The Apostle Paul had reached the apex of his ministry to the people. He was now a prisoner condemned to die. But he had already stated earlier that, “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:6-7). This does not mean that he was giving up on the work of God, but rather that he had diligently accomplished all God had intended for him. Similarly, Jesus made known when His time had come “…that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified” (Matthew 26:2) because He had also accomplished all God had intended for Him before He was crucified.
Most of the others who had accompanied him knew that continuing with him would likely lead to their own death as well. They may have considered that this could result in a reduction in the number of ministers who could proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ in the surrounding regions. But not all of those who departed from Paul had that mindset.
“For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia” (2 Timothy 4:10 emphasis added). Demas quite possibly did not want all the trials that would come from association with Paul’s criminal status. He preferred to return either to Judaism or to a life of ease, rather than continuing on with Christianity. While he may not have left God’s kingdom completely, he probably felt more comfortable following the Law of Moses rather than the teachings of Jesus Christ.
It is not difficult to succumb to the level that Demas reached. The underlying factor that makes someone desire the world and its bondage over the freedom found in Jesus is having a weak relationship with Him in the first place. Multitudes around the world in our present day have made the effort to say a prayer to receive Jesus into their life—yet that is as far as they have ever gone. No real commitment to Jesus was ever made, and therefore little separation took place from their former worldly lifestyle. They might have read the Bible occasionally and talked to God once in a while, but they didn’t make any significant effort to draw closer to Him. As a result, when difficult decisions and situations came their way, they either fell apart in their faith or backed away, sliding into a mixture of their old way of living while adding a new ‘godly veneer.’
This is why it is imperative that we spend time with the One who has saved us out of our old sinful ways. When a seedling first springs up from the earth, it is green, vibrant and flourishing, because it has what is needed to grow into a full-fledged plant. But when its nourishment and sustenance are not replenished, it will gradually die off. The end result is that the plant only returns to the same dirt it came from. This also happens to us when we neglect our Lord and Savior. If we have little interest in spending time with Him to draw our sustenance from Him through prayer and the reading of His Word, then we will gradually slip away from Him and our relationship dies off. Nothing remains to sustain us when a crisis arises. The problem is not that He abandons us, but that we leave Him.
Even Judas, another one of Jesus’ closest disciples, ended up betraying Him in the end—in spite of all the time he had spent in His presence. Why? Because there was never any real, personal relationship between them. He was expecting Jesus to become an earthly king who would deliver the Jewish people from Roman rule. When Jesus did not fulfill this role, Judas withdrew from his relationship with Him to his old life—and ultimately committed suicide.
It is also tragic to note that the last thing God recorded about Demas in the Bible was that he “loved this present world.” In his earlier letter to Philemon, Paul had defended Demas significantly and urged Philemon to take him back. Yet, in the end, Demas still wanted this world’s system more than he wanted to live God’s way.
All over the world today, there are many like Demas. But the real question is, are we one of them? Not everyone is willing to put his or her life on the line and remain a companion with another in dire need. Yet forsaking that person to follow a desire for the things of this present age instead is a terrible attitude of the heart. Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matthew 22:37-39). He obeyed both of these in totality Himself. In fact, His love for all of us in this world—whether in the past, present or future—is so great, that He willingly sacrificed His very life on the cross in our place. This self-giving kind of love and devotion is what He expects of us in return.
Instead of following Judas’ example of withdrawing from Jesus when He doesn’t do what we thought He should, or Demas’ example of abandoning Jesus because he “loved this present world” more, our objective should be to walk in the manner and love of Jesus, like Paul did. Then our love for our Heavenly Father will become so great that we will be willing to follow and love Him—even to the point of surrendering our life if necessary. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).