The Demas Syndrome
by David M. McNabb

Paul, God’s apostle to the Gentiles, had, at sundry times, various believers working with him. When he was in Rome, he sent a couple of letters to Colosse: one to the Colossians and one personally to Philemon. In both of these letters, Paul acknowledges some of those with him: Epaphras and Aristarchus, Paul’s fellowprisoners; Onesimus, Philemon’s slave who was "a faithful and beloved brother;"; Marcus (Barnabas’ nephew), Lucas (the beloved physician), and Demas.

All of these brothers were valuable to Paul, and were considered by him to be worthy of recognition. What an honor! How wonderful it must have been to have been involved in the ministry of one of history’s greatest preachers! And what company: Paul, a great apostle, who is credited with authoring 14 books of the New Testament and bringing Christianity to the Gentiles; Mark, who wrote one of the Gospels; and Lucas, author of another of the Gospels and of the Acts of the Apostles.

One would think that there was no way any of these men could walk away from the truth – that there was nothing that could turn them aside. They saw great things. God worked through them mightily.

But Jesus said, "A sower went out to sow his seed: ...and some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. ... Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. ... And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection." (Luke 8:4-15)

Many times, God’s Word is sown in a person’s heart. The word is received and sprouts. But instead of being allowed to grow and prosper, it is choked out by the cares of the world. Things around him or her are allowed to take preeminence. Careers, education, finances, relationships, etc. fill the believers mind and heart, and the Word is neglected. God ends up with whatever is leftover of our time and energy. That little sprout doesn’t get the attention and nourishment it requires. It withers, dries up and even dies.

This is what happened to one of these men who worked with Paul. This brother, whose assistance Paul treasured, became a great disappointment to him. Some time after the epistles to Philemon and the Colossians, Paul wrote, in his second letter to Timothy, that his fellow servants had gone to various cities to minister and that only Luke remained with him. But he also informed him, "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world." (2 Tim. 4:10)

After being in the company of Paul and these other great men of God, Demas – himself a fellow laborer in the Word – let the world creep in and choke out his zeal. The carnal things finally consumed his life, and he walked away from Paul and the ministry.

Jesus said, "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other." (Matt. 6:24) John agreed, saying, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.." (1 John 2:15) Strong words. It is impossible to be sold out to God and, at the same time, love the world. We must choose.

When Demas came to the fork in his road, he chose the things of this world – the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – and left the work of the Father. We must not fall prey to the Demas syndrome. We must fall in love with God and His word, serving Him always with a pure heart fervently. We must set our mind on the things of our Lord and His saving grace.

These words must be our theme: "I am resolved no longer to linger, Charmed by the world’s delight; Things that are higher, things that are nobler, These have allured my sight." Only then can we really live – both in this present world, and in the world to come.