Timothy himself was dealing with being ashamed of Paul’s sufferings. Onesiphorus on the other hand pursued Paul, searching for him, and then when he found him he refreshed him. What is this if it is not a remarkable work of grace?
Ministry in the life of the church is both a blessing and a heartache. There are surprising triumphs of grace and there are gut-wrenching rejections of it. We tend to want to focus on the one rather than the other. However, when we read the Apostle Paul we see that he actually focuses on both. In a letter aimed to encourage Timothy to be a faithful pastor who fans into flame his gifting (2 Tim. 1:6) and fulfills his ministry (2 Tim. 4:5) the intentional reference of the “good” and the “bad” must be seen as helpful tools for this aim.
Remember the Tragedies of the Gospel
In his second letter to Timothy the Apostle is trying to get the young, somewhat timid, and reluctant pastor to faithfully persevere. In each chapter however, he includes a monument of apostasy and / or disappointment (1:15, 2:17, 3:1-9, 4:10, 14). In the first chapter he references Phygelus and Hermogenes and their public apostasy. Along with them, all others in Asia turned away from him. This must have been tremendously discouraging for the Apostle. Yet, he points it out to Timothy.
In any case Paul saw the turning away of the Asian churches as more than a personal desertion; it was a disavowal of his apostolic authority. It must have seemed particularly tragic, because a few years previously, during Paul’s two and a half years’ residence in Ephesus, Luke says that ‘all the residents of Asia’ heard the word of the Lord and many believed (Acts 19:10). Now ‘all in Asia’ had turned away from him. The great awakening had been followed by a great defection. Stott, Guard the Gospel the message of 2 Timothy (p. 45).
Paul is reminding Timothy not only of the reality of the situation on the ground but also of the importance of tending to his own soul. Timothy must be certain that he is all in for this work. He must take it seriously. It will be hard. People will leave. Your heart will be shredded. Welcome to ministry. Remember the tragedies of the gospel.