Several months ago Thabiti asked this question on Twitter, “What do you think is the most painful thing in pastoral ministry?” I answered like this, “Seeing a long-time faithful brother or sister walk away from the Lord. You think and pray about it almost every day.”
Paul felt this way about Demas. You can almost feel his pain as he describes Demas in his last correspondence to Timothy. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia, cf. . Did you catch how personally he speaks of Demas’ desertion? “Demas “has deserted me”, says Paul. You would think Paul should say, “Demas has forsaken the Lord” because ultimately that is what he did. But Paul and Demas were boys. Their ministry was more than simply getting a Christian job done. They had formed a deep relationship. He mentions Demas two other times in his letters to the Colossians and Philemon. Each time, along with the others he names, you can sense they shared a special relationship in Christ. It was so special Paul could speak of Demas’ departure from the ministry as a departure from him.
Most church members don’t know many pastors feel this way when folks walk away from the faith, especially after many years of ministry together. It’s a break with the Lord, for sure, but also with pastors, and other believers. You feel concern for their souls, while at the same time managing the void and brokenness that now describes the relationship. You don’t have to be real close to folks to feel this way when you receive news of their departure from the faith. Even though I never knew him personally, I, along with so many others felt this way at the news of Brother Joshua Harris.
Is this at the very heart of God, Who calls, brings, and keeps us in the faith? I would say it is. The Lord made sure readers of the Bible were encouraged and admonished to “Hold On”. Christians are called to have an end time mentality, or if you will, a long-haul focus. “Holding On”/persevering is set before us over and over again in the Scriptures. Let me share with you just a few places we find the subject in the New Testament.
“the one who endures to the end will be saved”
“therefore stay awake”
“therefore you also must be ready”
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.“
“watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour“
For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him.
Jesus masterfully draws upon the absurdity of beginning without an end in view. In essence, Jesus is saying who in their right minds would do that? My good friend Ron is a Project Manager/Estimator for a Construction firm. As an Estimator, he has the responsibly to look over prospective jobs and determine what it would cost to complete a building project. His responsibility is to “first sit down and count the cost”. Ron’s company cannot afford for him to be wrong too many times or should I say, Ron cannot afford to be wrong too many times (if you know what I mean).
I could go on and on with passage after passage on the subject of endurance, perseverance, steadfastness, “Holding On”. I did a topical study in Logos on the subject and it returned 113 multi-verse passages from Genesis to Revelation. “Holding On” is a concern of most of the biblical authors, which means it concerns God.
I don’t want to see another brother or sister walk away from the faith. So, brothers and sisters, I want to spend some of the currency I have left (the one-quarter Lance) encouraging believers to hang in there, to “Hold On”. To do so, I will begin a series of posts on Endurance, Perseverance, Steadfastness, etc. I hope to encourage, admonish, and warn, whatever the need is. But remember, this is The Front Porch, these are conversations, so feel free to c’ mon on up and chop it up a taste.