I have some friends who were part of their school’s cross-country team. The importance of the long race is not just how one starts, but how they maintain their endurance through the whole race. The same is true for us as Christians. The book of Hebrews encourages the Christian to run with endurance the race that is set before them by looking to Jesus, who is the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1–2).
Demas, who is mentioned a few times by Paul, is someone who started well but didn’t endure. In Colossians, we see Demas serving alongside Luke and Paul (Colossians 4:14). He is described as a “fellow worker” in Philemon (Philemon 24). We don’t know much about him. We know that he accompanied Paul and then something happened and he didn’t anymore. The only description of what happened is that he was in love with the present world and deserted Paul to go to Thessalonica (2 Timothy 4:10). Some scholars suggest that Demas went back home, but either way he abandoned the ministry for this world.
To love the things of this world
Demas did not have love for the people of the world, he had love for this world and the things of this world. We do not know what exactly that was for Demas. We do not know if ministry got too tough and he wanted things to be easier or it was a lucrative business venture that was appealing to him. I personally think it was a pull to what the world offers in comparison and that he lost sight of the vast riches that are found in Christ.
This will always be a struggle. As a scribe said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:19–20). Jesus was telling all the well-wishers that it is costly to follow Him. It will be uncomfortable. To follow him will be not to gain from this world but to actually give to this world.
We are encouraged to not love the world, nor the things of this world (1 John 2:15). The devil will want to wave the fancy things of this world in front of us and the Christian must not give into this bait. Demas did and as we see in Paul’s last letter, he abandoned Paul for the things of this world. He started out well but did not endure and quit.
For the Christian
The issue is not about being successful or making money. I am thankful for those Christians that the Lord has allowed to be successful and desire to invest in the church and missions. The issue is when the allure of this world—fame, money, success, and power—become the desire of the heart. It’s when these things become more than Jesus, when this is the desire of the heart and Jesus is an afterthought.
We need to remind ourselves that the things of this world will fade away (Matthew 6:19). The things of this world will not pass through the fire; they are just straw and will be burnt up. The Christian invests in the things that will last for all eternity (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
The truth is that there is nothing here to compare to what Jesus offers. There is an allure to the things of this world but when one really compares that to who Jesus is and what He offers, the things of this world fail in comparison. As the Bible reminds us, there are the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8). The mine that holds the riches of Christ will never run dry, there are nuggets to search for and enrich our souls. I love what Helen H. Lemel wrote in her hymn Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” When we compare this world to Christ, we see the things of this world fading away.
Another reminder to the Christian is this world is not our home. The Christian is part of an eternal, heavenly city (Philippians 3:20). Our stock and investment is not in the things of this world but are pointed to eternity. That is why Jesus tells us to lay up treasures in Heaven, that neither moth nor rust can destroy and where thieves cannot break in and steal (Matthew 6:20). With the reality that this life is not the answer but the promises of Jesus and our eternal hope, it changes with what we live for, the greater thing, which is for Jesus.
It is not just about starting well but the ability to endure to finish well. Don’t be like Demas; let us look to Jesus, the perfecter and author of our faith, and run with endurance the race that is set before us!