·         The picture of successful ministry that is most often in our minds – large church facility, overflowing with people, unlimited funds, a national radio program, a contract with a well-known publisher, and endless invitations to speak at conferences, seminars, events, etc.

o   There is also another picture – one that is considerably different, yet equally successful from Heaven’s perspective.

o   That’s the picture painted here by the Spirit

o   It’s a picture of heartbreak, lonliness, deprivation, abandonment

§  This other picture has been more consistently the one that has descried the experience of God’s servants down through the ages.

·         Demas shows us that there is terrible heartbreak in the ministry.

o   It’s a heartbreaking thing when someone whom you have poured into, abandons you.

o   Trials are a fairly consistent factor of the ministry.  Joy is, too, to be sure; but we tend to emphasize the latter and try to pretend the former isn’t so.

o   This happens; it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve done anything wrong

§  Sometimes it is; we make mistakes

§  But often, it’s nothing you can control – it’s part-and-parcel with serving a crucified Lord.

o   Not only Demans, but Crescens, Titus…abandoned him.

§  Perhaps Paul struggled with loneliness.

§  It was no longer the day of apparent, outward blessing; it was now a time of apparent decline and struggle

§  Paul found his comfort in the Lord and His Word (“bring the books, especially the parchments…”)

·         Alexander the coppersmith did Paul much harm

o   Guess what? You’ll get misunderstood and abused when you’re serving the Lord and His people

o   Story of the guy in Brian’s Bible study who e-mails him all the time.

o   And this is the way it is – no matter the size/apparent success of the ministry.

o   Just as Alexander greatly resisted Paul’s words, you’ll find that, too.

§  Seeking to counsel people with the Word – they resist

§  They get angry

§  They don’t like what you have (actually, the Lord’s Word has) to say

·         Can you imagine being in a position where all forsook you?

o   Oftentimes, we would think of the end of a man’s ministry as being very different than what Paul is describing here!

§  We often picture less to more, bad to better…

§  …but it’s not necessarily the case.

o   And Paul is just the first example in a long line of men who have served God through history and have suffered in the serving

§  Spurgeon’s last days were quite similar to Paul’s in many respects

§  Downgrade Controversy

·         (quotes from Spurgeon’s critics – holy cow…)

·         If we had a more balanced, Scriptural view of “success” in ministry, we wouldn’t think it a strange thing when things aren’t going very well.

·         But here’s the other – and most important – side of the matter:

o   “But the Lord stood with me.”

o   This is what we need to remember.

§  For Paul, from the beginning, it was always about the Lord.

§  If the ministry isn’t ultimately and finally and completely about the Lord, you will not survive it.

§  You’ll become disillusioned and embittered.

o   If we do ministry for any other reason than for the love of Christ, we will not make it.

o   But, if everything I do is for love of Him, then it all becomes a journey of faith, ending in glory.

·         We who are about the business of the Lord are more vulnerable and more susceptible to lose sight of the Lord – bizarre as that is.

o   And the Lord has to bring us back and remind us that this is all about Him, and about our fellowship and relationship with Him.

o   When you get that perspective – everything is okay.

·         Paul was conscious, especially in the hour of his greatest need and trial, that the Lord stood with him and strengthened him.

o   Paul knew that even in the midst of all that he was enduring, the Lord stood with him.

·         Paul also knew that the Lord would ultimately deliver him.

o   He says this while he’s in a dungeon, heading to the executioner’s block.

o   For Paul, deliverance was Heaven.

§  He did not have a “triumphalist” faith.

·         Paul also rested in the fact that the Lord would preserve him for the Heavenly Kingdom.

o   Paul believed in the sovereignty of God – he considered himself to be a prisoner of Christ, even though the effective earthly instrument of his imprisonment was Caesar.

o   Be encouraged – God will preserve us!

o   The Lord works in the midst of adversity.

·         Men measure success in numbers, popularity, accolades…

o   God measures success by an entirely different standard – and that’s what we need to remember.

o   Paul was an unqualified success

o   He finished the race – he kept the faith.

o   Spurgeon was an absolute success.

o   Because success isn’t determined by what men think, but by the standard that God sets.

o   What is that standard?  Being faithful.

§  “It is required in a steward that one be found faithful.”

o   Be faithful:

§  To your Lord

§  To your wife

§  To your kids

§  To the sheep you get to shepherd

·         Let us be faithful men, whether the ministry leads us to happiness or heartache.

o   For great is our reward.