On September 22, 2022 Fox News ran a headline that read, “Christianity quickly diminishing in US, on pace to become minority religion…” A similar headline appeared on December 09, 2022. It read, “Growing number of Americans moving away from Christianity…”
Both headlines seem to indicate that as times get difficult people start losing faith in God. Indeed, it’s often the case that challenging times drive people in one of two directions, either closer to or farther away from God.
This is nothing new. In John Chapter 6, Jesus shares some particularly hard and direct teachings. Here’s what happened next as recorded in John 6:66-69 (ESV):
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
In a similar way, speaking of the times that will precede his return to earth, Jesus mentions in Matthew 24:10-12 that, “Many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another,” and “Because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.”
So what about you, and what about me? Many of us have come a long way with Christ. He’s given us all we need to keep climbing, to grow closer to him and to trust in him. No, life has not been easy, yet God has never left us or forsaken us. If there was ever distance between us and God, it was initiated by us.
As we face challenging times now, and as we will likely face more intense times just around the corner, which way will we go? Will we keep climbing higher with God, or will we join the many who turn back, fall away, and give up? If Jesus were to ask you today, “Do you want to go away as well,?” How would you answer?
I find great encouragement to remain in Jesus by reading God’s word. Almost every day I read a chapter of the Old Testament and a chapter of the New Testament. As I do so, I find strength to face the trials as they come. A great example of this encouragement is found in Hebrews Chapter 11. Some call this the “Hall of Faith.” It lists numerous individuals who stayed faithful despite facing unimaginable suffering and challenges. Considering the faithful men and women spoken of in Hebrews 11, Hebrews 12:1-3 says:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
This is just one of countless examples of encouragement from God’s word. It reminds me that no matter how hard things get, many others had it far worse and yet chose to remain faithful to God and God’s word. Of course, Jesus is the primary example. He was the only one who ever lived on earth without sin, and yet he faced suffering and opposition that few of us can even imagine.
As we face these days and those to come, let’s draw encouragement from God’s word so that we will not grow weary and fainthearted, and so that we will not fall away. Let’s pray that with this encouragement we will keep climbing higher with Jesus and trust him all the more. Before too long those who remain faithful will see God face-to-face, and all we suffered while on earth will suddenly make sense from the perspective of eternity.
Even as we look to God in prayer and gain great encouragement from his word, let’s also commit to encouraging one another in biblical faith. Let’s pray for and seek to strengthen our fellow Christ followers as they face challenges. Let’s remind them that they are not alone, and that remaining faithful as did those listed in Hebrews Chapter 11 helps us to know God more intimately and to trust him all the more as we await his return to bring us home.
Finally, as we seek to remain faithful to God, let’s never forget that there are many who don’t yet know him. They have little hope as they face life’s challenges in their own strength. Let’s pray specifically that they will come to know Him who suffered more than any other, and who defeated even death itself. Amen!