Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.". Philemon 1:23-24
Five Men are mentioned by Paul at the end of Philemon. At that moment, they had all just volunteered to work in the same department of a fledgling start-up church.
How did Epaphras make out? He went on to become a leader, but not just any leader. He became the kind of true leader who once was a prisoner, not the kind of divas one might see masquerading as leaders here and there today. He founded the church of Collassae and he kept it going against all odds.
What became of Mark? He stuck with the salvation program, despite challenge after challenge. He woke up. He showed up - every single day. He kept his head on a swivel. He copied down the remembrances of the apostles. Now he is known, for all of eternity, as a Gospel author.
What about Luke? He was a doctor. He could have set up his practice in the suburbs - fat and happy - setting the sprained ankles of rich kids - volunteering to coach his kid's team - donating money to make sure that his web site appeared in the weekly bulletin. Instead, he gave it all up. He gave up everything and was so very serious about that he wrote his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles for future generations.
Aristarchus? He was a "ride or die" kind of friend, the kind we all want to have. He followed Paul on at least one mission and stayed loyal to the Gospel to the end. In Ephesus he was seized by a crowd (Acts 19:29). Paul mentions him in Colossians as well. He followed Paul and served the Lord all the way to Paul's imprisonment in Rome (Acts 27:2).
Then there was Demas.
On the day that Paul wrote his letter to Philemon, Demas is a "worker", just like Luke, Mark, Epaphras and Aristarchus. In Colossians we find him and Luke together with Paul (Colossians 4:14).
Yet, somewhere and somehow, he deserts Paul. Later, when Paul writes Timothy, "for Demas having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica". 2 Timothy 4:10.
Imagine how tempted Demas must have been to have gone through all that with Paul only to ditch him in the end. Was it a woman? Was it some seed that he had allowed to be planted in himself - a seed that our enemy can recognize and foster - in the dilation of his eyes and flush of his skin? Was it money?
On the day that Philemon was written, the same co-workers were stirring up drama, the same men and women were tempting each other, and the same conspirators were working in secret for their own gain. There was no "unique circumstance" such as what I might be inclined to explain when I am guilty. The same old tricks, rules, pitfalls and rewards in the God-made system apply to us as they did then. There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). We were manipulated by evil then just as we are today.
I need simple rules to stay close to the Lord. I don't trust myself. So, I say to myself: In those days it was the same as today and I can’t be thinking that I’m more clever than the world if it got to Demas!
So here it is for me: I wake up. I have a choice. I make that choice and I choose one master or the other.
DAILY BATTLE ORDER
Think of something that you can do, at the moment you wake up in order to make that choice. Choose Jesus Christ. If it's sitting at the edge of your bed and saying "I choose Jesus Christ", start with that. Make it something you do with your first breath. Make it something you can do half-asleep and by muscle memory.