In his blog for e2elders.org (www.e2elders.org/blog/find-us-faithful), Tom Ellsworth shares some terrific, yet sobering, insight about a man mentioned three times in the Bible. You’ve probably never heard of him, yet his experience is similar to so many Christians through the years and even today as we hear accounts of Christians “deconstructing” their faith and walking away from Jesus and his church. What does it mean to be spiritually faithful to Jesus, and what leads to unfaithfulness?
Faithfulness in a marriage means that you recognize your commitment to your spouse as a non-negotiable priority, that you don’t just survive but thrive in that singular, “so long as we both shall live” relationship. Spiritual faithfulness to Jesus shares many similarities to marital faithfulness. According to Romans 6, when we are baptized into Christ, we become united with Him – united with Him in life, united with Him in His death, burial and resurrection. When we acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior, we make a lifelong commitment which demands our love and loyalty.
Spiritual unfaithfulness, then, is when this world displaces Him as our priority, or when our sinful desires lead us to compromise our integrity or morality. There are many tragic pictures of unfaithfulness in Scripture but one of the saddest is seen in Demas. That Demas should be mentioned three times in the New Testament is significant. As Paul winds up his letter to the Colossian Christians, he writes that “Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings” (Colossians 4:14). In Paul’s letter to Philemon, we read “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus sends you greetings. And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers” (Philemon 23-24). That is exclusive company, a Who’s Who list of Paul’s associates. However, in Paul’s final letter, 2 Timothy, this is what he says to young Timothy: “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 4:9-10).
Demas was in Rome during Paul’s imprisonment, but at some point, deserted Paul. He had not simply left Paul but abandoned him during Paul’s greatest time of need. Paul was facing execution. Nothing indicates Demas was weary of ministry or struggling relationally with Paul. No, this was a spiritual matter. Demas left because he loved the secular things of this life. The Enemy got to him. Paul’s burden is not just that Demas left him, but more likely that he had forsaken the Lord because he loved this world more. We don’t know if Demas ever changed or was reconciled with Paul.
God calls us to faithfulness – not just for a season but for a lifetime. Faithfulness is not difficult to understand, but it is challenging to put into practice. And if the Enemy got to Demas, he can get to us. How, then, can we remain faithful to Jesus? We must follow God first and foremost. We must love others more than self. We must be patient. We must be flexible as time brings change. We must be generous with our time and resources. We must stay connected with the church which is a community of believers.
God calls us to pass the baton of faith to each succeeding generation. If we are not faithful, we will have nothing to pass along, and future generations will arise spiritually empty-handed. Participating with the church in worship, Bible study, youth groups, and serving together help keep God a priority in our life. Let us live and work together in such a way that the gospel will light the way for all who come behind us. Let us be found faithful so we will realize the victory of our faith. “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
Staying faithful with the Lord and with you,