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The Team
Col 4:10-14; 2 Tim 4:9-16


Col. 4:10-14 Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings; and also Barnabas' cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him); [11] and also Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision; and they have proved to be an encouragement to me. [12] Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. [13] For I bear him witness that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis. [14] Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas. 

2 Tim. 4:9-16 Make every effort to come to me soon; [10] for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. [11] Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service. [12] But Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. [13] When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments. [14] Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. [15] Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching. [16] At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them. 

On September 18, 1999 I sat in seat 108 of row 2 in aisle 505 of Wrigley Field. It was a day to remember. I've been to a few major league stadiums through the years, and I've got to tell you, Wrigley is a different experience. First, there is absolutely no parking. We parked close to a mile away and had to walk to the park. Second, the stadium is old. I mean really old. Not rickety old, more like historic old. Really, as I walked through the turnstile, I felt like I was walking into Baseball's Cathedral. Third, Wrigley fans are, well-different. It almost seemed like the baseball game was secondary. 

Cubbies are among the most faithful of any fans. It doesn't matter whether their team is winning or losing, they support the team. After watching a game with them, I think it is because they are not really there for the baseball-the beer maybe, but not the game. By and large, people weren't paying much attention to the game. That is, until Sammy Sosa came to the plate. 

Vendors stopped selling their goods. Everyone stood, everyone cheered and everyone's eyes were on the field. The atmosphere was electric. Sosa didn't disappoint. He knocked a home run over the fence. It wasn't just any home run, it was the 60th of the season, making Sosa the first slugger to hit sixty or more home runs in two consecutive seasons. 

I don't remember who won the game, but I do remember the ball barely clearing the center field fence and Sosa's "home run hop" as he started running toward the record books one more time.

Who would have ever thought that less than a year later Sosa would be named in trade rumors? I guess his skipper doesn't feel Sosa is hustling enough. His glove has never been that great, but there was a time when Sosa worked harder around the base path. 

In 1998, he was the National League's Most Valuable Player, in 1999, he was the first person to hit 60 or more home runs in back-to-back seasons and in 2000, he may very well be traded. I always thought Sammy Sosa would become Mr. Cubs like Ernie Banks, but maybe not. How do you interpret Sosa's situation? Some may say, it's a "what have you done for me lately" thing. Maybe so, but I think there is another lesson here. No person is more important than the team.
(Fresh Illustrations .)
Whenever I read Paul's epistles, I get the feel that he was a team player. He wasn't an apostolic superstar, he was an individual that worked toward the good of the team. Sometimes we read through his closing words of epistles quickly, like they don't have any important information in them, but today, let's examine his closing remarks in Colossians and in II Timothy.

Colossians was written about AD 61 at the beginning of Paul's 2-year imprisonment that resulted from his appeal to Caesar. Acts 28:30 says, "And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters, and was welcoming all who came to him," We know that under Roman law, he would either be executed or set free in that 2 years. (ZPEB, p. 654) Since Luke didn't mention an execution, we deduce that he was set free. Luke's record ends here, so we have no authoritative word what happened next.

Church tradition says that Paul, upon his release continued his missionary efforts, but was rearrested in AD 67 and beheaded by Nero. Paul wrote his final epistle, 2 Timothy, right before his execution. In 2 Tim. 4:6, he wrote, "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come."

Even a casual reader can detect the differences in tone between Col. 4:10-14 and 2 Tim. 4:9-16. In both passages, he mentions several people's names. His co-workers in the faith. His teammates. 

In the Colossians passage, he applauds his teammates for their support. He names people by name who were helpful to him. In the Timothy passage, as he neared the end, he mentioned the faithfulness of Dr. Luke, but then called people by name who were not team players and had abandoned him.

Paul was betrayed by Alexander the coppersmith. I don't know what Alexander did to Paul, but in Paul's estimation, it was "much harm." His blow was painful enough that Paul warned the Church not to associate with him in the future.

Crescens and Titus went on to other things. Paul doesn't seem to be angry about them leaving, but he makes it clear that he is lonely. But Demas is another story. In Colossians, Paul thought enough of Demas to include him among the fraternity of brothers that greeted the church, but five years later, when he wrote 2 Timothy, Demas was a Benedict Arnold. Paul said,"having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica." 

It wasn't anything personal with Demas, he deserted his post because of carnality. His faith eroded and he became a deserter. That's why John warned the church "Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1 John 2:15 NASB)

Alexander did Paul much harm, Demas deserted him, but there is another name that appears in the Colossians and Timothy passage that deserves attention today: Mark.

At one point, Paul didn't want him around. Mark was traveling with Paul and his cousin Barnabas on a missionary journey, but when the going got tough, he abandoned the missionaries. "Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John left them and returned to Jerusalem." (Acts 13:13 NASB) Later, he wanted to rejoin Paul & Barnabas, but Paul wouldn't hear of it. In fact, the controversy forced a wedge between Paul & Barnabas. "And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, 'Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.' [37] And Barnabas was desirous of taking John, called Mark, along with them also. [38] But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. [39] And there arose such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. [40] But Paul chose Silas and departed, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord." (Acts 15:36-40 NASB)

By the time Paul wrote Colossians, it appears that some mending was taking place. Mark was there, and Paul instructed the church to welcome him if he comes to their congregation. (Conflict is never in a vacuum, everyone is affected by it.) But by the time he wrote 2 Timothy, Paul was asking for Mark to come to him. Paul didn't ask for Barnabas, the encourager, but his cousin John Mark.

Not everyone can hit 60 home runs in back to back seasons, but everyone can run out every ground ball. It is the team record, not the individual achievement that counts. We're all in this together.

In the end, after some had betrayed him and others had deserted him and still others had just wandered off, getting on with their lives, Paul longed for John Mark. Mark wasn't a superstar, in fact he was a quitter that saw the error of his ways and rededicated himself to do whatever he could for the team. He was lucky to even be on the team, but he was Paul's choice for MVP.

Impact Preaching: A Case for the
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