Today's Readings - Jeremiah 45-46, Colossians 3:18–4:18, Psalm 119:17–24, Proverbs 25:23–24
Devotional - Past and Future
Have you ever known someone who started their Christian life well, with commitment, conviction, and passion, but then fizzled like an Alka Seltzer? Perhaps you've known someone else who failed miserably and fell hard into sin but didn't stay there. This person sought God's forgiveness and restoration and eventually returned to effective service and fellowship. Some surprise you with their growth and some disappoint you with their failure. People surprise us.
Many of Paul's books end with a series of personal greetings and instructions; Colossians is no different. Some of those identified are unknown beyond their mentions in Paul's notes. Others are significant. In Colossians 4:10-17 there are two fascinating stories at work, stories that demonstrate the ebb and flow of Christian ministry. One man with a failure in the past demonstrates he's made a comeback, while another looks promising, but will eventually fall on his face.
In verse 10, Paul references a man named Mark.
Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him)...
But now, Mark is with Paul and is helping him. The bad blood is gone, reconciliation has come and all is well. In fact, in 2 Timothy 4:11, as Paul faces his imminent death, he asks for Mark to be sent to him, because "he is useful to me." Mark may have failed early, but his tide rose and he became a valuable ministry assistant to Paul.
Not so Demas. He is a man we know little about, except that he was a co-worker of Paul's. He is mentioned here, in verse 14, giving his greetings to the Colossians. In Philemon 24, Paul lists him as a coworker. But Demas is also mentioned in 2 Timothy 4, just before Paul's commendation of Mark. But his reference to Demas in verse 10 is anything but a commendation.
For Demas has deserted me, because he loved this present world, and has gone to Thessalonica.
As he sat in the dungeon awaiting his execution, Paul remembered Demas' ministry with sadness, because he had deserted both Paul and the ministry of Christ. His love for Christ waned and his love for the things of the world grew within him. He left serving Christ to seek mammon - he chose the wrong master. Did Demas ever return? No one knows. I hope so. But his faith failed and he abandoned Paul.
This gives us both encouragement and a warning. Have you failed? A lot of Christians live with sorrow and pain because they have failed the Father and other people. They live with shame. But for the believer, there is always forgiveness and restoration. We ought never to use that as an excuse to sin - there may be consequences that we have to deal with for a long time. But God always forgives and always restores. Don't let your past failures destroy your present or your future.
But also remember that each of us has within us the tendency to drift from our first love and lose our passion for Christ. You can't live on your previous spiritual successes. God's mercies must be renewed in you daily. You need to seek Christ daily and experience his daily work of grace. Do not rest on your spiritual laurels. Demas never would have believed that he would fall away until he did.
Your past does not define your future. If your past is full of failure, the grace of Christ can cover it and you can be restored. And just because you have great spiritual victories in your past does not guarantee future success. Ask Jonah. Ask Elijah. Seek Christ daily and rest in his love.
Father, may I walk with you daily. I cannot live in my past - neither my successes nor my failures. I can only walk daily with you as I face the future - one day at a time.
Think and Pray
Do you live with the guilt of past sin and failures? Remember Mark, who failed miserably but became a valuable part of Paul's ministry.
But also heed the warning of Demas' life. We all must beware of the dangers of our own hearts, lest the things of this world capture our eye.
Think and PrayWhich of the readings spoke most powerfully to you today?
Is the Spirit of God moving you to repent of something you are doing, to begin something new, or to change something about your life as a result of your readings? What?