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More Than Backsliding

Briefing: Do you know anyone who spent a season of their life following Jesus then turned back and no longer follow Him?

Dispatch (Assignment): Read John 6:60-71.

On the Street: I enjoy doing independent studies on (what I assume are) relatively minor things I find in the Bible. I once spent several weeks on the numbers in the Bible. I looked up all the verses that contained the number seven, twelve, and forty. It was very eye opening and fun.

Another good study, and a fun twist on your daily Bible read, is to spend a day reading a specific chapter and verse number of the Bible. For example, read chapter 1, verse 1 of all the New Testament books. The next day read chapter 2 verse 1 of each New Testament book and so on.

All these numbers and chapter studies are interesting but what do they have to do with backsliding? I made an observation a couple of years ago that stuck with me. Revelation 13:18 (NIV) says, “This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666.” This is a very important number to keep in mind. I have an uneasy dread of this number because it is associated with the “beast” who is Satan. John is the only New Testament book that has a Chapter 6, verse 66. John 6:66 (NIV) is talking about Jesus’ disciples, it says, “From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.” To me, it is a neon sign that says, don’t lose your focus.

Whether my concern over this verse being 6:66 and/or the number 666 is misplaced, it does not diminish the value of the verse. We are not talking about backsliding. Merriam-Webster defined backsliding as to lapse morally in the practice of religion or to revert to a worse condition. This is much worse than backsliding. As a Christian, I am going to have seasons where my relationship and closeness with God are good and some that are not so good. I’m not talking about having a dry, slow, wintery season.

When I think of backsliding, I picture myself walking up a hill and I lose my footing. I began to slide down the hill, still facing the direction I want to go, just not getting enough traction to continue forward. When I find myself back sliding, it is time to dig in, not give up and not forfeit ground that I worked so hard to take. The real problem comes when I give in to the forces that are trying to bring me down. I cannot give up or quit during these times. These are trials.

There is a huge difference in back sliding, still facing forward, and turning around and walking the other direction. If we quit fighting and give up, we are turning our back on God. We have to stay pointed in the right direction, even if we are losing ground.

What does it look like to dig in? Get on your knees and pray, read His Word (The Bible), seek godly council and re-commit to having a closer relationship with Him.

This is what verse 6:66 is talking about. It says, “…turned back and no longer followed Him.” These followers find themselves questioning Jesus and ultimately themselves. They were following a person they wanted to lead a revolution and restore Israel to the glory days of King David. This was not working out the way they planned. We see them get discouraged and quit. They tried to make Jesus what they wanted Him to be and did not worship Him for who He was.

Sometimes we find ourselves in a season where things are not going well. We feel distant in our relationship with God. This distance may have started with backsliding but instead of fighting through and regaining our traction we give up. If we are honest with ourselves, the reason is often the same for us as it was for the followers in this verse. We wanted Jesus to be something other than what He is. We expected Him to be a God who gives us promotions at work, material possessions, and an easy life. We were not willing to be the worshipers He wants us to be.

What kind of season are you experiencing? If you are backsliding, don’t give up, dig in and endure. If you are in a good season, prepare yourself mentally to maintain your focus and drive when you do fall into a wintery season.

Investigational Resources: For more on perseverance, look up Romans 5:3-4, Hebrews 12:1, James chapter 1, 2 Peter chapter 1, and Revelation chapter 2.

Officer Safety Principle: No matter how bad you think your situation is, keep your focus on God and don’t give up.

from The Gospel of John Through the Eyes of a Cop
©by Charles Gilliland. Used by permission.
Click here to check out the entire Through the Eyes of a Cop series!