As I completed a study of Exodus this past month, I was stunned by the many stories of people in the Bible confessing their belief in God and then quickly turning to an idol or to their own way. I am reminded of my own broken, messy story that gets messier when I listen to the world rather than to God or when I choose what is easy over what is right in God’s eyes. When I, or you, do that, we are intentionally falling away from our Great Redeemer and the Overseer of our souls.
Jesus tells a parable in Mark 4 that perfectly portrays the ways in which this story ends: Some of will finish well, but many will fall away.
Many will fall away. As in around 70%. Last year, I learned an interesting statistic from a sermon — only 30% of 400 leaders in the Bible finished well. Meaning pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:14), making Him more so that we can become less (John 3:30), and surrendering our whole selves to His righteous purposes (Romans 6:13). This statistic certainly doesn’t seem so surprising after reading Exodus. But why is there such a lack of faith of a God who proves Himself time and time again to us?
…We fall away because we are hardened
We are hardened by sin’s deceitfulness (Hebrews 3:13) and the desires of the world (Mark 4:17-18). Without having the encouragement of The Word rooting and grounding us in love every day (Ephesians 3:17), our hearts will not be moved by who He is and the eternity of which we actually belong.
Recently when trying to work through sin struggles in my own life, a mentor told me, “God may let the enemy come near to you, but he will say, ‘This far, but no more.’” When spiritual warfare increases in our lives, the enemy wants you to believe that evil can win this battle, and maybe the next one, too. That’s what being hardened looks like.
So… how can we be on guard from falling away?
Two suggestions for how to cast truth and light in the midst of these difficult moments, when the enemy is looking for every opportunity to use our words and our fears to prevent us from drawing closer to the Lord:
- We can be on guard from falling away if we “stay awake.”
If you read Mark 13, Jesus repeats “stay awake” 3 times and “be on guard” 3 times. As we prepare for the second coming, Jesus warns us to stay awake “lest he come suddenly and find you asleep” (verse 35). Being hardened by sin’s deceitfulness looks a lot like being asleep, which translates in Greek to “yielding to sloth and sin and being indifferent to one’s salvation.” It’s believing that it is for this life only that we have hope, that the temporary is somehow going to matter in eternity. Similarly, staying awake translates in Greek to “being active and cautious lest some descriptive calamity suddenly overtake you.”
- We can be on guard from falling away if we encourage one another.
Thankfully, the first half of Hebrews 3:13 tells us exactly how best to stay awake: Exhort one another daily. Community! Community that loves you. Community that admonishes you when you are being hardened. Fellowship that pushes you to learn more about His promises through reading scripture (Acts 17:11), praying (Mark 14:34-39), testifying boldly on behalf of Him (Acts 20:20-24), and spending time in solitude with Him (Psalm 23:1-3).
- We can not only be on guard, but CONQUER the enemy, through the blood and our testimony.
“…And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath because he knows that his time is short.” Revelation 12:11-12 (emphasis added)
With the power of God, we have a two-part command on how to conquer the great deceiver straight from the text in Revelation: the blood and our testimony.
Reflect on what the blood means to you and how your testimony glorifies our Creator. Ask God to help you believe and see that you are not alone (1 Peter 5:9). Begin your morning in worship to Him (Exodus 24:4). Hide His words in your heart — words like Psalm 23:1-3. Call on your community when you need prayer and when you want to rejoice. Share your testimony — and watch God use it.
Lord, it is through You and through You only that we have victory. We have heard the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation, and we believe in You, sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. Hallelujah! Let us know more and more what is the hope to which You have called us, the riches of your glorious inheritance, the immeasurable greatness of your power towards those of us who believe. You are our great Redeemer, the greater sacrifice, our All in All. Conquer the lies of the enemy and sustain us with Your powerful word. It is through You we live and move and have our being. May we hold You close throughout our day today and remember how You walk before, beside, and behind us, protecting us and providing us with all of our needs. Your love is more than enough. Amen.