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Power Of Prayer – How powerful is it?
The power of prayer should not be underestimated. James 5:16-18 declares, “…The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” God most definitely listens to prayers, answers prayers, and moves in response to prayers.
Jesus taught, “…I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20). 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 tells us, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” The Bible urges us, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18).
Power Of Prayer – How do I tap into it?
The power of prayer is not the result of the person praying. Rather, the power resides in the God who is being prayed to. 1 John 5:14-15 tells us, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.” No matter the person praying, the passion behind the prayer, or the purpose of the prayer – God answers prayers that are in agreement with His will. His answers are not always yes, but are always in our best interest. When our desires line up with His will, we will come to understand that in time. When we pray passionately and purposefully, according to God’s will, God responds powerfully!
We cannot access powerful prayer by using “magic formulas.” Our prayers being answered is not based on the eloquence of our prayers. We don’t have to use certain words or phrases to get God to answer our prayers. In fact, Jesus rebukes those who pray using repetitions, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7-8). Prayer is communicating with God. All you have to do is ask God for His help. Psalm 107:28-30 reminds us, “Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.” There is power in prayer!
Power Of Prayer – For what kind of things should I pray?
God’s help through the power of prayer is available for all kinds of requests and issues. Philippians 4:6-7 tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” If you need an example of a prayer, read Matthew 6:9-13. These verses are known as the Lord’s prayer. The Lord’s prayer is not a prayer we are supposed to memorize and simply recite to God. It is only an example of how to pray and the things that should go into a prayer – worship, trust in God, requests, confession, protection, etc. Pray for these kinds of things, but speak to God using your own words.
The Word of God is full of accounts describing the power of prayer in various situations. The power of prayer has overcome enemies (Psalm 6:9-10), conquered death (2 Kings 4:3-36), brought healing (James 5:14-15), and defeated demons (Mark 9:29). God, through prayer, opens eyes, changes hearts, heals wounds, and grants wisdom (James 1:5). The power of prayer should never be underestimated because it draws on the glory and might of the infinitely powerful God of the universe! Daniel 4:35 proclaims, “All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?'”
BE REVIVED IN JESUS NAME
8. Answered prayer
“Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings” (Jer 3:22 NKJV).
The term “backsliding” is not found in the New Testament but is used in the Old Testament, especially in the Book of Jeremiah, with reference to the children of Israel. “O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, do it for Your name’s sake; for our backslidings are many, we have sinned against You” (Jer 14:7 NKJV).
Backsliding is turning away or turning back from the Lord. It is falling from the spiritual level one has attained (Rev 2:5). It is reverting to sin. It is the waxing cold of one’s love for God. It is one’s faith growing weaker. It is putting one’s hand to the plough and looking back. “But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:62 NKJV).
Backsliding is like a dog returning to its vomit. “As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” (Prov 26:11 NKJV) It is like salt losing its savors. “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” (Matt 5:13 NKJV)
I think backsliding is not just going backwards but failing to go forward. Such a person won’t be at the place he is supposed to be – he’ll be lagging behind. If one isn’t going forward, one is, in a way, going backwards.
Backsliding is a thing of the heart but has outward manifestations. “The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, but a good man will be satisfied from above” (Prov 14:14 NKJV). It is the heart that first turns away before others begin to see the physical signs of backsliding in a backslider. “So the LORD became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the LORD God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice” (1 Kings 11:9 NKJV).
All the evils that Solomon did were as a result of his heart that first turned from the Lord. But he had been warned about this before then. “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods. ‘Solomon clung to these in love’” (1 Kings 11:2-3 NKJV). Did you see that? Solomon’s heart was turned away from God to foreign gods. This was the same Solomon that the Bible had said: “And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David, except that he sacrificed and burned incense at the high places” (1 Kings 3:3 NKJV). But this was during the earlier years of his reign.
Backsliding is a thing of the heart. Nobody is above backsliding. There are backsliding pastors who’re still preaching and church workers and other Christians who have backslid and don’t miss church programmes. This is not about boasting or being self-confident. “If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin” (1 Cor 10:12 NLT). You must watch your heart.
A backslider is a Christian who is committing sin particularly privately but sometimes publicly – a sin which causes him or her to regress from being a firebrand or vibrant Christian to a lukewarm, joyless Christian.
Non-believers don’t backslide – only Christians do – and this is because it is possible for Christians to sin. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10 NKJV). The truth is all Christians may have backslid in one form or the other, and need to repent and return to God. Non- believers have never received the saving grace and are living in sin; they’re down, and therefore need fear no fall!
Signs of backsliding
1. Spiritual pride. When one begins to focus on one’s works and not the works of Christ on the cross. Our works are not the basis of our acceptance by God. We can’t stand and run the Christian race without Christ. Pride goes before destruction (Prov 16:18). God opposes the proud (James 4:6). If you think you’re standing, take heed lest you fall (1 Cor 10:12).
In Luke 22:33 , Peter started backsliding when he boasted that he was ready to go with Jesus to prison and to death. Later when Jesus was arrested, he could only follow him at a distance, not closely
(Verse 54). Thank God that Jesus had prayed for Peter before his temptation. Jesus later restored him and reinstated him into ministry after his resurrection. The same Peter who had denied him later became a fearless witness of Jesus, and church history records that he died on the cross like Jesus requesting however to be turned upside down as a mark of respect for his Master and Savior. Beware of spiritual pride!
2. Lack of hunger for the Word of God. When a Christian begins to go for days without reading or studying the Word of God and still feels comfortable about it, he is backsliding. Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God (Luke 4:4). A Christian who has hunger and thirst for God will search the Scripture daily like the Berean Christian (Acts 17:11). He will treasure the Word of God in his heart (Job 23:12).
3. A sick or non-existing prayer life. When a Christian doesn’t pray privately as much as he used to do, he is backsliding. Jesus says man ought always to pray and not to faint (Luke 18:1). When the fire of prayer is going out gradually, there is backsliding. Such a Christian may be sleeping when he’s supposed to be praying. He may even be sleeping while praying! He may find prayer meetings with other Christians unattractive and unnecessary.
In Luke 22 , Jesus told his disciples to pray so that they might not fall into temptation but unfortunately they slept off. No wonder they deserted him as soon as he was arrested.
While not despising congregational/corporate/public prayer, private prayer isn’t negotiable for a child of God. Your Father who sees you in secret will Himself reward you openly (Matt 6:6).
4. Seemingly harmless worldly pleasures taking ascendancy over spiritual activities . A Christian is backsliding when playing games and sports, engaging in recreational activities, watching favourite TV programmes including football matches, etc. become more important to him than prayer, Bible study and other spiritual activities. “He who loves pleasure will be a poor man” (Prov 21:17 NKJV). Love of pleasure can also lead to spiritual poverty which will affect other departments of one’s life. Love of pleasure will result in spiritual death. “But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives” (1 Tim 5:6 NKJV).
5. Justification of sin and loss of sense of guilt. When a Christian begins to excuse sin in his life, explain it away and pardon his sin instead of being sorrowful and repent, he is backsliding. Such a Christian is departing from the faith and his conscience may become dead or seared. He’ll soon be wallowing in sin without feeling guilty. “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Tim 4:1-2 NKJV). We’re already in the latter times or end-time hence many are departing from the faith.
6. Toleration of sin in fellow believers. Lack of abhorrence of sin in others is a sign of backsliding. A Christian should hate sin but love the sinner including the sinning Christian. But when a Christian begins to show understanding with fellow believers why they must commit certain sins or approve of their sins, he is backsliding. That is not biblical love.
Paul wrote to the church in Pergamum (Pergamos), “And yet I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you who are like Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to worship idols by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin. In the same way, you have some Nicolaitans among you — people who follow the same teaching and commit the same sins. Repent, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth” (Rev 2:14-16 NLT). This church was rebuked for tolerating these heretical teachers and those practicing their wrong teachings in that church should have been barred if they didn’t repent. The church was asked to repent of this toleration of sin and compromise.
The church in Pergamum was unlike the church in Ephesus. Although that church had her own failing, she was commended for not tolerating evil people (Rev 2:2).
Unlike the church in Pergamum, the church in Ephesus hated the deeds of the immoral Nicolaitans (Rev 2:6).
The Bible says the soul that sins shall die
(Eze 18:20). So why should a Christian be tolerating others’ sins? A Christian cannot afford to be smiling at the sin of fellow Christians. “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Ps 9:17 NKJV).
7. Control by the flesh. When a Christian is being controlled by the flesh (the desires of sinful nature) and not by the Spirit of God, it shows he is backsliding. Such a Christian will be manifesting the works of the flesh rather the fruit of the Spirit. “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God” (Gal 5:19-21 NLT).
8. Worldliness. An obsession with the thought of making more money, acquiring more worldly goods, fashion, etc. is a sign of backsliding. The Bible says the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil, and some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. (1 Tim 6:10) “Those who love money will never have enough. How absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness!” (Eccl 5:10 NLT) No Christian can serve God and money – you can’t serve two masters (Matt 6:24; Luke 16:13). What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? (Matt 16:26 ) This world is passing away and all that is in it – don’t lose your soul by loving the world (1 John 2:15-17).
Worldliness is a danger sign of backsliding. Don’t allow anxiety about meeting your needs and acquiring your wants cause God to be dethroned in your heart; seek first the Kingdom of God. “So don’t worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern. ‘So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today’” (Matt 6:31-34 NLT).
9. Living a hypocritical life. When a Christian begins to live a double life – he flows with sinners while maintaining a form of godliness among believers. That is hypocrisy, duplicity.
Such a Christian is gradually moving away from the church and integrating with the world until he is completely gone into the world. “You hypocrites! Isaiah was prophesying about you when he said, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away. Their worship is a farce, for they replace God’s commands with their own man-made teachings’” (Matt 15:7-9 NLT). Mark 7:6
says a similar thing. Be a Christian; don’t be a hypocrite. Don’t adjust your life to suit the world or to be accepted by the world – that is a sign of backsliding.
10. Lack of concern for the sinful condition of the world. A backsliding Christian has no passion for the souls of sinners which is a tragic neglect of the Great Commission – go into the world and preach the gospel to sinners (Mark 16:15-18). Should Christians watch sinners go to hell? Ezek 33:8-9 says, “If I announce that some wicked people are sure to die and you fail to warn them about changing their ways, then they will die in their sins, but I will hold you responsible for their deaths. But if you warn them to repent and they don’t repent, they will die in their sins, but you will not be held responsible” (NLT).
11. Withdrawal from fellowship with saints. Before this symptom manifests, other symptoms are already evident – the heart first withdraws from God before a Christian begins to withdraw from fellowship with saints. The psalmist says, “ I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the LORD’” (Ps 122:1 NKJV). Church attendance and fellowship with saints becomes a burden to a backsliding Christian. It should not be so. Consider what the psalmist said in
Ps 84:10 : “A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked” (NLT). Heb 10:25 says Christians should not forsake the assembling together of fellow Christians.
How To Avoid Backsliding
i. Watch and pray . Keep the fire of prayer burning in your life. Jesus told the disciples, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation ” (Matt 26:41 NKJV).
Mark 14:38 and Luke 22:46 record a similar instruction by Jesus. Unfortunately the disciples slept off in the place of prayer and couldn’t withstand the temptation that followed. They all deserted him. Maintain a vibrant private prayer life.
ii. Walk in the spirit. To walk in the spirit means to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Gal 5:16 says, “So I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves” (NLT). If you walk in the spirit consistently, you’ll not backslide. Not to walk in the spirit is to walk in the flesh. Jesus was filled with the Spirit of God before he was led into the wilderness, so he didn’t fall for satan’s temptation (Luke 4:1–13).
iii. Do regular self examination. Do a frequent spiritual check-up to be sure your life is right with God. “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Cor 13:5 NKJV). Identify any sin in your life, confess, repent and forsake it. Don’t tolerate sin; don’t play with it; don’t rationalize it. No sin is too small to take anyone to hell fire! “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:9-10 NKJV).
Concerning the church of Ephesus – the loveless church – the Bible says,
“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place — unless you repent” (Rev 2:5-6 NKJV).
God is ready to forgive any sinner who genuinely repents. He’ll receive him and will not count his sin against him. He’ll treat him as if he has never sinned.
“Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Return to Me,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Zech 1:3 NKJV). You can repent and return to God today. He’ll heal your backslidings.
“Return, ye backsliding children, I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we are come unto thee; for thou art Jehovah our God” (Jer 3:22 ASV).
iv. Embrace holy living. No habitual sinner is a Christian, and no Christian is a habitual sinner. “Those who are God’s children do not continue sinning, because the new life from God remains in them. They are not able to go on sinning, because they have become children of God” (1 John 3:9 NCV).
Whoever says he knows God and doesn’t keep His commandment is a liar (1 John 2:4). And the summary of these commandments is love – love God and love fellow human beings. Love is the fulfillment of the law. “Love does no wrong to anyone, so love satisfies all of God’s requirements” (Rom 13:10 NLT).
v. Listen to and respond to anointed messages that convict sinners of sin and call back sinning Christians to the path of righteousness (1 Tim 4:6, 16). There are messages that make those living in sin to be comfortable in sin. This is dangerous.
After an anointed, convicting and convincing message preached by Peter on the day of Pentecost, 3,000 souls were saved, baptized and added to the church. They were not pressured. No. It was the people themselves, after listening to him, that asked what they must to do to be saved. “Peter’s words convicted them deeply, and they said to him and to the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what should we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Each of you must turn from your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:37-38 NLT).
We need messages that will save sinners who are outside the church (non-believers) and save (cause repentance in) sinning Christians. We don’t need messages that make both categories of sinners feel comfortable. This is a serious challenge to ministers of the gospel to watch what they’re preaching. Are you preaching a permissive message or a salvation message, edifying message? Paul told Timothy, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right, and God will save you and those who hear you” (1 Tim 4:16 NLT).
vi. Respond to God’s discipline . If you sin and God disciplines you, in whichever way He chooses, respond by repenting and forsaking your sin. That is how not to be completely lost. Don’t reject the discipline of God persisting in sin. God disciplines you because He loves you and wants to save you from a journey into hell. “And have you entirely forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you, his children? He said, ‘My child, don’t ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, and don’t be discouraged when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes those he accepts as his children.’ As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Whoever heard of a child who was never disciplined? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children after all. Since we respect our earthly fathers who disciplined us, should we not all the more cheerfully submit to the discipline of our heavenly Father and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always right and good for us because it means we will share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening — it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way” (Heb 12:5-11 NLT).
vii. Seek the Lord daily and don’t neglect fellowship with fellow Christians. Don’t let the devil isolate you from the ministry of the church. He can do that by making you see faults in other Christians causing you to want to have nothing to do with them. By that, he also keeps you away from fellow Christians who can speak into your life and support you in your hours of trial, and the devil can exploit this to draw you away from God.
Withdrawal from fellowship will deny you the protection of the church and other benefits that church membership offers . “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near” (Heb 10:25 NLT).
viii. Pray for one another. In addition to personal prayers, believers need one another’s prayer to stand and keep standing because we are all members of the body of Christ. 1 Cor 12:26 says , “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad” (NLT). We should be our brothers’ keeper.
It was the prayer of Jesus that saved Peter. May be he would have ended like Judas Iscariot who committed suicide.
“And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren’” (Luke 22:31-32 NKJV). We need each other, and we need one another in the Christian race. Soldiers don’t fight separately; they fight as a unit. “Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere” (Eph 6:18 NLT). No wonder, Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:25 and 2 Thessalonians 3:1, “Pray for us.” The same phrase is written in Hebrews 13:18 , and Paul is one of the persons Bible scholars have mentioned as possible writer of the book of Hebrews.
ix. Encourage one another. This is one of the key benefits of fellowshipping with fellow believers. There are times when a believer is weary or his faith is low, encouragement from a fellow Christian becomes an energizer. According to Titus 1:9, a person to be ordained an elder/pastor/bishop is expected to be able to encourage others with right teaching based on the trustworthy message he has been taught. In fact, there are Christians who have been giving a special gift of encouragement. Rom 12:8 says, “If your gift is to encourage others, do it!” (NLT)
Everybody needs encouragement at one point or the other. The person giving it now may soon need it. No Christian is superman. Discouragement is one reason people backslide. Christians ought to be like that apostle, Joseph or Joses named Barnabas by the other apostles, and Barnabas means son of encouragement
(Acts 4:36). Indeed, he was an encourager. In this passage where his name is first mentioned in the Bible, it says he sold his land and brought it to the apostles (verse 37). We see Barnabas later being a great encouragement to Paul, John Mark and the early church.
Christians should deliberately encourage one another. That’s why the epistles are full of words of encouragement to the church then and indeed the church today. Apostle Peter said, “My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that the grace of God is with you no matter what happens” (1 Peter 5:12 NLT). Paul wrote to the Romans, “ I’m eager to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. In this way, each of us will be a blessing to the other” (NLT). Did you see that? The people Paul wrote to needed encouragement just as he did too. Every Christian needs encouragement. The writer of the Book of Hebrews says, “Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds” (Heb 10:24 NLT). And Paul, writing to the Corinthians said, “Encourage each other” (2 Cor 13:11 NLT). Timely encouragement can save many believers from backsliding.
x. Persevere in whatever hardship or persecution you’re going through.
Hardship or Persecution is another reason people backslide. “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim 3:12 NKJV). Did you see that? Expect persecution the moment you choose to live a godly life.
If you’ll not backslide, you must endure to the end; you must stand firm despite all persecutions. Jesus said, “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes” (Matt 10:22-23 NKJV).
Matt 24:12-14 says, “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (NKJV). Persecution is part of the Christian package. Mark 13:12-13 says a similar thing. “Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (NKJV). Despite persecution, you mustn’t backslide; determine to endure to the end and God will help you. He’ll keep you from falling
You must not allow hardship or persecution to abort your journey to eternity with Jesus. You’ve laid your hand to the plough; you mustn’t look back no matter what. “Let this encourage God’s holy people to endure persecution patiently and remain firm to the end, obeying his commands and trusting in Jesus” (Rev 14:12 NLT).
2 Tim 2:3 says to endure hardship as a good soldier of Christ. Stand firm, stand strong in the faith. Don’t go back because of any negative experience you’re going through. You won’t backslide in Jesus’ name. And if you’ve backslid, repent and return to Jesus. The Lord will forgive you and receive you back. Always remember that your affliction is temporary. “For our present troubles are quite small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever” (2 Cor 4:17-18 NLT). Halleluiah, the troubles you see will soon be over!
Conclusion: There is restoration for every backslider if he repents. If you’re in that condition repent, confess your sins and return to the Lord. Don’t die in your sin and go to hell. If you’ve not backslid, pay attention to the Word of God and keep asking for grace to stand to the end. You’ll make heaven in Jesus’ name.
If you’re not born again, I urge you to take the following steps :*Admit you’re a sinner and you can’t save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start to attend a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church. There you will be taught how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now : “0 Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and surrender my life to him today. I invite Jesus into my heart today. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you Jesus for saving me and making me a child of God.”
I believe you’ve said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You’ll need to join a Bible believing, Bible teaching church in your area where you’ll be taught how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May the Lord make you a Cedar Christian. May you grow into Christ in all things becoming all God wants you to be.
Regrettably, conflict is a reality in the church. Often that conflict is between a congregant and the pastor. After all, he is–in many ways–the focal point of the church’s public ministry. A good pastor is hard to find. A good congregant is equally hard to find. How then should you seek to approach your pastor when you have problems with his ministry, his behavior, his family or any other related issue? Here are a few guidelines to help us all live peaceably with each other:
1. Remember that your pastor–like you–has feelings. Pastoral criticism hurts. If you pastor is conscientious he will work had at his duties of preaching, pastoring and outreach. Imagine the hurt you would experience if someone told you that your work as a husband, wife, parent, employee was wretched. All Christians, but especially those bringing criticism (which is not bad in itself!) must “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).
2. Never confront your pastor about his preaching immediately after the service. In preaching the pastor is not only declaring God’s word, but pouring out himself. It is an intensely personal and yet public exercise. It leaves the preacher laid bare before the congregation. It is often exhausting. Your pastor is not likely to react well when receiving criticism immediately after preaching. As the Proverbs remind us, “To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is” (Prov.15:23)!
3. Deal with the issues you have with your pastor quickly and wisely. I have known people who have waited the better part of a year before they raised an issue which had been rankling them. During that time, the individuals who are holding back become bitter and distance themselves from the minister, and, sadly, from the ministry of the Word. Deal with matters in a timely manner in order to prevent bitterness. I have known others who have left churches because they alerted the pastor of their problem at the 11th hour. What good can he do then? As Scripture says, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and give opportunity to the devil” (Eph. 4:26).
4. Complain, if you must, up the chain of command. Never raise your problems with fellow members. Your problem becomes their problem. It is actually quite common for members of churches to pollute the fellowship by complaining to other members about their problem. If you have issues with your pastor, either speak with him or to your elders (or other governing authorities). Many a pastor has known of the church member who canvasses the congregation in an attempt to gain a following. Again, the Proverbs teach us, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Prov. 12:18).
5. Never criticize your pastor to or through his wife and family. Sadly, this sometimes happens. It is cowardly at best and malicious at worst. It is a great sin to attack a man by attacking his family. It causes untold hurt in the body of Christ. It alienates you not only from your pastor, but from his family. Here, it would do us well to remember the following Proverb: “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.” (Prov 17:9)
6. When giving criticism, be ready to receive criticism. Your problem with your pastor may simply be a spiritual problem in your own life. If you object to something in his preaching, it may be that he has simply been faithful in preaching the Word. That said, he is a sinner just like you and may also have been unfaithful in his preaching. Remember that both you and your pastor are sinners. There may be fault on both sides. “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
7. Love the church and love your pastor . If you truly love both your pastor and your church, your chief motivation will not to be to vindicate yourself–but to build up the body of Christ. Your manner, tone and heart will be positive, rather than negative. You will seek to correct in love, rather than tear down your pastor. This is the reason for the Apostle’s exhortation to Christian unity in the Spirit in Ephesians 4: “…that the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, make the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph 4:16)
8. Never leave a church without having attempted to resolve problems with your pastor. Ducking out is not an option. It is just plain sinful. It is sin against God chiefly, but also against His church. You may have genuine concerns with the ministry of your pastor and the direction of the church. But to leave without speaking to them may lead to further damage in the church. Your voice, rightly and humbly used, may be the instrument God uses to bring godly change in a man’s life. “The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, and adds persuasiveness to his lips. Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Prov. 16:23-24)
9. Do not raise issues that you know your pastor is unable to fix . I know of a situation in which a congregant told his pastor, “You’re a faithful preacher but you do not have the preaching gifts to sustain a weekly ministry.” I wondered what was the motivation and point behind telling this. After all, if a man is not gifted enough to preach, it is not as though he can go and read a book and suddenly develop such a gift! Take care that your criticism or counsel is something that your pastor can actually work on in order to change. If not, simply telling him a personal opinion is an act of unkindness designed to break him down.
10. Consider what might be going on in your pastor’s life before you approach him.
Generally this is what wise pastors do in order to avoid vexing someone who is already burdened. After all, there is such a thing as “the straw that breaks the camel’s back.” He may have sickness in his family or other pressures in his life. In fact, a faithful pastor often has innumerable burdens which he is carrying about which you probably do not know. In the first five years of my own ministry, my wife had three children. With each pregnancy, she had progressive difficulties. Try to factor the challenges of a pastor’s life into whether you must confront him, or when you should confront your pastor. You could always begin by praying for him and by bringing whatever concerns you have to the throne room of heaven. “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time because the days are evil” (Eph 5:15-16).
All living things grow. With human beings, we watch babies learns to crawl, to walk, to talk. We grow from total dependance on our parents to eventually being parents are ourselves. The maturing process is a journey to independence.
Our spiritual journeys are just the opposite. We start off in rebellion against God, thinking we are fully independent from Him.
Spiritual maturity, then, is the process of recognizing our complete dependence on God and learning to rely on Him rather than ourselves. As we grow and mature in our relationship with Him, we realize how much we need Him.
But for all the talk we hear about spiritual growth, it’s often difficult to understand exactly what that looks like.
Too often, churches and ministries focus on getting people into church, getting them to pray a prayer and check the “Christian” box. But after that, there isn’t always a lot of post-decision care. New people coming into the church might call themselves Christians, but they might not have much of an idea what that means on a daily basis. Following Jesus isn’t just a one-time decision. It’s a daily process of growth.
That growth is a biblical imperative. The expectation of Scripture isn’t that we grow old together, but that we grow up together. The book of Hebrews lays this out as a strong rebuke:
“ For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child (Hebrews 5:11-13).
So what does growth look like in the life of a Christian?
YOU’RE LEARNING MORE ABOUT GOD
When you love something, you get to know it. Imagine being married and not knowing basic facts about your spouse. Not only is that ill-advised for household bliss, it’s an indication of a lack of love. When we don’t know Jesus, don’t know His gospel, don’t grow in it, that is indicative of the fact that our love for Him is either non-existent or at best immature.
YOU’RE DIGGING INTO DEEPER THEOLOGY
Just as a child’s diet changes as he or she matures, so does the baby Christian’s. To borrow the metaphor we see in 1 Peter 2, we start off on the “milk” of basic truths about God and his work, but the expectation is that we grow. Beyond the basics, anyone who has been a Christian for some time should be able to “chew” on more advanced concepts. The foundation should be built for them to grow.
YOU’RE NOT WAITING ON OTHERS TO FEED YOU
Too many Christians still want a pastor or leader to spoon feed them—telling them what to think, what to read, and so on. That’s not good enough for growing Christians. You absolutely should seek out a church with sound theology and Gospel-centered preaching that challenges you. But anyone who has been a Christian for longer than a year should be able—at least partially—to feed themselves.
YOU’RE LEARNING AND TEACHING
Notice that the expectation of Scripture is that, in time, all Christians should be teachers: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). It’s not necessarily that we all stand up on a stage and preach at church, it’s that anyone who has been a Christian for a reasonable duration of time should be able to not only understand the Word of God, we should be able to teach it to others.
Teaching the Gospel is a biblical expectation for all Christians. The gift of teaching is not for all, of course, but the ability to relay, share and help others grow on a micro level is for all of us.
YOU’RE GROWING IN GRACE
Peter tells us that we should be growing in grace. This is to share the heart of God. Not to desire justice or retribution for those who wrong us but for our lives to be characterized by grace. Our default response should not be anger or bitterness but forgiveness and grace. Even when people don’t deserve it. Because that’s what grace is.
YOU FIND YOURSELF WANTING TO OBEY GOD
In John 14:15, Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” One of the natural expectations of a growing Christian is faithfulness and obedience to the commands of God. Not out of duty, but out of love for Him. Our obedience results from what Jesus has done for us and of our love for Him.
YOU’RE GROWING AS A PERSON
The apostle Paul, in Colossians 1:10, talks about bearing fruit. In Galatians 5:22-23, he lays out the fruit of the Spirit: : Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. One of the best ways to measure growth is by looking at this fruit in our lives. We are all different, and so we’ll all see certain fruit from this list growing more naturally than others. Joy may happen for you with ease and be the most challenge for one of your friends. Still here’s the thing: All of this fruit should be visible not just in our own self-assessment. Impartial outsiders should be able to observe these fruits growing in our lives. If other people don’t see evidence of this fruit in our lives, then perhaps our fruit is not growing as much as we think it is.
YOU’RE LESS WORRIED ABOUT PERSONAL PREFERENCES AND MORE CONCERNED ABOUT UNITY
Paul, in Ephesians 4:13-15, notes that unity of the faith and knowledge of Jesus are measures of fullness in Christ. The war of personal preferences that dominates consumeristic American Christianity is not a result of maturity but evidence of a lack of it. It’s not wrong to have a blend of styles between churches, but the degree to which believers expect or even make efforts to change a church based on their preferences often causes a substantial lack of unity.
YOU’RE WILLING TO SPEAK THE TRUTH IN LOVE
Paul teaches us, in Ephesians 4:15-16, to speak the truth in love and to grow in Christ—which makes the whole body grow in love. This flies directly in the face of our culture’s obsession with avoiding offense. Still, it’s God’s truth. But it also doesn’t mean banging people over the head with everything you disagree with. As you grow spiritually, you’ll learn not to avoid hard topics, but to speak into the lives of other believers—always with loving humility and grace.
YOU’RE ENGAGED IN COMMUNITY
The writer of Hebrews encourages us to continue meeting together. In a culture moving further and further from regular church involvement, the Bible teaches that growing, mature Christians will continually and consistently meet together. We are created for community.
It’s easy to call ourselves Christians. It’s easy to stay where we are. Growing takes work. We have to be intentional.