36After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s return to each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are getting along.” 37Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. 38But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not shared in their work. – Acts 15:36-37, NLT
14Dear Doctor Luke sends his greetings, and so does Demas. – Colossians 4:14, NLT
2 Timothy 4
9Please come as soon as you can. 10Demas has deserted me because he loves the things of this life and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus has gone to Dalmatia. 11Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you when you come, for he will be helpful to me. 12I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. 13When you come, be sure to bring the coat I left with Carpus at Troas. Also bring my books, and especially my papers. – 2 Timothy 4:9-13, NLT
The Daily DAVEotional
In December an amazing thing happened in an NFL football game. At half-time, the Minnesota Vikings were getting taken to the woodshed, down 33-0 to the Indianapolis Colts. It was a surprising development, given the Vikings had one of the best records in football and the Colts were widely regarded as one of the worst teams in the league.
I remember seeing the half-time score and thinking that game was all but over.
Later I learned that the Vikings had made a complete turn around in the second half, tied the game up and won 39-36, on a last second field goal in overtime. It was the greatest comeback in NFL history.
Proof once again that it’s not how you start, but how you finish.
The same is true in the Christian life. The Bible is replete with stories about people who did not finish well.
In 2 Timothy 4, Paul mentions two guys who are going in opposite directions. Paul mentions both by name.
The first is Demas. You might remember Demas from Colossians 4, where Paul mentions him as one of his co-workers who offers a greeting to the recipients of Paul’s epistle. Demas was on the right track, seemingly walking with Christ and serving with Paul for the furtherance of the gospel ministry in Asia Minor.
But something happened. We’re not given all the details but later, when Paul pens his final letter to Timothy, it’s clear that Demas has abandoned the faith in favor of a worldly lifestyle.
In contrast to Demas is Mark. Mark did not get off to a good start. He joined Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journey as an assistant in Acts 13:5 but didn’t last very long, abandoning them before their journey was complete (Acts 13:13).
In Acts 15, when Paul and Barnabas decide to go out on another missionary journey, Barnabas wants to take Mark with them but Paul is not in favor of this plan because Mark had previously abandoned them. Their disagreement was so sharp that the Paul and Barnabas band broke up and each decided to go solo, taking on new partners, Paul taking Silas while Mark accompanied Barnabas. I wrote about this first “church split” in a previous blog post here.
Later, when Paul is older and about to leave this earth for his heavenly abode, Paul makes a final request of Timothy – “bring Mark with you when you come, for he will be helpful to me.”
Paul had no use for Mark early on, for Mark had clearly tubed out on the mission. But though Mark started off shaky, he finished well, so much so that later, when Paul was nearing death, Paul came to see Mark as tremendously useful.
These two guys, both mentioned in the same ending lines of Paul’s letter to Timothy, illustrate that no matter where you’re at or what you’ve done, you can always re-direct your path and finish well. Like Mark, we can change the narrative of our lives and become “useful” to the Lord and His purposes.
Likewise, even if you may find yourself on the right path now, it’s no guarantee that you will finish well. Like Demas, we can be lured by worldly forces to abandon our first love for mere earthly pleasures.
My hope is to finish well like Mark did, while avoiding the pitfalls of Demas!
In what ways do you relate to Mark? In what ways can you relate to Demas?
What are some examples in your own circle of friends and acquaintances of people who seemed to start strong but ultimately didn’t finish?
Demas left Paul because he “loved the things of this life”. What are some of the things in this life that tend to be alluring to you and could possibly sidetrack you from wholehearted devotion to Christ?
What safeguards can you place in your own life to ensure you finish like Mark and not like Demas?
Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash