Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The world is pushing Christians towards sin, materialism, sexual deviance, and power. I’ve noticed that some of my Christian friends who started strong—with a passion for spiritual things—are not ending up so well.
I’ve often heard, “It’s not how you start, but how you finish.” Can you share some thoughts on how to guarantee that we finish well for Jesus?
Let me answer your question by examining three snapshots of a man named Demas, one of Paul’s compatriots.
The First Snapshot of Demas Occurs in Philemon:
"Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers." - Philemon 23-24
Epaphras was a pastor. John Mark was a distinguished author. Aristarchus was a man of means. Demas was a “fellow worker.” Luke was a physician and author of the book that bears his name as well as the book of Acts.
Demas began in good company. These were men of spiritual stature. He began with a “hot” heart and surrendered to full-time Christian service. He was a co-laborer with Paul. Demas could not have had a better beginning to his spiritual journey.
The Second Snapshot of Demas is Found in Colossians:
“Tychicus is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord… He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother...
My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas… Justus also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. Epaphras, who is one of you, and a servant of Christ... He is always wrestling in prayer for you… I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings.” - Colossians 4:7-14
It’s no accident that in the context of eight men, seven are pointed out for some good work while Demas is passed over in silence.
I believe that at this juncture, Paul was already beginning to suspect that something was happening with Demas… that his faith may be wavering.
The Final Portrait of Demas Appears in 2 Timothy:
Paul is in prison. These are his final words:
“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith… Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.” - 2 Timothy 4:5-11
("Deserted me" = "left me in the lurch")
Demas gave in. He gave up. He chose the world over Christ and left Paul in the lurch. And his choice is forever recorded in God’s Word as a warning for all who choose to follow Jesus Christ.
This is the story of a man who made a fine beginning and a poor ending.
How to Have a Good Ending:
I am sharing a number of quick truths here. Don’t be overwhelmed. Choose just two or three and work on those. When those are in place, you may select several others.
1. Don’t Wait Until You Are Near the End to Start Getting Ready.
The career of Jesus Christ was like splitting a log. Every previous blow of the axe was indispensable, but it is the last blow that splits it!
Jesus made it to the end where He could say, "It is finished."
2. Pray, “Lord, Make Me a Spiritual Father/Mother at Any Price. (1 John 2:12-14)
This is one prayer that God guarantees He will answer.
3. Make Ending Well One of Your Top Priorities. (Ecclesiastes 12:6-7)
We are all going to die. We want to live the best lives we can to honor God while we’re here on Earth.
4. Handle Trials Wisely.
Don’t get angry, don’t get depressed, don’t quit. Instead, fully submit your life to God. (Hebrews 12:5-11)
5. Be Careful Whenever You Find Yourself Beginning to Engage with the Present World. It Bites.
"For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world." (1 John 2:16)
6. Keep Your Life Pure, Holy, Blameless and above Reproach. (Colossians 1:23)
Remember that the pure in heart are the ones who see God. The more we see God, the less this present age attracts us.
7. See that Nothing Distracts You from Carrying Out Your Long-Term Goals. (Philippians 3:13-14)
Stop looking back. Focus on the future.
8. Count the Cost Of Discipleship and Pay It. (Luke 9:60-62)
If Polycarp could die for his faith in the Coliseum, so can we.
9. Stay on the Right Track; Accomplish God’s Will Every Single Day. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
10. Keep the Faith in the Midst of a World Full of Doubt. (Ephesians 4:14)
Christianity is under attack by secular humanism. Remember, we base our faith on the resurrection.
Back to Demas—How Can We Apply His Story?
The fact that the Holy Spirit failed to tell us just what attracted Demas to the world is significant. If He had told us specifically, we might very well say, "That was Demas's problem. It's not mine."
The problem is that Demas was infested with love for this present world.
Many Christians find it easy to love this present age. We make fine beginnings for Christ, but then some comfortable corner of the world invites us and we nestle down. Our Christian faith lapses and we do not amount to much for Jesus Christ in the end.
If I should accuse some of us of being Judas, we would be indignant; we would never deliberately sell anyone out.
But, Demas, how many of us have been that?
Consider Paul and Demas
Paul faced many kinds of failure but he himself was no failure. If, however, the old legend is correct, Demas went back to Thessalonica and became a priest of idols in a pagan temple.
Demas had laid hold on some of the more comfortable aspects of the Christian gospel, but the Christian gospel had never laid hold on Demas.
Paul could have had all that Rome had to offer. He could have been a professor in University of Jerusalem, but he'd set his devotion on the coming kingdom of God for which he was willing to live or die. He kept the faith, ministering even in prison.
No matter what fortune or misfortune befell, one thing was absolutely indispensable—Paul would not break faith with Christ.
Demas, however, was of another sort. He soon found something else that was indispensable to him.
I cannot imagine anything better than life of great convictions and staying power which develop, expand, and elevate through life... fine at the beginning, but loveliest of all at the last.
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.
Publication date: December 12, 2017
Image Credit: Thinkstock.com