Michael Youssef - Don't Ever Give Up on the Truth
This is the very last of eight message-series from the very last words of the Apostle Paul, the last epistle that he's written in prison before he was beheaded and went to be with the Lord. A summary of the entire message is, "Don't Ever, Ever Give Up". Don't give up on biblical truth. Don't give up on doctrine. Don't give up on the authority of the Scripture. Don't give up on the infallibility of the Word of God. Then he told us why: because it is God-breathed. And that message that he leaves to Timothy and leaves to us are very last words before he went to be with the Lord. Don't give up, no matter how unpopular the gospel of Jesus Christ becomes in our culture, in our society, in your schools, in your campus. "Don't ever give up" is the last words that is written from the great apostle.
Turn with me, please, chapter 4, beginning at verse 9, all the way to the end. But before I even get to the passage, before I expound these last few verses of the 2nd epistle to Timothy, I want you to notice something that is not written. I want you to focus with me just for a little bit about something that is not here. You say, "Well, how can I do that"? I'm going to show you. You notice that in these last words of the Apostle Paul, there is not a tinge of bitterness. There is not a hint of regret. There is not a measure of remorse, and there is not a thought of anguish. Earlier in the chapter, he said, "I am completely satisfied that I fought the good fight, I stayed in the battle, and in the heat of the battle I didn't defect to the enemy. I didn't cut and run. I fought the good fight. Then I ran the race. I ran the marathon that was set before me. I did not stop, I did not look for a shady spot, but I ran the whole race, and I've kept the faith, unmolested, unmodified, un-watered down. I kept the faith".
This is a clear indication to me that the great Apostle Paul kept sure accounts with God. He kept sure accounts; and, therefore, when the time came for him to die, he's just ready, he was ready. Oh, but there was a little bit of sorrow in his heart. But you notice this is not feeling sorry for himself. The little sorrow that he has in his heart is not for himself. The only sorrow he had was those who have defected from the faith, that those who've turned their back on the faith, that is the deepest sorrow that you see here. The lack of courage on the part of other believers, that's the only sorrow that he has. I want you to hear me right, please, this is important. The Apostle Paul mentions 17 names in this short passage, 17 names in this passage alone, and here he does not suggest for a moment that all of these friends and colleagues have forsaken him or defected the faith. No, he said some of them are scattered around preaching the gospel, but he said there are some in Rome who have been afraid and have stayed away.
And he's not minimizing the presence of Luke. He said, "All left except Luke". He's not minimizing the fact that Luke was there. He's just stating a fact. Luke is the only one who was there standing by his side. But you can literally feel the depths of his anguish over being abandoned and cut off from the many churches that he has founded. You can feel his anguish from being cut off from friends whom he had served. He was feeling anguish because he's separated from friends that he prayed for, that he'd ministered to, that he's been cut off from friends whom he dearly loves. But the greatest pain that he's experiencing in these last moments of his life, the greatest pain he's experiencing in this passage that we see in those last words is that a former companion, who was his companion in ministry, he was his colleague in ministry, but now he defected to the world.
Demas is mentioned three times in the scripture, three times. And these three times were really the biography of this man known just as Demas. That's all we know about him. And this biography represents a downward spiral, a downward spiral in his spiritual walk, in his spiritual life; a man who started well, but he ended up badly. You see, the first time he's mentioned is in Philemon, verse 24, and he was, Paul said, "Demas, my fellow worker, my dear colleague in the ministry". And then the next time he gets mentioned is in Colossians chapter 4, and he was just mentioned as Demas. And finally here in 2 Timothy chapter 4, the third time he is mentioned, "Demas has forsaken me, for he hath loved this present world". Oh, Lord, please, may this never be said of me. It may never be said of you.
I want you to hear me right. There can be very few things that breaks the heart of a servant of God than seeing people who had every reason to do great things for God, but chose the low road. But I also know, it's not experientially, but I also know of ministering for nearly 50 years, that there is nothing that breaks the heart of a parent more than seeing their child, who has great potential to accomplish great things for God, but disappoints him. There is nothing more heartbreaking for a spouse, who knows that his or her spouse had great potential for God, and yet they opted for mediocrity. And just as Paul had his Demas, Abraham had his Lot. Isaac and Rebekah had their Esau. Oh, how Abraham must have longed for, and was brokenhearted when his nephew Lot chose the area that he chose and ended up in Sodom and Gomorrah. How he longed that he would follow in his footsteps, but he didn't. Oh, how Isaac and Rebekah must have cried buckets of tears over Esau's wrong choices.
We know that Paul, he tells us that he wept over the rebellious believers in the church of Corinth. And here he grieves over Demas, who have decided to pursue the mirage of worldly success instead of serving the King of kings. Ah, what a letdown. Oh, what a disappointment. Oh, what a heartbreaking situation. "Demas has forsaken me, for he loved the present age". Let me ask you, is there a Demas in your life that's breaking your heart? Is there someone in your life in whom you have invested your life and invested your time, and all you get back is ingratitude? Is there someone in your life in whom you have placed high hopes and ended up disappointing you big time? Take heart. Never give up praying for them. Paul is heartbroken over Demas's defection, and that is why he asks for Timothy to come as quickly as possible.
Listen to me. The great apostle, the great apostle to the Gentile, handpicked by God, from being a persecutor to being the great Apostle Paul, who wrote the vast majority of the New Testament, felt the discouragement that comes from disappointment. So, don't ever feel bad about being discouraged every now and again. In fact, twice in this passage, he mentioned to Timothy, he said, tells him, he said, "Hurry up, hurry up and come to Rome". In verse 9, he said, "Do your best to come to me soon". Verse 21, "Do your best to come before winter". And here's something very important for all of us. Listen carefully. If the great Apostle Paul needed encouragement from Timothy, his young colleague, who are we to shun encouragement from anyone at any age or any stage?
You look at verses 16 and 17, in verse 16 he said, "At my first trial..." That's court trial, he went on a court trial, and the first trial he went to, he said, "No one came to my support. Everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them". Isn't that amazing? He's praying for their forgiveness, just like our Lord did on the cross. Verse 17, "Ah, but the Lord stood by my side, and he gave me strength". Praise God. Even the best of Christian friends can go wobbly on us when we are under attack from the world. And when that happen, there can be no greater loneliness. Listen, we live in a time when even Christian friends are happy to be around us, as long as we're a benefit to them; but as soon as the benefits are gone, they abandon us. We know that. Don't be surprised when you see it.
I want to speak to the students just for a moment, the faithful students, because only God in heaven knows what you're going through and the pressure you're experiencing on your campus and your schools, and I know that. But you need to remember this: when your biblical conviction is not popular, when your biblical morality is assaulted, when your moral uprightness is attacked, when your desire to glorify God is not very cool, when your refusal to compromise causes you and even the Christian friends be embarrassed, I want to tell you I know there is loneliness in that. I know there is loneliness in this, but I want you also to know that there is a one who sticks to you closer than a brother. There is a one who loves you more than you can ever imagine. There is a one who will never abandon you. There is a one who will never forsake you. There is a one who's cheering you on.
Paul stands in a long line of men and women of God who stood alone. He was not the only one, and he is not the only one that in his very loneliness, the Lord appeared to him and ministered to him in a personal way, in a special way. Elijah, bless his heart, I mean, after great victory he runs for over 100 miles, and then he goes in the Mount of Horeb, and then he said, "I'm all alone, nobody..." And then God said, "No, there's 7000 knees have not bowed down to Baal yet, and you're not alone". But nonetheless, the Lord ministered to him in a loving way. I often reflect on poor old Noah. Think of how absurd it is to obey God and build a big ship in the desert. These people had never seen rain, let alone deluge of it.
During the construction time, no doubt, his neighbors, and I'm not, I'm speculating. "Poor old Noah, poor Noah, he's lost it. Look at him. Poor old, oh, he flipped his cork finally. You know, poor old Noah, he thinks he's obeying God. He hears voices. I mean, we told him a little bit of religion would go a long way. We warned him against too much religion. We told him not to get too fanatic about hearing God's voice. Because we knew this excessive religion will get to him one day. Look at him now, look at him now, building a ship on a dry land. Where is he going to go with that ship"? That was well and good until the windows of heaven opened, and the earth opened, and the floods came, and they were drowning in the waters. Probably, they were crying out to Noah, probably apologizing for mocking him, probably asking for forgiveness, but it was too late, because the Bible said God shut the door, not Noah, but God. God shut the door.
In the same way, beloved friends, listen to me, in the same way, those who are mocking the Bible, those who are belittling the supernatural, those who want a God who accommodates to them, those who want to come to God their way, on the last day they will regret it. They will regret their action. They will regret their lifestyle, but it will be too late. It will be too late. And I've heard people who have actually said this to me: "Michael, what kind of a God who shuts the door and let these people drown"? I told them, I said, "I am so glad you asked me. I want to tell you about that God. That is the good God who left the glories of heaven and came down to earth to hang on that cross for your sin and your sin and your sin and my sin. This is the good God who has been inviting you, day in and day out to come, but you keep running away from him. This is the same good God who has blessed you in every way. This is the same good God who has provided for your every need. He is the good God who extending loving hand toward you, but you scorn him and you reject him and you refuse to come to him his way. Instead, you want to come to him your way".
And that is why the Bible said no one will have an excuse. "Thou art without excuse, O man". In that day, no one will have an excuse. Noah stood alone in obedience. So did David. David stood alone in obedience. In Psalm 102, he said, "For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like a glowing ember. I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on the roof". Yet God came to David and delivered him and comforted him and ministered to him. Job perhaps stand out as the ultimate in feeling loneliness of abandonment. One time he reached such a low ebb in his life that he began to believe that even God, in whom he has placed all of his trust, has also abandoned him. And yet, God met Job, too, and he met him in the whirlwind, and that is why Job could say in 42:5, "I have heard of you by hearing of the ear, but now my eyes have seen you".
Oh, yes. No matter how bleak your loneliness or faithfulness may be, listen to me, you're never alone, you're never alone. Say that with me. You're never alone. And I cannot talk about loneliness without hearkening my own mind and memory to the many times I have sat in the garden of Gethsemane. And those who have traveled with me know that I can lose it big time. And the second place that tears me up is Caiaphas's basement. Think of the profound loneliness that our sinless, perfect, pure Lord Jesus, not only that his friends and his disciples flee and abandoned him, but on the cross, there was a moment, it could be nanoseconds and it could be two second, we don't know. I will know when I get to heaven, because that's really so profound, I can't put my mind around it, for that brief moment, when your sin and my sin was laid on his shoulders, even the Father turned his back on him, because his eyes are purer than to look upon sin.
In the garden, he asked his closest friends to fellowship with him in prayer. They couldn't. The last night before the crucifixion, he spent it in Caiaphas's basement, and it's four walls with a hole in the ceiling from which they dropped him. And there, when you go to that place, there is Psalm 22 in 22 languages of the world, laminated down in that basement. So, whoever comes from wherever in the world, they can read the psalm, Psalm 22, which tradition says that Jesus recited all night before the day of the crucifixion. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning"? Question, why does our culture not know how to deal with loneliness? Why so many in our culture are suffer in silence? Why are so many afraid to admit their loneliness? Some think their admission of loneliness is a sign of weakness. It is not. Even some Christians, they think that it is not spiritual to say, "Hey, I need fellowship. I need fellowship".
At this moment in Paul's life, he was not concerned of how many likes he's got on Facebook. He was not concerned about how many followers he's got on Twitter. At this moment in his life, he's not caring about social media. No, he feels forsaken. So instead of brooding, instead of brooding over it, he prays for their forgiveness. May the Lord not hold it against them. Second half of verse 17, he says, "I was delivered from the mouth of the lion".
Who is the lion? Peter tells us who the lion is. He's roaring around, roaring like a lion. He's forever prowling, he's forever growling, and he's setting traps for every one of us. He's setting traps for the faithful children of the living God. He's forever setting traps. He was setting traps for Paul. He wanted to get Paul to abandon the faith. He wanted to get him to turn his back on biblical truth. He was trying to get him to compromise his conviction. He was trying to get him to save his skin. And Paul rejoices that the Lord delivered him from all the entrapments of the lion. The time of loneliness, Satan sets traps. He sets his traps. It is not a time for you to abandon Christian fellowship, why? Because when Satan tries to tempt you to think that it is your faithfulness that's causing you your loneliness, then the Christian brothers and sisters gonna remind you of the promises of God.
Some of you might be going through your own private Gethsemane right now because of your obedience to the Word of God. Satan will try to entrap you on every side. And then you can join the Apostle Paul in verse 18 and say that "God is going to keep me safe, and he's going to take me safe all the way home, no matter what". Joan of Arc, when she was on trial for her life and felt all alone and abandoned, even by her family members who turned on her, in the midst of her trial she cried out, "It is better to be alone with God". Beloved, listen to me. It is natural to go with the flow, but it is divine to stand alone. It is natural to flow with people and drift with the tide, but it is divine to stand up and stem the tide. It is natural to compromise your conviction and follow the trends, but it is divine to sacrifice temporary popularity on the altar of God. And whatever you do, remember the words of the series of messages: don't ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever... how many "evers" are these? Ever give up.