The importance of finishing well in our service to the Lord cannot be understated. Too long is the list from the pages of church history of Christians who started well, but ended poorly. Unfortunately, a lot of good has had to be erased or overlooked because of bad endings. A good example of this would be a former companion of the Apostle Paul, Demas.
- We know from Paul’s writings that at one time Demas was a faithful assistant to him, someone very valuable to the cause of Christ. (Colossians 4:14) “Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.” (Philemon 1:24) “Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers.”
- Despite all of his years and months of faithful service to the church, what comes to our minds when we hear the name Demas: FAITHFUL? or COMPROMISER? There is a reason why you will not find many young men running around our churches with the name Demas! (2 Timothy 4:10-11) “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmation. Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.”
- How ironic that in the same verses that call out Demas for quitting, we read of a former quitter finishing! The Mark named by Paul in (vs. 11) is the same John Mark that quit on him and Barnabas during their first missionary journey. This is the same John Mark that was the center of the historical argument that parted two giants of the faith. This is the same John Mark that once again is traveling with Paul. This is the same John Mark that Paul considers to be profitable to him during some very dark days of his personal ministry. Despite a very shaky start, John Mark was able to redeem his name by a very strong ending!
Ending well is vital to the credibility of all that has been accomplished in our service to the Lord. The legitimacy of everything that a Christian ever does for God is called into question when he ends his service to the Lord the wrong way.
How a leader ends will determine the way future generations will view the sum total of his service to the Lord. How a leader trends will determine the way future generations will view what serving the Lord actually means. The word trend means, “to have or take a general direction.” It is possible for me to be mostly fundamental in my current doctrinal positions and convictions, while at the same time be trending in more contemporary direction. However, it is not possible for me to remain completely fundamental in my doctrines and convictions as I am trending the wrong way. Loosening up by definition involves level of letting go. In order for me to loosen up a “a little” as to where I am drawing certain lines in my convictions, I must be willing to let go of certain positions that were fundamental to the lines being held tight.
Let me illustrate. Have you ever seen parents loosen up on their dating guidelines because of the amount of pressure being put on them by their kids? In order for these parents to loosen up to a new standard of acceptable /not acceptable, they have to talk themselves into changing certain positions that have been fundamental as to why their lines have been held tight. Let’s take what has been call the “6 inch rule” for example. The position behind this guideline is basically that a physical guy/girl relationship should be reserved for marriage – single girls and guys should not be physical and “affectual” before they get married. The motivation behind this position is to prevent premarital immorality, along with all of the heartbreaking consequences the go with it. There are times when parents loosen up on the “6 inch rule” because they are tired of the constant conflicts due to policing and enforcement. Other times, loosening up takes place because parents are afraid of losing the heart of a child altogether if they don’t make some type of compromise. Still, there are times when parents loosen up in this area because of peer pressure from family and friends. In each of these scenarios parents are changing their once-held position concerning physical relationships between boys and girls before marriage.
You can always bank on a “justification” and a “rationalization” to surface immediately after someone changes a position. “Well, I remember how I was made to feel by all of the strict dating rules forced on me when I was young. There were so many times when I almost ran away because my parents didn’t trust me. (Think about the logic behind that statement!) I want my children to know that I trust them. After all, I am still as much against premarital sex as I have ever bee, and no real harm is done by holding hands, a friendly hug, and a simple peck on the cheek now-and-then.” (Of course, that is an extremely gullible approach to the subject. I’m sure that’s all the parents will have to worry about once their kids have their blessings to be physically affectual in their dating!) All of a sudden, anyone that still stands where they used to stand in unreasonable, too strict, and a legalist! What these parents are blinded to is the real motivation behind their new position. They once were motivated by doing everything that they could to help their children make it to the wedding altar morally clean and pure.
Letting go of a position is the same thing as actually changing positions. Someone lets go of one position in order to embrace another. It is common to see this take place during elections- especially presidential elections. The motivation and justification behind changing positions is always more votes. Anyone who will change a position in order to have a bigger following is not someone that is sage to follow! Anyone who will change a position in order to ease up the pressure on the process is not someone that is dependable to follow! I would have a hard time voting with confidence and enthusiasm for anyone that changes positions in order to get elected- even if their new position seems to be the right one!
one of the great dangers of trending wrong is that our new direction and positions become the new heights for those we influence. The motivation behind our new direction can actually become and actual position in and of itself of those we influence. i.e. (1) If loosening up in “little truths” helps to reach and influence more people, these “little truths” must be let go if in the name of grace – this now becomes a fundamental position of those following us (2) If holding to truths, that are not salvation related, deter segments of our culture from being willing to hear truths that are salvation related, these “non-essential” truths must be let go of in the name of grace – this now becomes a fundamental position of those following us.
It doesn’t take long for a whole new movement to be created as a direct result of a leader’s wrong trending. The irony of it all is that most of what a leader has given his life for can be completely thrown way by the very people following him in the latter parts of his ministry (followers that were more influenced by how he was trending, than how he actually built the ministry they are currently benefitting from.) How a leader ends will determine the way future generations will view the sum total of his service to the Lord. How a leader trends will determine the way the future generations will view that serving the Lord actually means. The word trend means, ‘to have or take a general direction.’So, when it comes to our legacy and enduring influence, we don’t just need to end well, we also need to trend well!
Pastor John Seay
Frederick Baptist Church