How we finish is just as important as how we begin.
Text: Philemon 1:24
How many times have we seen this truth at work in our churches? A person will come to the altar, pray a prayer, stand up tell the church they have been saved, and they take off like a shot from a cannon. But, a few months later, or a couple of years later, they are nowhere to be found! What happened? They have forgotten, or perhaps were never taught that how we finish is just as important as how we begin!
Recently we have heard Jesus talk about this kind of person in the Parable of the Sower, Luke 8:13, “They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” He is talking about that person who hears the Word gets all excited about it and starts out to go with the Lord, but when trials, temptations and troubles come, they fall away. They are kind of like a bottle rocket. A lot of sizzle, a lot of flash, a lot of noise, and then they are gone! We might call them a flash in the pan.
Jesus even had this kind of person among His Disciples. I am certain that all of the other disciples thought Judas Iscariot was a saved man. They must have trusted him; after all, they let him carry the money for the group. But, Jesus knew something about Judas that the rest of them did not know. Here is what Jesus said about him, “Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve,” John 6:70-71.
So, what can we learn from this part of the life of Demas? Here are a couple of things you can take to the bank.
1. Be absolutely sure you come to Jesus the right way in the beginning. That is, be sure you are saved. How do we accomplish this?
Acts 16:31- They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
John 6:37-40 - All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
Rom. 10:9 - If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Rom. 10:13 - for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
You can’t meet Jesus just by joining the church or by being baptized. You don’t come to know Him only by doing good things or by becoming a better person. You must be born again, John 3:3, 7.
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 2. Understand that the Christian race is a marathon and not a sprint. God did not save us for a life of ease, or so that we can lazily float off to heaven after a few days. There will be some trials and troubles along the way. What I am trying to say is that we need to settle in for the long haul and run this race with patient endurance,
Heb. 12:1-2 - Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Heb. 3:12 - See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.
3. Take the time to encourage others in their own race. There are some people around us today that are struggling. How do I know? Well, their church attendance isn’t what it should be. If they aren't coming to worship, then they probably aren't praying or studying their Bibles like used to. They are y likely having a difficult time making it. Those who are running the race well should be taking the time to be an encouragement to them, Gal. 6:1-2. " Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill thew of Christ."
Others may be young in the Lord. They too need an encouraging word. Listen to Hebrews 3:13 and do it!
"But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness."
4. Remember that even if you did start out right, you can always fall along the way!
1 Cor. 10:12 - "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!"
Pro. 16:18 - "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."
Matt. 26:40-41 - Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
It can happen to any of us, and has probably already happened in all of our lives....