Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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We Stand by Faith

boy upheld by dad

by Dennis Pollock

When I was a boy sitting in church I used to hear about a strange creature called a "backslider." In those ancient days preachers would give altar calls for "backsliders and sinners" to come to the front and get right with God. Nobody ever talked about "seekers" in those days. People were neatly divided into three categories: Christians, backsliders, and sinners. As I got older I figured out that the backslider was the man or woman who had once known and walked with Christ, and then turned away from Him and gone back to their previous lifestyle.

The fact is, the idea of backsliding is a definite Biblical concept. God seems to be always warning His people against this. Some uses of the actual word would include:

  1. "Return, backsliding Israel,' says the LORD; I will not cause My anger to fall on you…" (Jeremiah 3:12).
  2. "Why has this people slidden back, Jerusalem, in a perpetual backsliding?" (Jeremiah 8:5).
  3. "My people are bent on backsliding from Me" (Hosea 11:7).


Although the term backslider is not used in the New Testament, warnings about forsaking Christ are plentiful:

  1. "Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away" (Hebrews 2:1).
  2. "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God" (Hebrews 3:12).
  3. "For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning" (2 Peter 2:20).

Here and then Gone

Of course it is not only the Bible that serves as a warning against turning away from the God we once professed to love. Most of us who have walked with Christ for a while know personally of individuals who were once the most enthusiastic of Christians, some perhaps even having plans to enter full time ministry, or maybe they were in the ministry, and then something happened. Some disappointment knocked them off their course or some temptation overcame them, and suddenly they were nowhere to be found. They might have sung louder, raised their hands higher, carried the largest Bible of all, and attended the most prayer meetings and Bible studies, but now they stay at home living a life every bit as secular as the atheists and agnostics. Backslide, drift away, fall away… however you want to describe it, they now live in that terrible, dark place of those who depart from the living God.

The reality is, there are pressures that will come powerfully upon you from the moment you profess Christ, pressures that attempt to drive you from the warmth and love of the Savior and back into the cold, barren desolation of the world. For this reason Jesus gives His people wonderful promises based upon overcoming. His letters to the seven churches in the early chapters of Revelation give seven different promises "to him who overcomes," some of which include:

  1. "To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God" (Revelation 2:7)
  2. "He who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations" (Revelation 2:26).
  3. "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne…" (Revelation 3:21).

Stand!

In Biblical terms, the opposite of falling away from God is standing. The Bible has a great deal to say about us standing in the face of pressures, temptations, and attacks. There are only two options when the hurricane winds of the evil one come pouring into our lives: we can collapse or we can stand. So far, so good. Every Christian would agree with this. But the difficulty lies in just how we are to stand. What is it which makes one Christian stand and another collapse? Why do some men and women seem to follow Christ consistently all their days and other seem always on the verge of collapse and spiritual ruin? Are some just naturally stronger than others? Are there such things as spiritual "birth defects?"

Strong windWhether we stand or fall has nothing to do with how strong we are. Persevering in the Christian race is not due to some natural superiority of character but rather to our faith walk with Christ. We stand by faith! Paul writes, "Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith" (Romans 11:20). To the Corinthian believers he writes: "Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand" (2 Corinthians 1:24).

We do not stand by willpower or by resolutions to be virtuous or by genetic superiority or by gritting our teeth and rolling up our sleeves, or by making vows or writing promises to God in our journals or by shedding tears after a moving sermon about committing ourselves to serve God. We stand by faith. And not just some generic, fuzzy, target-less faith – the faith by which we stand is faith in Jesus Christ, the crucified and resurrected One who loved us and gave Himself for us. Where this kind of faith is strong and solid, our lives will be as well. Where our faith is weak we become weak… and entirely susceptible to the schemes and machinations of the evil one. Whether we collapse miserably at the first strong wind of adversity or temptation, or stand upright like a mighty oak tree through decades of difficulties and spiritual assaults is going to depend upon our faith relationship with God our Father and His Son Jesus Christ, a relationship of dependence, trust, and continual focus which Jesus referred to as abiding in Him.

Paul's Concern

This truth is plainly revealed in Paul's letter to the Thessalonian believers. He tells how concerned he was to learn their spiritual condition, writing, "When we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith" (1 Thessalonians 3:1,2). Paul sends his young assistant Timothy to this band of Christians for the purpose of establishing them in their faith. He tells them that he knows that they are suffering some tremendous afflictions as a result of their stand for Christ, and he repeats his reason for sending Timothy:

For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain. (1 Thessalonians 3:5)

Here we see Paul the apostle and pastor showing deep concern over a people he fears may be on the verge of falling away due to pressures and tribulations. He sends Timothy to find out, not their health, financial state, level of self-esteem, psychological well-being, or emotional stability. He says, "I sent to know your faith." As far as Paul is concerned, if their faith in Jesus Christ is sound, if their confidence in the Savior is healthy and strong, all is well. He has nothing to worry about regarding these believers.

Paul is not disappointed. He goes on to say:

But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and brought us good news of your faith and love… therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith. For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 3:6-8)

The faith of these believers in Thessalonica is strong. They are still believing believers. Everything is going to be just fine. The persecutions and pressures they have faced have not turned them aside from the race that is set before them. Paul says with great relief, "Now we live…"

Stand or Fall

Most of us have seen people get shot in the movies. Their normal reaction is to fall. When a bullet has entered a vital organ, most people do not have the strength to remain on their feet. In boxing, the goal is always to knock down and knock out the opponent. As long as your opponent is on his feet staring into your eyes with his gloves up near his face, you know the fight is not over. But when you see your opponent on the canvas, flat on his back, his eyes closed and his arms and legs sprawled out, you can be pretty sure you have won the fight. This is Satan's great desire for you and me. He wants us to fall, and will employ every available means toward that end. His lies, his enticements, his mocking, ridicule, and scorn, and his constant cries of "loser" in our ears are all for the purpose of knocking us off our feet and out of the race.

Jesus Christ calls us to stand. But we must understand that our standing is not by our own strength of either character or will. It is through Jesus Christ Himself and it is activated by faith in Him. The Bible says, "So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy" (Romans 9:16). To stand in Christ over a lifetime requires the very thing Paul was looking for in the Thessalonian believers – faith in Jesus Christ, "for by faith you stand" (2 Corinthians 1:24). The focus and the glory must always go to God through His Son Jesus Christ. Jude writes, "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 1:24).

USS Akron

In 1932 the great dirigible, the USS Akron, was descending for a landing near San Diego, California. Many navy men were on the ground holding onto the 400 foot docking ropes to guide the huge airship to its landing spot. Suddenly a strong gust of wind blew the ship up into the air. Most of the men on the ground quickly let go of the ropes. One man held on until the ship had ascended fifteen feet and then let go, falling to the ground and breaking his arm. As the ship ascended over 100 feet there were three men still holding onto the ropes. Finally one and then another could not hold on any longer, lost their grip, and fell to their deaths. At that point there was just one lone sailor still holding onto the rope as the ship rose higher and higher. Eventually it ascended to 2,000 feet and still he held to the rope. Finally the crew inside were able to pull him up into the ship and to safety. How could he have held on so long? The man's name was Bud Cowart and it was learned that he had taken some of the rope and tied himself with bowline knots until he was secure. In a sense he wasn't holding onto the rope; the rope was holding him!

This is what Jesus Christ provides for His people who will trust, not in themselves but in Him. We do not keep ourselves; He keeps us. In His great high-priestly prayer in the seventeenth chapter of John, He says to the Father: "Those whom You gave Me I have kept…" (John 17:12). Paul exults: "And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!" (2 Timothy 4:18). And as for overcoming, the Bible makes it clear about God prescribed means by which this is accomplished: "And this is the victory that has overcome the world --- our faith" (1 John 5:4). Yes, you can fall, but you do not have to fall. There is One able to keep you secure until that Day! Trust in Jesus.

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