A friend in the church asked, “How can I pray for you this year?” I told her, “Please pray for those I have the opportunity to share the gospel with. Pray that they may grow in faith and be active in their walk with Christ.” I asked for this prayer because too many people find the joy of salvation, only to lose their faith before it grows to maturity. Each time it happens it breaks my heart.
Betty lived in the neighborhood. She had a sinful background and was living with a man. She knew something needed to change. The gospel gave her life meaning and joy. We studied the Bible every week. She enjoyed the worship of the church and started caring for her new spiritual family. I can still remember how she smiled the day she was baptized into Christ.
Then something happened. Her interest in Bible study decreased. She found excuses for missing worship, and she drifted away from her new friends in the faith. Several of us reached out to draw her back to Christ. She responded for a few weeks, but then would drift away again.
Those who share their faith with others know this story is not unique. No one becomes a disciple expecting to fail, but many do. I’m tired of seeing it happen. Please consider some of the ways I’ve seen people lose their faith. If you see these habits form in your life or in someone you love, please do something about it. A soul is too precious to waste.
Isolate yourself from your spiritual family. The front of our new church building is covered with white stone. During the construction I stopped by to check on the progress. When I arrived I saw an expensive SUV parked in the grass. A woman was filling up the back of her SUV with stones that were lying in a pile on the ground. I asked her, “What are you doing?” She explained, “I’m going to use these stones to border my garden.” I motioned toward the building and said, “We need those stones to finish our wall.” She indignantly responded, “Do you mean I can’t have these?” “No ma’am, we need these stones.” In a huff she moved toward her car to unload them. But, as soon as I turned away, she jumped in her car, sped off across the lawn, jumped the curb and raced down the street with a car full of stones.
Later, as I reflected on this bizarre event, it occurred to me the thief did not take the stones that were mortared to one another on the wall. It was easier for her to steal the stones that were just lying in a pile. In the same way, it is difficult for the devil to snatch away a believer who is devoted to the fellowship. It is that soul that is disconnected from other believers who is easily stolen away (John 10:1-10).
The answer to this problem is not simply attendance at an assembly. The mortar that binds believers together is service. You love others as Christ loves you and it drives you to do good works. The resulting fellowship creates a bond that is difficult to break (Heb. 10:23-25).
Don’t share your struggles with anyone. Every believer struggles with personal sin and failure. All of us have questions about the character of God, the nature of salvation, and the function of church. Some share their concerns, but many hide them. Perhaps it’s pride, shame, or the unapproachableness of a friend that causes us to bottle up our struggles. We may look like disciples on the outside but our hidden problems threaten to shatter our faith.
If we only knew! Our struggles are not unique. We are not alone. God knows and is willing to forgive, and fellow believers care and are willing to talk. So, have the courage to confess and to ask for help. Your soul is worth it (James 5:16; Psalm 73:15-17; Acts 18:26).
The irony is that new believers want more about God, but spiritual truths are like a foreign language to them. At first, sermons seem strange, reading the Bible is confusing, and prayer is uncomfortable. Some give up and plug back in to worldly interests.
These dear ones need patience. They need to be told that faith takes diligence. Growth is the result of godly habits. Otherwise the message of the gospel is easily lost in the pursuits of modern life. Our culture spews out skepticism and cynicism about godliness, and it engulfs righteousness beneath a sea of pleasures. Yet, there is no substitute for the daily discipline of prayer and Bible reading. When it is embraced the beautiful language of heaven begins to redefine our lives.
Be demoralized by weak and sinful Christians. Lisa said, “I just love this church because the people are so great!” I quickly told this new believer, “Don’t be deceived. We are not perfect. We are only forgiven sinners. Love God!” A few weeks later after an encounter with a sorry saint Lisa said, “Thanks for preparing me.”
The love of the church might initially draw someone to Christ, but a person must then learn to love Christ even when believers are unloving (John 13:34-35). Ultimately, our faith must be in a God, not people.
When we encounter sinful believers, it is not time to run. It is time to love them with the same patience and sacrifice Jesus expresses toward us. We must all remember that God will hold us accountable for how our attitudes and actions impact others (Matt. 18:5-6).
There are many other reasons why people lose their faith. These are enough to help you care more deeply about the faith of others and to strengthen your own.
I told you about Betty. I heard the other day she died. Cancer got her.
“Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14)
The Parable of the Sower is one of the first Bible studies I like to have with a new believer. The story is found in three of the four gospels and Jesus said, “If you don’t understand this parable, you cannot understand any of them.” That makes the story very important. Practically, the story helps new believers foresee the challenges they will encounter that threaten to destroy their faith. Being forewarn will help them be forearmed. Below is a simple worksheet we use (click on the link). Whether you use this approach or not, please do something this week to help a new believer!