I never thought for a single moment I was doing anything wrong. I didn’t miss one church service, a single chapter in my Bible-reading plan, or one night in my prayer closet. All my ministry responsibilities were done with the same care I always use, and praising God was the first thing on my mind in the morning and the last thing before I went to sleep. For two weeks during my school’s winter break, I was in sin and out of God’s will and had no idea until He brought it to my attention. Backsliding, I learned, is not just something for teens who go off to college or people who decide they would rather watch football on Sundays. Backsliding is a matter of the heart, and it’s more subtle and deceptive than you might think.
My Problem Started Innocently
I was tired. Teaching high school during a global pandemic is harder than it sounds. The sheer number of emails from parents and students enquiring about assignments, grades, and attendance is staggering. Add to that semester tests, grade finalizations, and failure documentation plus church responsibilities and three different ministries, and I was really looking forward to time to rest. I wanted two solid weeks of sleeping in ’til whenever I wanted, eating whatever and whenever I pleased, and just decompressing from the massive amount of pressure that had been building over the semester. I had turned my dial to “Relax,” and I didn’t want “anyone” to tell me otherwise.
Then God Called Me to the Woodshed
Like any good parent, God handles His children when they miss the mark. Hebrews 12:6 says, “For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” Scourging means whipping in punishment, and let me tell you in case it has been a while since God has addressed you, it stings like nobody’s business.
The Friday night before we went back to school while in my prayer closet, I had the thought to fast the next day. I was still clinging desperately to vacation mode, so I asked several times in the night if it was really God asking or if it was just the devil trying to mess with my last “free day.” Tossing and turning, I finally thought, “If I wake up at 7:30 AM, I will know for sure it’s God, and I will definitely fast tomorrow.” Sure enough, at exactly 7:30 AM, I looked at the clock. My first thought was a loud, “Was that REALLY necessary?” After asking several times for confirmation, I thought that was a kind of weird thing to think, but then I finally got it. God was asking ME if it was necessary (because I should have known better)!
He Called Me a Backslider
Head hung low, I went straight to my prayer closet and started to pray. I always start my fasting by letting God know the reason for my fast, so I did that. I made a list of 6-7 things in my journal, but when I looked back over my list, I was literally surprised by what I had written for number 1: “Refocus my heart and life.” Wait, what?
And then the verse popped into my mind loud and clear. Jeremiah 3:11. I didn’t remember what that one said, so I flipped to the page.
“Then the Lord said to me, ‘Backsliding Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah.’”Jeremiah 3:11
The word “backsliding” smacked me right between the eyes like getting hit with a water balloon. Understanding dripped down cold over me. I. Was. In. Trouble. I spent the next three hours or so talking it out with God. Most of my sentences started with, “But I thought…” When I finally understood – when I truly GOT what had happened – of course I repented with tears.
Backsliding Means Sliding Back Into Our Old Ways
It’s called a Christian “walk” for a reason. It’s not a “sit” or a “stand” or a “lay down.” Our faith and relationship with God are on the move. We are either moving forward in sanctification and maturity, or we are sliding backwards to places God has already brought us out from.
God took me out of the lukewarm, living-for-myself life, but there I was again right smack dab in the middle of it. My concern was not for what God wanted at all. He was back to a side-dish, an also-ran, a part of my life – still a big part, but a part. The whole time, I took care of everything I needed to do to maintain my lifestyle as a born-again Christian living for God. I even loved every minute of it. But when church was done, my ministry responsibilities were complete, and my prayer time was over, I sunk down, tired, into the blissful pool of ME that (I thought) would rejuvenate me and make me feel rested and restored.
A Shift to the Spirit
God knows our needs better than we do. If there is ever a time when we feel like we’re getting worn out (the Bible calls it “weary in well-doing”), there is probably a pretty good chance that we’re working from our flesh. Tired flesh needs fleshy rejuvenation. My answer should have been to shift to the spirit. I should have gone to God immediately with my problem instead of declaring (in effect) that I was not in the mood to be told what to do. I should have asked for His will and His help finding rest instead of trying to create my own. God loves us and wants what’s best for us. He knows exactly what we need – and what will just cause more harm in the long run.
Keep Your Focus on God
My instructions for Saturday were to “Refocus my heart and life,” and that’s what I’m recommending to everyone who reads this blog. Examine your attitude. Examine your priorities. Figure out what the driving force in your life is and make sure it’s God and His will at all times. Keep moving forward and following God to stay in the race to the end.
Try these other related articles: Modern Idolatry: Meeting Needs Without God or Worship God and Him Alone: A Cautionary Tale. Please sign up to receive my blog in your email in-box. You can find that at the upper right of your screen (or at the bottom on a phone). Also, check out my YouTube Channel where I read the blogs out loud. I also have a playlist of hymns from my church.