David Jeremiah - Disconnection: The Fear of Being Alone
If you're like me, you enjoy getting away from it all every now and then. I mean, there's nothing like a little solitude to relax the body and refresh the soul before reconnecting with family and friends. But what if there was no return from that feeling of isolation, from that sense of permanent detachment? The thought of being alone forever is one of the most crippling fears many of us face. And if you're struggling with it, you're in good company. The Apostle Paul also dealt with feelings of detachment. And through his experience, I believe God is teaching us four vital truths for living a full and satisfying life. I'll share those things with you and more as we consider disconnection, the fear of being alone from our teaching series "What Are You Afraid Of? Facing Down Your Fears With Faith".
Actress Anne Hathaway confessed that, "Loneliness is my least favorite thing about life. The thing that I'm most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me". And Joss Whedon, who's the director of "The Avengers," says that loneliness is about the scariest thing in the whole world. Disconnectedness is the only way to describe a world where most people live in impersonal cities or suburbs, where the Internet replaces face to face conversation, where the average job lasts only two years, where people go from marriage to marriage and from state to state.
As we read our Bibles, we discovered that disconnection is the first thing in the Bible that God said, "This is not good". Isn't that interesting? In Genesis 2:18, the Lord God said, "It is not good that man should be alone. I will make a helper comparable to him". The first man who ever lived on planet earth suffered the pain of being alone. And the Bible tells us the stories of many others along the way. I think of Noah, who preached for 120 years, and not one person was converted to the gospel. He and his family alone were saved through the flood. I think of Hagar, who got into domestic difficulty and ended up in the desert. And if you ever read that story, that's about the loneliest story you could ever read. She's all by herself.
I think of Abraham trudging up the mountain with Isaac, knowing that God has called him to sacrifice his own son, and he doesn't understand it. Can you imagine the loneliness in his heart? And in what I believe is the loneliest verse of the Bible, Psalm 142 and verse 4, David says, "Look on my right hand and see, for there is no one who acknowledges me. Refuge has failed me. No on cares for my soul". The Bible doesn't try to ignore the problem of being alone. If God recognized it right out of the beginning of the book of Genesis, and we see it illustrated throughout the Old Testament, we should not be surprised to discover it both in the New Testament and then also in our own lives. If I had to choose the person who illustrates what it means to be disconnected more than anyone else in the Bible, it would be the Apostle Paul.
That might surprise you because as you read Paul's letters and as you learn about him in the Bible, you discover that Paul was a real people person. I'm always amazed that Paul carried on such a vigorous life and such an incredible schedule, and yet he knew so many people by name. And so, we know that Paul is not just a recluse, he's not just somebody who doesn't like people and therefore he experiences loneliness. No, he was a very relational person. But when we meet him in the fourth chapter, we meet a lonely man. And we began by understanding something of the disconnection of isolation. Paul has been charged with sedition. He's come before Caesar and he's been sentenced to prison. It was not his first time to be in prison. As you know, Paul had a reputation of going into a city and preaching in the synagogue.
And if you wanted to find Paul, he would either be in the synagogue or in prison. He was in one of two places 'cause he always was in trouble. But he's in prison now, and here are his words from the fourth chapter of 2 Timothy describe the fact to Timothy that he knows his time is limited, that he is just about at the end of his journey. He writes in verse 6, "The time of my departure is at hand". Paul knew that he was about to die. And as he waited for his execution, he was disconnected and alone. He was, as we learn from history, incarcerated in the Mamertine Prison in Rome, and he was isolated and alone. This man who loved people, who knew so many of them by name, spending his last days all alone. And he illustrates the disconnection that we have in our culture today. We live in a lonely world, did you know that?
Here's Paul isolated in this prison. But if you read the record here in the fourth chapter, you will discover even more. For he is not just experiencing the disconnection of isolation, but he's also experiencing a different kind of aloneness, a different kind of being disconnected which I have preferred to call the disconnection of infidelity. If you read through the last verses of 2 Timothy 4, it's like reading a litany of desertion and departure. And when you come to the tenth verse of the fourth chapter of 2 Timothy, you are introduced to a man by the name of Demas. "For Demas has forsaken me," said Paul, "having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica".
Now, we are often tempted to demonize Demas, but he did not necessarily depart from his faith. He departed from Paul. And apparently when Paul was put into prison, Demas, who had been one of his close associates, didn't want any part of this kind of intensity in his Christian experience. He wanted a more convenient and comfortable and less threatening kind of Christianity, and so he left Paul, and he went to a safer place in Thessalonica. But his departure was very painful for the apostle. Apparently, Paul had discipled Demas, perhaps spent hours building into his life, thought he was a trusted friend and disciple who would stay with him through thick and thin. But when the pressure was on, Demas went for the high country. And Paul said he forsook him. And Demas wasn't the only one, for if you look at the 16th verse of the fourth chapter, you continue to build a case for Paul's loneliness. He said, "At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them".
We experience sometimes the disconnection of isolation. Some of you know what Paul was going through. Somebody you trusted, somebody you believed in, somebody you cared about, somebody in whose life you have spent hours building walks away and leaves you with no explanation. Isn't it true that sometimes the people we feel like we're closest to can end up hurting us the worst? And then Paul said there was one more thing that added to his absolute, total disconnectedness in prison, and that's what I've called the disconnection of interference. Notice verses 14 and 15, where we meet this guy named Alexander. Paul says, "Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. Beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words".
Now, we don't know much about Alexander, we're not even sure which Alexander this is. There are a number of them in the Bible. We do know he's a coppersmith, but the Bible says he did much harm to Paul. Actually, the sentence reads like this, "He informed many evil things against me". And most scholars believe that what happened with Alexander was he turned to be a Judas against Paul. Just like Judas had to betray the Lord Jesus, Alexander gave Paul away to the authorities and made it necessary for them to come and get Paul, and that's why he was rearrested for the second time and put in prison. But Paul seems to be more concerned not about what Alexander did, but by what he was saying. Apparently, Alexander was not believing the truth and accepting the words of the gospel, and Paul describes him as being a very dangerous man who has interfered with the gospel. And he says to Timothy, "Don't get involved with him. He's not somebody you want to hang out with".
Look back over this and you will see that here is a disappointed man. This is not the way you want Paul's life to end. This man who's given us the New Testament in many respects, so much of it, this man who was the great missionary evangelist who established churches all over Asia Minor, this man who many think was the greatest man who walked on this earth apart from the earthly walk of Jesus Christ is ending his life in a foul dungeon, bereft of friends, and being treated as an enemy by Alexander. So, how do we help ourselves when we find ourselves in a similar situation? Obviously not with the same outward circumstances, but with the same inward disconnectedness in our life. What clues can we figure out from this passage? And I'm pretty excited about this because it's interesting to me that this book we call our Bible is one of the most practical books you will ever read. And if you just read it carefully, you will find things there that just amaze you. Now, in this passage of Scripture, we have painted the picture of where Paul is.
Now, let's notice what he did about his situation. And in doing this, we discover four or five things about being disconnected that we can transfer into our own lives. In verses 9, 11, and 21, we learn that Paul is putting out an alert. He is saying, "We need companionship when we're alone". Listen to his words, "Be diligent to come to me, Timothy, come quickly. Get Mark and bring him with you". Verse 21, "Do your utmost to get here before winter". Paul cries out for his companions. He's unwilling to spend these last days all by himself with just Luke as his companion. And he says, "Timothy, I want you to get here as quickly as you can. Bring Mark with you and try to get here before winter". The Bible is filled with reminders of the truth that people need people.
So, Paul reaches out, first of all, and he asks for companionship. And the notice, verse 13, he says, "I need you to bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come". Not only do we need companionship, we need compassion. Isn't it true that when we are ministering to those who are alone, it's not just about being with them, it's about noticing what their needs are and trying to meet them. And here's Paul, listen to me, here's where he is. He's in this prison, this cold prison, and he knows he cannot survive this winter if he doesn't have some warm clothing. So, he asks for his cloak. Whenever we're in a world that is filled with loneliness, all we have to do is look around and we see every illustration of it you can imagine. Somebody you know today is alone, and they need some help. Maybe you need to take a pie to them or some cookies, or take them to dinner or whatever. But it's not just being with somebody, it's being with somebody and caring about that person when you're with them.
Thirdly, in the same context we read that we need courage. Notice verse 13, Paul says to Timothy, "When you come, bring the books, especially the parchments". Which were animal skin, precious velum codices. And the difference between the two was probably that the books were made of papyrus, and these rolls could've included any number of things, like Paul's Roman citizenship papers or correspondence. Some people think it was just extra writing space for Paul to continue his writing. Because you do know he wrote epistles from prison, that's why we have the prison epistles. And the parchments were probably Paul's copies of the Old Testament Scriptures, and maybe some of the writings of Jesus. When Paul was isolated, he said, "Would you please bring me my books"? If you are a book lover like I am, you get this. If I'm going to have to be alone, at least give me my books, and especially the book, the Bible.
When I was going through my bout with cancer years ago, some of you know I was preaching during most of the time I was in treatment. And if you ever have had that disease or been around somebody that does, it's kind of like background noise in your head. You can try to think about other things, but it's pretty hard to keep from thinking about that. And sometimes I would get to my desk and I knew I had to get a message ready for church, and all I could think about was did my scan go all right, is something going to be okay? And I would just have to get in my chair and say, "By the grace of God, I'm going to get over this hump". Some days, I had to just take my pen and start writing out the Scripture to prime the pump. But I want to tell you something, friends. When you get over the hurdle and you get engaged, you can lose yourself in the study of the Word of God. It's like an island of joy in the midst of the challenges.
I can see Paul in the few hours of light that he had from the opening in his cell poring over the words of Jesus and the Scriptures of the Old Testament, and in the midst of his dire circumstances finding joy in the truth of God. And by the way, when you do that, if you do it seriously, you'll start bumping into Scriptures that you have forgotten about. For instance, how's this one, Psalm 27:10. "When my father and my mother have forsaken me, then the Lord will take care of me". Or Hebrews 13:5 and 6, which is a quotation from the Old Testament, which Paul no doubt had, "For he himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you,' so that we may boldly say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What man can do to me?'" When we are disconnected, we need companionship. And we need compassion. And we need courage from the Word of God. But here's the pinnacle of what we need. We need Christ.
And notice what Paul says in verses 17 and 18, "But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached through me and that all the Gentiles might hear. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever". Paul said, "Yes, I've been deserted by all my friends. Demas has forsaken me. Alexander's against me. All these other people have left me. I'm here alone with Luke, but I want to tell you something, I'm not alone. When I stood before Caesar and everyone had gotten out of the territory, the Lord Jesus Christ was with me". Some people believe Jesus actually showed up personally and was standing there in the courtroom with Paul. But whether he was or not, he was there. And he will be there for us when we cry out to him in our moments of loneliness. Jesus himself experienced this very thing. When he realized that his disciples had run out on him, we read his words in John 16:31, he says, "And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me".
Here's what I want you to know, men and women, today. However alone you may feel, you are never alone if you're a Christian. Almighty God is with you, his Spirit indwells you, and his Son the Lord Jesus Christ is with you every moment. You say, "Well, I'm not aware of it". Do you know how you can become aware of it? When you study the Word of God and you begin to hear the Word of God, you become aware of the presence of God in your life. That's how it works. Do you remember the comment we made at the beginning that the first thing God was not pleased with was that man was alone? He said, "It is not good that man shall be alone". And Adam and Eve were together as husband and wife, and then they sinned, and they were cut off from God. And they were separated because of their sin. And the disconnection of the Garden of Eden ultimately led to another, more profound disconnection that took place when Jesus died on the cross. And we hear him on the cross crying out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me"?
The purpose of the forsakenness of Jesus was so that you and I would not have to stay disconnected from God. Because we are sinners and we have nothing to offer to God in ourselves. We are sentenced to death. The Bible says the wages of sin is death. That's disconnection. But God came here and sent his Son Jesus to the cross. And when Jesus went to the cross, he suffered our disconnection for us so that we could be connected with God forever. And because he died on the cross and paid the penalty for all of our sin, yours and mine, the sin of everyone in the world, and because he was the infinite Son of God, his death was an infinite death, equal to the death for everyone. Now, he comes to us and says, "You are disconnected from the Father, but I have come to build a bridge between you and the Father, and that bridge is the cross of Jesus Christ. And if you will walk over that bridge by faith and put your trust in my Son Jesus Christ, you will never, ever, ever have to be disconnected again".