Jump Start # 2521
2 Timothy 4:16 “At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them.”
Within these last few sentences that Paul writes by inspiration, we find some sad truths. Demas, we are told, deserted Paul. Alexander cause a lot of trouble. And, now our verse, no one stood with Paul. He was alone. He was abandoned.
But what we remember the most about this last chapter of Paul are his sterling words, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (v. 7). He did that with all these other things going on around him. He kept and he finished, even those others were not. They were throwing in the towel. They were switching sides. They were looking out for themselves. Paul kept going.
A while back my wife and I were taking another couple out for dinner. We pulled into a little place that we had been to before that we thought would be a great place to eat, connect and visit. I dropped my wife off at the door and went to park the car. She came out shaking her head “no.” When she walked in, a greeter said, “What do you want?” She said the place looked dirty and it smelled, and the smell wasn’t of food. So we left. We found another place. And, we crossed that off of places that we will visit again. We are done with that place.
Now, I say this in regards to one’s experiences at church services. This is a valuable lesson to share with others. I’ve had bad experiences at other places to eat. Overpriced. Food was terrible. Service was slow. Place wasn’t clean. I don’t throw a fit. I don’t demand to see the manager. I just leave. I leave and I tell myself that I’m not going back. But, that has not ruined me on going to other places. It hasn’t made me stay home and eat all my meals at home. I still go out, but there are certain places that I will not go to now.
So, here is someone who has had a bad experience at one congregation. Maybe no one talked to him. No one. Maybe he felt very uncomfortable. Maybe there was a lot of pressure put on him. Maybe he felt like he was being interrogated with so many questions being asked of him. Maybe someone said that he was sitting in their place. Maybe someone made a comment that was narrow, critical and judgmental. Maybe that comment hurt. Maybe, as my wife experienced at a restaurant, someone said, “What do you want?”
I remember going to a place once where I was the guest speaker. No one talked to me. Not before and hardly after. Very awkward. Very rude. Very uncomfortable. Now, did that make me stop preaching in other places? No. Too many have given up on the Lord and have stopped going anywhere because of a bad experience that they had at one place. One can’t do that. You might not go back to that one place again, but you can’t give up on serving the Lord.
Remember Paul. He fought. He kept. He finished. He did that when Demas quit. He did that when Alexander hurt him. He did that when everyone abandoned him. Paul didn’t let bad experiences keep him for doing what he knew was right and what he ought to do.
Now, here are some thoughts:
First, all of us have bad days. Sometimes it seems like everyone is having them at the same time. Some are moody. Some are grumpy. Some are tired. Some have their minds a million miles away. It doesn’t justify rudeness, coldness or indifference. We must step it up when it comes to visitors and worship. Every congregation has it’s own flavor, temperature and style. Some are stiff and others are very laid back. Some are precise and others will get around to it sooner or later. Now, I’m one who believes that if worship starts at 9:30, then we ought to start at 9:30. When we don’t at home, it bothers me. On the road, in other places, it’s probably just the way they are. It’s not home so I put up with it. It’s like going to other people’s home. You see pictures on the wall and you think, “I’d never have that in my house.” It’s ok. It’s their house, not yours. So, you have a little patience and a little tolerance. You put up with things.
Second, don’t blister someone because they don’t do what you think they should. I’ve had people tell me that they visited a place and no one talked to them. Yet, the very people who are telling me this, rarely talk to anyone. Don’t be critical unless you are doing your part. Sometimes things are going on behind the scenes that very few know anything about. Just this past Sunday, about fifteen minutes before we were to start, all the power went out. It came back on, but we have a zillion things in our media booth that require electricity. Livestreaming, recording, mics, projectors—all of them had to be up, running and right. The team did it. It was amazing. But it took a bit of time to do that. We started just a little off of normal. Someone sitting in the audience wouldn’t have known that. Now, one can huff and puff, but often there are things that I do not understand.
Third, we can not let our faith be wrecked by what others do. Paul didn’t. People let him down, but he kept going. Someone may say something that is not nice. Let it go. Someone may say that you are in their seat. They ought to know better, but don’t let that upset you. Don’t let what others do ruin your worship. Don’t let what others do stop your walk with the Lord. Don’t let others stand between you and the cross.
I don’t know what Alexander did to Paul, but it hurt him. He must have still been in the area. Paul was warning Timothy about him. Alexander was bad news. Alexander wasn’t right with the Lord. Paul wasn’t going to allow Alexander to crash his faith. Paul finished the course.
So, keep all of these thoughts in mind. You invite someone to come with you and immediately they bring up a bad experience that they had. Remind them that Jesus didn’t treat them that way and if they had a bad experience eating out, they don’t stop eating out. Give another place a try. Give another place a chance. Sure there are hypocrites. Sure there are some who are not serious. Sure there are some playing church. Sure there are some who have too much of the world still in them. However, there are those who are trying. There are those who are spiritual giants. Even in places like Sardis, which the Lord called “dead,” there were some who were doing what was right. Don’t generalize. Don’t assume they are all the same. Don’t throw in the towel because of a bad experience.
As I write this, it’s lunch time. I’m thinking about where I am going to go to get a bite to eat. I’ll be going out for lunch. A bad experience hasn’t ruined me. Keep that in mind.
Keep going. Finish what you have started.