Demas and Alexander the coopersmith. Demas who once labored side-by-side with Paul and who appears in Colossians at a trusted friend abandon’s Paul to pursue the world. Demas counted the cost and deemed the world’s trinkets of sex, fame, fortune, and respect to be better than the God of the universe. Alexander directly and forcefully opposed Paul’s gospel doing great harm to Paul. Paul warns Timothy to watch out for both men.
We should make friends, but we should not entrust ourselves to those who openly reject the gospel. We should not try to win men and women who missed that past 6 years of Sunday services back to our church by offering them leadership roles on the coffee team or on the deacon board. Rather, we should warn our church members to not entrust themselves to those who love sex, gossip, money, and prestige more than the gospel. We should warn our teenagers not to go to the parties and to form close relationships with those who brazenly deny the gospel by boasting of their sins. And we must be cautious when seeking to partner with other churches. The presence of the word ‘church’ on a sign or the symbol of a cross on a steeple does not make an organization a godly church. If a church denies the virgin birth, if a church denies the miracles of Jesus, and if a church proclaims that there is more than one road to heaven, they have denied the gospel. We should not partner with such people. We should avoid them and warn other Christians about those who deny Christ. We should not entrust ourselves to those who despise the gospel.
Graciously Trust Those Who Love Jesus
The Christian should trust other men and women who love the Lord. Paul found great comfort in godly relationships. He wrote in 2 Corinthians 7:6:
But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the arrival of Titus.
We maybe struggling today, we may feel alone tomorrow, and we may be on the brink of despair because we have not fostered relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ. And we must entrust our souls to them.
We were not made to live alone but in relationships with others. We are designed to fill up our brother’s or sister’s lack of faith. Conversely, they are made to fill up our lack of faith. Paul needs Timothy. He encourages Timothy to come to him quickly at the end of 2 Timothy. Paul needs help and Timothy can help him by bringing the scrolls, the cloak, and the parchment. Seemingly Paul needs supplies to keep doing ministry in prison. And he needs Timothy’s help. Brothers and sisters, depending upon others in the faith is not a display of weakness. It is a display of God honoring trust. We needs our Christian family. And they need us.
But we must not expect our brothers and sisters to be God. They will fail us and disappoint us. If you remember the story of John Mark mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:11, you know Mark had a less than stellar start to his ministry. He left Paul’s and Barnabas’s missionary journey earlier. And when it came time for the next trip, Paul refused to work with Mark. Yet at the end of his life, Paul is calling for Mark and declaring him to be useful. Paul is modeling forgiveness. Brothers and sisters we must entrust ourselves to other believer, but we must do so realizing they will fail. And we know this because we know that we will fail. We should entrust ourselves to other believers with hearts full of grace.
Entrust Yourself to the Lord
And Paul sees this playing out again during his last trial. He writes:
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. – 2 Timothy 4:16-17
Christians failed Paul. We will fail each other, but we can keep on going. We can forgive and repair relationships, because God never fails. He stands by us. He is there even when our friends don’t pick up the phone. He is there even when our pastor fails to take our concern as seriously as we take our concern. God is there. Because God is there, we base our life on him. And when people fail us, we can forgive them because God never fails us. God will save us. Though we might be at the point of death, God will save us. More importantly, God will keep us. Regardless of how lonely we feel, regardless how many people leave us, and regardless of how sick we become, God will never leave us. He will save us from the jaws of destruction. Nothing can separate you from his love and from his eternal salvation. He conquers all, including death! Place you trust in Christ.
Lonely? Who are you trusting?