As I was seeking the Lord on what to write this month, He brought me back to an experience I had many years ago.
In the summer of 1977, I went through what I call a “faith crisis.” I had just graduated from Bible college and was having a very difficult time adjusting to the real world. Along with that came a breakdown in a relationship that I had hoped would have turned out differently. I found myself in a city of over a million people and friendless. On the night I will never forget, I bought a bottle of wine and pack of cigarettes. Earlier that day, I had made the decision to leave the faith. After smoking two of the cigarettes and a drinking a considerable amount of the wine, I was sitting on the front steps of my efficiency apartment and Jesus spoke to me these words, “Where are you going?” Immediately the words of Peter from John 6 came into my head. “Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.” Immediately, I got up and poured the wine down the sink and crumbled the package of cigarettes and threw them in the trash. Within six weeks of that date, I was in full-time ministry and have been there ever since. To this day, I thank God that He intervened in my life.
I am very analytical in my reasoning. Over the years, I have analyzed that “faith crisis.” Many times, I have asked myself could it have been avoided. I firmly believe that it could have been avoided. I am not telling you this to bring accusations against anyone. To my knowledge, this is the first time I have ever spoken of this publicly and this happened 44 years ago. The reason I am writing this is because in the past two years, we have seen many people enter a faith crisis. I recently heard a great pastor of a wonderful church say that they were only back to 60% in attendance from where they were before Covid 19. That is due to fear mongering that has taken place all around the world. What we need to understand is that fear attacks faith. This same pastor mentioned that their livestream service has multiplied. What I’ve learned is what the Bible gives as a remedy to faith loss cannot be received through the internet. I use the internet to teach. I thank God for livestreaming and the internet. The cure for a faith crisis does not come through teaching and preaching.
Hopefully, you are still reading. What every person going through a faith crisis needs is for the church to be the church. What they need is fellowship and encouragement. What they don’t need is judgement and criticism. The writer of Hebrews is writing to a group of people that are going through a crisis in their faith. They are facing a very fierce persecution from the Roman government. Many Jews had turned against the believers. In the first verse of Hebrews 3, they are encouraged to consider Jesus. When you look at this in its context you will understand that Jesus walked the earth just like a man. This gave Him the ability to sympathize with humans. Then he begins to remember how the children of Israel lost their faith in the wilderness. That brings us to verses 12 and 13 where he writes, “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
There are two things we are told to do with those who are losing their faith. The first is to take care. These two words are one word in the Greek language. That word means to carefully notice something. There is an implication used with that word and that is to prepare a response. In the USA, we have many weather warning systems. They not only warn of an approaching storm but also tell us to prepare to act. We need not only notice those who are losing faith, but we need to prepare to rescue them. So often we notice them but do nothing to rescue them. We use cliches like tough it out or even worse is we say that they didn’t have much faith. Instead of giving them what they need, we make matters worse.
The second thing we must do is found in verse thirteen where it says but encourage one another day after day. The word encourage is the Greek word parakaleite. It comes from the word parakaleō. In this verse, it can be interpreted as to call for or to plead with in earnest. Instead of leaving them alone, we need to be coming alongside them and begin to encourage and plead with them to not lose faith. Notice with me that this is not a one-time event. The writer of Hebrews says that we need to do this day after day. To put it simply, we need to be in contact with those who are going through a faith crisis.
Now is the time to prepare and to begin to call out to those who are struggling with their faith. Will you join me?