Jerry Bridges' message outline on Four Essentials to Finishing Well.
Paul endured to the end but Demas, as far as we know, did not (2 Timothy 4:7,10), even though he was once a fellow worker (Philemon 1:24). This is a sobering thought because so many of us are still very young. How can we, like Paul, endure by God's grace?
1) Daily time of focused personal communion with God. It must be daily, otherwise we will find ourselves drifting in the wrong direction. Demas was in love with this present world. Our time with God must build in us affections for God that trump the temptations to love this world. It's helpful to have a plan, but the plan must direct us to God himself.
2) Daily appropriation of the gospel. The gospel is for sinners. Before we spend time in communion with God, we must come to him with the attitude of the tax collector who prayed, "Have mercy on me, a sinner," and trust God alone to make us righteous. This alone will give us the confidence to approach God and have communion with him.
If we don't daily appropriate the gospel then we will begin to base our spirituality on our performance, which will eventually lead us either towards pride or despair. But reminding ourselves daily that we are sinners and that, by God's grace, we've been clothed with the righteousness of Christ, will equip us with true and pure motivation to continue following Jesus and renouncing the desire to love this world. We ought to work hard, not in order to earn God's approval but because we already have it.
3) Daily commit yourself to God as a living sacrifice. Romans 12:1. The Old Testament sacrifice that Paul alludes to was daily performed by the priests. He carries that same significance over to new covenant saints. Our bodies are on loan from God, and we must daily re-consecrate ourselves to him. Just as Paul appealed to Philemon (Philemon 1:8-10), even though he had the right to command him, so also he appeals to us to give ourselves to God.
The sheer wonder of the mercy of God should cause us to spontaneously give it, and this we will do if we daily bask in his love.
4) A firm belief in the sovereignty and love of God. Lamentations 3:37-38. Life is full of pains, through natural circumstances and the ill will of others. But God is sovereign over all such evils, and—by faith—we can give thanks for them. God is using them to conform us to the image of Christ and will never leave us or forsake us. The gospel and the promises of God will never fail, nor will he take them from us.
I believe this is good practical theology that keeps us in synch with the gospel and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Thanks to one of my favorite authors!