Guest article by Missional Coach in training, Rev. Tom Crenshaw, 5/26/21.
I wonder what happened to Demas? For those who are unfamiliar with this thrice mentioned biblical character, Demas at one time had been a companion of Paul (Philemon 1:24). He was in Rome during Paul’s first imprisonment (Col. 4:14). But something happened. Demas forsook Paul, abandoned the ministry and skipped town.
Paul writes of this sad situation in 2 Timothy 4:10: “Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.” One of the saddest things in ministry is to see a brother or sister abandon the faith and choose the world over Jesus.
Scholars suggest that the Greek world for desert seems to suggest that Demas had not only abandoned his faith but in doing so had left Paul in a time of great need. How hard it must have been for Paul to see this situation unfold. Perhaps you have experienced a similar situation when you have lost a good friend in whom you had placed your faith and trust, and you had helplessly watched him/her set sail for the world’s treasures.
We don’t know how it happened, but one of my favorite bible teachers, John Courson in his New Testament Commentary suggests that his decision wasn’t birthed overnight. Courson writes, “The Christian life is like a steam locomotive. When you’re first saved and on fire, you stoke the boiler with the Word. You come to church; you are involved in ministry; and you’re moving along in your faith. But then you come a time when you start to think, ‘Hey, I’m cruising along fine. I don’t need to feed the fire so fervently. I don’t need to study scriptures so consistently. I don’t need to have devotions daily. I don’t need to go to church regularly because, look, I’m really moving!’”
“But once the fire stops being fed, the engine starts slowing down imperceptibly. Yes, the train keeps moving down the tracks for a time, and everything appears to be going fine, but little by little the engine goes slower and slower until finally it stops dead in its tracks. You might be able to go weeks, months, even years on the momentum you gained in the early days-but if you don’t continue to feed the fire, eventually you’ll stop altogether. And, like Demas, you will say, ‘What happened? How did I end up here’”? John Courson Applicaton Commentary, p 1328
The Greek verb used in the original text implies that Demas had not merely left Paul but had left him “in the lurch”; that is, Demas had abandoned Paul in a time of need. The apostle was in prison, facing a death sentence, and that’s when Demas chose to set sail. Undoubtedly, Paul was deeply let down by Demas. It’s never easy to see a friend and associate in whom you’ve placed your trust, forsake you in the midst of hardship. Sadly Demas chose to accept what Satan had to offer in this world over what God had to offer in the next.
1 John 2: 15 makes it clear regarding the spiritual state of those who love the world: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.”
Sadly, nowhere in the Bible do we read of the restoration of Demas.
The tragedy of Demas is being lived out again and again in our world whenever we see those who would choose temporary benefits over eternal possessions. “Past service is no guarantee for future faithfulness,” so keep stoking the boiler with the Word, and you’ll keep heading toward heaven and your eternal destination.
Yours in faith and friendship, Tom.