One of the all-time greats in baseball was Babe Ruth. His bat had the power of a cannon, and his record of 714 home runs remained unbroken until Hank Aaron came along. The Babe was the idol of sports fans, but in time age took its toll, and his popularity began to wane. Finally the Yankees traded him to the Braves. In one of his last games in Cincinnati, Babe Ruth began to falter. He struck out and made several misplays that allowed the Reds to score five runs in one inning. As the Babe walked toward the dugout, chin down and dejected, there rose from the stands an enormous storm of boos and catcalls. Some fans actually shook their fists. Then a wonderful thing happened. A little boy jumped over the railing, and with tears streaming down his cheeks he ran out to the great athlete. Unashamedly, he flung his arms around the Babe’s legs and held on tightly. Babe Ruth scooped him up, hugged him, and set him down again. Patting him gently on the head, he took his hand and the two of them walked off the field together. (Source Unknown).
The point of the story is that loyalty is a rare virtue. A young man in the army confided to his pastor that he never went about with another girl if he was within fifty miles of home, his loyalty went fifty miles. How far does your loyalty to Jesus Christ go?
St. Augustine (Nov. 13 AD 354 – August 28 AD 430 noted that he had been betrayed many times in his life by people he trusted. Finally, he had to learn to trust alone in the Lord. “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. 8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit” (Jer. 17:7-8).
The Lord can be trusted because His love is eternal. It is an everlasting love. It is a love that has no regrets, and will never be rescinded. It is a holy love. And, the love of God is a loyal love.
One way to appreciate the love of God is to cast it against the black backdrop of those who have proven themselves to be disloyal to the cause of Christ. Two examples come to mind in relation to disloyalty shown to Paul by Demas, and Alexander the coppersmith. Both are mentioned in Paul’s epistle to Timothy, written in the Mamertine Prison, which stands on the side of Capitoline Hill in the heart of Ancient Rome. The prison dungeon overlooks the ruinous and scarred Forum Romanum where much of what defines Rome took place: public speeches, elections, and even Gladiator fights were all once common occurrences.
The purpose of the prison with holding cells was to keep the prisoner for a short amount of time. No matter how short the sentence, those unluckily enough to end up in there were met by the most horrific environment. Conditions in these dungeons were closer to a sewage tank than a prison cell. Mamertine Prison was no exception. People were simply thrown into the cells and forgotten about whilst awaiting their executions; sometimes people died of starvation long before their sentences were carried out.
From such a terrible place, Paul wrote to Timothy. “Paul had first met Timothy in the city of Lystra—in Asia Minor—where Timothy was known and respected by the Christians (Acts 16:1–4). Upon recognizing Timothy’s impressive qualities, Paul recruited the young man to travel with him as he continued his second missionary journey. The presence of Timothy would have met an important need for Paul, their friendship coming on the heels of Paul’s split with his close friend and partner in missions, Barnabas (15:36–41)” (Chuck Swindoll). Paul wrote 2 Timothy c. AD 67.
“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
The Abandonment of the Apostle
9 Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: 10 For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. 12 And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus. 13 The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments. 14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: 15 Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words. 16 At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge” (2 Tim. 4:6-16).
What a plaintiff plea that is. “Timothy, come quickly. For Demas has forsaken me. Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm.” Do not miss the desperate appeal of Paul in the appalling Mamertine prison, knowing that he shall shortly be beheaded.” Timothy, come to me, for at my first defense no one stood with me, but all men forsook me. I need someone to be with me in these final hours.”
A brief study of the man called Demas will reveal that he was once a close companion of the apostle Paul. He was held in high esteem. Paul called Demas a fellow worker in Philemon 24. In Colossians 4:13 he is especially mentioned by name by Paul. Demas had travelled with Paul on his missionary journeys. He had witnessed Paul’s commitment to Christ under the most difficult of circumstances. Demas knew that Paul fought the good fight, and finished the race the Lord entrusted to him. But then something happened. Demas grew weary of Christian ministry, and fell in love with the world. And the world welcomed Demas back into its sensual bosom with open arms.
There is no way to appreciate the depths of disappointment Paul must have felt in Demas, who left him in his most critical hour of need.
Paul goes on to tell Timothy that others left him as well. Only Luke remained with him. What a friend Luke proved to be. He was as faithful to Paul, and the cause of Christ, as Demas, and Alexander, and others were faithless. It was Luke who travelled with Paul on his missionary journeys. It was Luke who chronicled all the great events in Acts. It was Luke who visited Paul in his prison.
As he encouraged Timothy to visit, Paul asked that Timothy find Mark and brings him to Rome as well. “Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.” This was quite a change in Paul’s attitude towards John Mark, for the apostle had once engaged in a great debate with Barnabas over Mark, who had turned back during one of the missionary journeys. But that was in the past, this is now. Mark had much to contribute to the ministry. “Bring Mark,” said Paul.
Along with Mark, Paul asked Timothy to bring him a cloak. He was cold in the dungeon. And bring the books as well, said Paul. Oh, how important it is to have good books to read and study up to the hour of one’s death. “Though no one on earth stood with Paul at his defense, he was not in total despair, for he knew that the Lord was with him in his greatest hour of need. “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. 18 And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (2 Tim. 4:17, 18).
It is possible, Christian, that one day you too will be forsaken, and find that you family is not loyal to you, your friends are not loyal to you, and your Church is not loyal to you. People can be very religious, until there is persecution, or a virus, or a government mandate, or some pressure in life that will separate the fearful and the faithless, from the fearless and the faithful.
It is possible that soon, very soon, you may find yourself saying, “No man stood with me; notwithstanding, the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me.”
It is possible that you will find yourself standing alone to oppose an unbiblical practice, or doctrine, or extra biblical mandate that has no historical precedent, or Scriptural basis. It is a lonely place to be. Only a commitment to being faithful to Christ, and the simplicity of Scripture, and a knowledge that Jesus is with you, will see you through to the end. Never forget Christ, the Lord of Glory is loyal, and shall preserve you “unto His heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Jesus is there all the time. There is Love that will never let you go.
Because Paul was like Christ in his sufferings, he would have known about the sufferings of the Savior who was also betrayed. The story is told in the gospels. The betrayal took place in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus had been wrestling in prayer with the Father over the cup of divine judgment that had been given to Him to drink. In His humanity, Jesus shrank from the great ordeal, and then He said, “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).
With that resignation, Jesus arose and waited for the Temple guards to come and arrest Him. Leading the way was one of His trusted followers, one of the chosen Twelve disciples, Judas. Judas approached Jesus. Hopefully his eyes were downcast in shame. Jesus compelled Judas to look up by speaking to him. “But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48).
A kiss is designed to be an expression of friendship, loyalty, and love. A kiss is an expression of tender intimacy. It is not meant to be used in an act of betrayal, and yet that is how Judas chose to betray his Lord and Master.
In matchless grace, Jesus received the kiss from Judas, and went to Calvary. Jesus received the kiss from Judas, not simply to fulfil prophecy, but because He was loyal to His disciples. He would not deny them, even if they, Judas and Peter, denied Him. The loyalty of the Lord is without question. Such is the eternal love of God. Believe, dear Christian, when He says to your heart, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5).
“Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!”
Thomas O. Chisholm