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Make Every Effort

Someone drew an analogy between the local bar and the church, “The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give to the Church. It’s an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality, but it is a permissive, accepting, and inclusive fellowship. It is unshockable. It is democratic. You can tell people secrets and usually they don’t tell others or even want to. The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the heart the desire to know and to be known, to love and to be loved, and so many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers. With all my heart, I believe that Christ wants His Church to be… a fellowship where people can come in and say, ‘I’m sunk! I’m beat! I’ve had it!’[1]

Paul the Pillar (II Timothy 4:1-8)

Paul the missionary, the orator, the great writer of New Testament epistles. If there is such a thing as a “spiritual superstar,” surely Paul was one! This is the Paul we know; this is the Apostle! But what of the man behind the title?

Paul the Man (II Timothy 4:9-22)

Make every effort to come to me soon.

Hear the haunting appeal from the heart of a man bearing the weight of personal suffering. He has not fallen away, his faith has not shaken; his spirit was yet strong. In fact, most of the New Testament epistles come to us from Paul’s times of imprisonment. God strengthened him, used him, and his words still resonate with us across the ages.

But this was the time of Nero, arguably the most vile and wicked of all of the Roman emperors. Paul was imprisoned in Rome; chained between two guards in what was ostensibly a wet, dark, underground cell. The sounds and moans of other prisoners would have met his ears and the smells which would have continually assaulted his senses would overwhelm our sensibilities today.

At this point in time, he was awaiting trial. He knew his time had come. He was about to die. Paul the man, his spirit yet veiled in human flesh, had need of friends to come to him. And in a note of added urgency, he repeated his appeal in verse 21—“make every effort to come before winter…”

So what is the application here? What lessons can we learn from from this?

  • Be honest in your need for support. Don’t hide behind the familiar, “I’m fine.” Find a few people whom you can trust and be honest about your struggles.
  • Be intentional in your need for support. Beware of fostering relationships in which you are the primary support and “go-to guy.” There is considerable pride in the belief that you are self-sustaining; always sufficient to meet the needs of those around you. You aren’t and you can’t. Surround yourself with people—stronger people—upon whom you can depend.
  • Be direct in your need for support. Yes, there are times when God will lay it upon the heart of a someone to call and minister to you. But more often, you will need to make the effort as Paul is doing here to reach out to another and say, “I need you. ‘Make every effort to come to me.’”

We shudder at the thought of someone being privy to our unveiled suffering, to our stark need, to those times when, in the sovereignty of the Most High, we are shackled to the enemy and there is no heavenly earthquake or angel to set us free. But don’t miss the lesson here: Paul took the risk and allowed one man in particular behind that private veil; Luke, the “beloved physician”. Traveling with Paul throughout much of his second and third missionary journeys,”[2] Luke composed the Gospel that bore his name and, as most scholars agree, its sequel, Acts—the book that formed the bridge between the Gospels and the New Testament church.[3] What benefit this was to Paul is evident; but the benefit to eternity is altogether incalculable.

[1] Bruce Larson and Keith Miller, The Edge of Adventure (Waco, Tex.:  Word Books, 1974) , 156

[2]Whitlock, L. G., Sproul, R. C., Waltke, B. K., & Silva, M. 1995. Reformation study Bible, the : Bringing the light of the Reformation to Scripture : New King James Version. Includes index. (). T. Nelson: Nashville

[3] Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight and I. Howard Marshall, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 495.

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