Yesterday, inspired by my recent discussions with a former believer turned atheist, I wrote a piece called “When it is easier not to believe“, recognising that we all face times of doubt. I think I omitted a seventh and important situation when a believer may be tempted to drop the baton of faith.
7. When you face unrelenting opposition
Whether they are Jewish, Islamic, Buddhists, Hindus or the good old Atheists, it can be unsettling for young believers to find that so many people strongly disagree with their revelation of Christ. When you are out evangelising, or seeking to strengthen your brothers and sisters in the faith, you are often faced with the many divisions even among those who believe in Christ! This can also cast doubt on the chances that you’ve got it right. Even if you are rooted firm in your beliefs, aggressive unbelievers may seek to attack the very foundations of your belief in Jesus. Often, they do this by discrediting the Bible stories, and trying to discredit the authorship and authority of the Bible as a unique compilation of inspired writings by men of God.
It would seem unreasonable to say “don’t listen to them”, because as a Christian who loves God with all your heart, mind and soul, you are not a zombie. However, when doubt is cast on the foundation and authenticity of your faith, it can be very hard to continue to believe “as a little child” (Mark 10:15), the way you first believed the gospel. However, you can not grow in Christ with a wavering faith. Your interest is in ensuring that your faith is not clouded, but clear and thriving. It may seem easier not to believe at all, when you have to defend your fragile faith constantly.
The Bible actually teaches us to “test every spirit” (1 John 4:1) and to be ready to give an answer for the hope that we have in Christ (1 Pet 3:15). When you listen to the arguments proposed by opponents of the faith, it is essential to have a “safety valve” to block entrance into your heart and mind until you have been able to screen the information and decipher that it is worthy of taking in, considering and accepting. Otherwise, you will take in far too much useless information that will cloud your mind and ability to discern what it true and what are lies. Note: if you are new or weak in the faith, avoid face to face confrontations that will mean that you have to process information and respond faster. Always give yourself enough time to screen the information, to pray and test every spirit. You also need to recognise when you are dealing with an unreasonable person, and walk away (Matt 7:6).
The fact remains that if you don’t stand for something, you will definitely fall for anything! Like James said, a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways (Jam 1:8). You already have a mind and an opinion, and by faith, you have received the Spirit of Christ, which is Truth. Respect that. Respect yourself. The “safety valve” respects the faith and the knowledge and wisdom you have already gained by believing and following Jesus, and uses this wisdom and truth to discern the truth in what others are saying. You may find that you are sharpened by this experience. You may even find that some of their critiques have basis, and there is a need to change your standpoint in an aspect of the faith. If you do find, and I seriously doubt (Matt 12:42), wisdom that trumps Christ, then that is the only situation that Christ can be dethroned from your heart.
It is also important to know that your ability, choice and right to hold a faith view is not up for discussion, no matter how strongly Atheists seek to rid you of this quality! Faith is a gift. Remember: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” Ephesians 2:8. You might want to remind them that they have chosen to exercise their faith in an unproveable theory of evolution! Faith makes us human, as we make sense of a lot of things that we do not fully grasp. We need faith, because we are not God, who knows all things, and there are just some things we have to take by faith. The Bible is clear – “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back” Hebrews 10:38.
One of the fundamental things we accept by faith, as believers in Christ Jesus, is the authority of the Bible to lead people to Christ, to teach us true doctrine and to help us abide in the faith. I believe God has preserved the Bible for us for these reasons. However, the time might yet come that the Bible becomes an illegal document. We may no longer see it to buy. The information in its pages may be banned from Google, websites and blogs. Or, those with an agenda to discredit the Bible may succeed in getting many people to approach the Bible like a book of fairytales, so that it is hard for anyone to be convicted by it anymore.
It is essential at all these times that our faith is securely and only in God, who through the Bible brought the revelation of Christ to us! Christ is the Pearl of great price (Matt 13:46). He is the WORD OF GOD (John 1:1). He is the One we should hold dear and sacred, and the Spirit of Truth which He has bestowed upon us will continue to lead us into all truth (John 16:13), even if the Bible were to be no more. We have an interest to preserve the Bible so that we can use it to witness to others and stay grounded ourselves (2 Tim 3:16-17). But remember that God is able to defend His own, so we needn’t fret about the attacks on our faith by doubters, scorners and unbelievers. Our duties are to teach the faith and live by faith.
Finally, what shall be said about the bitter testimonies of the unfaithful against the faith they once professed? We must remember that we were told that this would happen (1 Tim 4:1). Even while Christ walked on Earth, many walked with Him no more (John 6:66)… We can’t use this as ‘evidence’ that something is wrong with the faith. As we know the enemy is constantly seeking our destruction and peril, we have to recognise that some will fall by the wayside (1 Pet 5:8, Matt 13:4). They should not then become the authourity on what is wisdom or what is truth. Jesus said that unless we abide in Him, we shall bear no fruit (John 15:4). And He was so offended by the fig tree that had no fruit when He sought it, that He cursed it (Mark 11:13-14).
When it is easier not to believe, make this declaration your own: “I am not one of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and are saved” Hebrews 10:39. Hold on and don’t give up, because only those who endure to the end shall be saved (Matt 24:13). Remember that Christ told us that in this life we will have tribulation, but rejoice because He has already overcome the world (John 16:33). Let us therefore be faithful to abide in Him, so that we may bare fruit unto eternal life… Amen.
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