by David Sisler
June 1, 1925 seemed like another day in baseball for the New York Yankees. Popular first baseman Wally Pipp had a headache, so he was taken out of the lineup that day and another player was given a start.
The new kid did so well that he remained in the lineup the next day, and the next. In fact, he stayed in the lineup for 14 years.
Not many people noticed the beginning of Lou Gehrig's career, but the record of 2130 consecutive games played by the "Iron Horse" was once thought to be unbreakable. But if things have gone for Cal Ripken the way they have for the last 2130 games, the Baltimore Oriole's short stop will break that record when he steps onto the field at Camden Yards tonight.
For Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken, it may have been easy to start. In baseball and in all of life, it is easy to start. It is a lot more difficult to finish. Just look at the 1994 baseball season. Former Yankee great Yogi Berra was right, "It ain't over till it's over."
Of all the Gospel writers, only Luke recalls Jesus' parable of the man who started to build a tower and was not able to finish it.
Jesus said, "Which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish'" (Luke 14:28-30).
Luke remembered traveling with a man who started serving Christ but never finished. His name is mentioned only three times in the New Testament, but the name Demas is synonymous with starting and then failing to finish.
Paul's writings are the source of all that we know about Demas. The first time he mentions him is when he wrote to Philemon and said, "Demas and Luke, my fellow workers, greet you." All of the indications are that he was a devoted and promising disciple. He was given top billing, mentioned ahead of Luke.
The second reference to Demas is found in Paul's letter to the Colossians where Paul sends greetings from "Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas." Luke retains Paul's confidence, but Demas, now mentioned second, has become just Demas.
The last mention is in Paul's second letter to Timothy where Paul laments, "Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world."
What began so gloriously ended in obvious tragedy. Demas' Christian life can be plotted as a downward curve on a graph: Demas, my fellow worker; Demas; Demas has forsaken me.
There is nothing as glorious as a good beginning, and nothing as tragic as a bad ending. The qualities which make a good start possible, are, unfortunately, not identical with the qualities which see life through to the end. Starting power and finishing power are not the same in any realm.
To finish, to go all the way with Jesus, requires a rational conviction that Jesus is who He claims to be and that following Him is worth paying the price He requires.
It is easy to get caught up in emotionalism and claim the name of Jesus. Sooner or later, you are going to come face-to-face with demands that in all honesty you never bargained for. When you do you probably won't finish. Jesus doesn't want your commitment to Him based on the idea that it is comfortable to be a Christian. He never conned anyone into following Him.
The Bible spells it out in advance. Following Jesus requires a total, life-time commitment. Following Jesus requires a funeral--your own--you must die to yourself and live for Him.
Starting is easy. Finishing is hard. In yourself, you will never finish, but through Jesus Christ you can!
Published in the Augusta Chronicle 9/9/95
Copyright 1995 by David Sisler
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