There are names in Scripture that will always be associated with failure. Korah, who coveted a position that was not for him, Gehazi, who coveted possessions that were not for him, and Achan whose conduct led to Israels disastrous defeat before Ai are but three examples of this sad company. Demas is another who can be added, of whom Paul writes, "Demas hath forsaken (abandoned) me, having loved this present world".
There had been days when Demas was a fellow labourer with Paul, mentioned by the apostle together with Mark, Aristarchus, and Luke (Philem v.24). He had kept company with godly men, had shared their conversation, had carried the same load and enjoyed fellowship in the same work. But circumstances had now changed.
In the same verse that brings before us Demas departure, there is also mentioned the departure of Crescens, who went to Galatia, and Titus who had gone to Dalmatia. No adverse comment is made of them, as they left for spheres of further service. Demas, however, had gone because of his love for this present age. Only of him is it written that he had "forsaken" Paul. The word has the meaning of totally abandoning, of leaving someone in straits. It may be that he had used the excuse that he, like the others, was going to serve in other needy places, but Paul discerned his motive and left on record the true condition of the heart of Demas.
His love for this present age is in strong contrast to others who love "his appearing" (4.8). Here is the issue of the battle that had raged in his heart. Should he love that day ahead, that age yet to be, or should he love what he saw now. He, doubtless, had seen this present age in all its glory as he moved around Rome. He saw its wealth, its achievements, its entertainment, its luxury, and it drew him and appealed to him. The rigours of service and the pressures of being associated with Paul the prisoner were lodged in his mind by the Adversary. The decision was made - live for the present and leave tomorrow to take care of itself.
There is no suggestion that he was not saved, making this all the more pertinent to the reader. The world today seeks to make itself attractive to Christians. It seeks to allure by its pleasures. The media pumps out entertainment, immorality, and lies. The business world beckons us to commit ourselves to gaining its rewards. Young believers may succumb to its appealing call, gradually at first, until they are captured by it.
Over the years we have seen such falls. Some have recovered, some have partially recovered, and some never make their mark again in His service. And still it happens today. Young believer, those who travel this pathway will find that the world, like the quails so desired by Israel, can never satisfy - only the manna could fill them (Ex 16.12). The wheels of God may grind slow, but they do grind, and this road will become one of disappointments and regrets. You may never admit this, but in quiet moments, untold to even your dearest, you will feel the sting of it. To look back on wasted years that can never be recovered, to dream of what might have been, and to weep over lost reward is the prospect for believers who love this present age. For those who truly belong to the Lord this regret cannot be avoided. It is a bitter pathway, as was clearly stated by the returning Naomi (Ruth 1.21). She now recognised that when her husband took them to Moab they were "full", but the wasted years had brought them to poverty.
This is an appeal to those who are looking with longing on the world, or may even be on the downward path. You are standing at the crossroads of a decision. Stop in your tracks, turn to the Scriptures, get back to prayer, confess your sin, and let the warmth and joy of His presence become your desire. With that the attractions of this world will dim.
Yes, there is a present cost to following Him, but the reward of submission is so far greater than any cost that can be imagined. Think of Peter who, after an exhausting, fruitless night, was asked by the Lord to leave the washing of the nets, which had to be finished before he could go home to rest, and to "thrust out a little from the land" (Lk 5.3) so that the Lord could preach. The reward was so great, that they could scarcely contain it. Following Him gives us abundance of what is real; abandoning Him gives us poverty.