For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica . . . Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. (II Timothy 4:10-11, English Standard Version)
Have you ever wished the Bible told you more of a story? Why did he do that? What happened next? Who else was there? How did it end? I like details, but Paul only gives the most basic of facts in II Timothy 4:10. Demas, his friend, fellow believer, and coworker in the gospel, left. More than just “leaving town,” he deserted–completely abandoned–his friend as Paul sat in a Roman prison facing death.
Desertion is a strong word and leaves a dark image in our mind. Demas abandoned his friends, his responsibilities, his ministry. Why? He was “in love with this present world.” Had he grown battle weary? Discouraged? Fearful because of persecution? Lax in his spiritual life? We will never know the full story or how it ended.
In the next sentence of his letter, Paul asks for Mark to come to him because “he is very useful to me for ministry.” Remember Mark, also known as John Mark? In Acts 13 we find the young man traveling with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. But when the men arrived in Perga, John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem. Again, no reasons for his decision are recorded, but apparently Paul felt he deserted their mission. When Barnabas suggested taking John Mark on their second journey, Paul sharply refused. The contention became so strong that Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways (Acts 15:36-41).
Not the Same Ending
Two deserters—but different endings. When Demas left for Thessalonica, that is the last we read of him in the Bible. We don’t know if he repented of his desertion and returned to ministry or if he lost himself in pursuing a good life in this present world. The story of John Mark is different. He may have stumbled in his decision to leave the journey with Barnabas and Saul, but he did not allow that one incident to define his life. He did not give up. We also know him as Mark, the writer the Gospel of Mark. Obviously, whatever division existed between him and Paul was mended long ago. Mark was valuable to the aging apostle, and he requested him to come to Rome.
Failure Isn’t the End
All of us have made wrong decisions and may have disappointed others by our behavior. But that does not have to be the end of our story. Mark shows us that we can overcome past failures to become valuable in the work of the Lord. Your story has not ended yet. God has not given up on you and has a great plan for your life. Now go out there and fulfill it!
Thank You, Lord, that You give us second chances. Although we may stumble at times, make wrong choices, and disappoint others, You offer us hope and strength to try again. Thank You for not giving up on us.