Have you ever been walking, and you trip?
Have you ever been walking, and you stumble?
Have you ever been walking, and you slip–and then start sliding?
In these moments, does it ever cross your mind that if you fall you might not be able to get back up?
Does it ever cross your mind that you might fall too far downhill to even try going up again?
Does this line from Batman Begins resonate with you?
“Why do we fall, Bruce?
So we can learn to pick ourselves up again.”
If i’m totally honest, i have been in this fallen place–even recently. My focus got so far off course i started thinking, “There’s no point to keep going. This walk is too hard. I should just throw in the towel and walk away. God can bring me back later if He really wants me.”
You see, sometimes in our Christian walk we trip over sin, we stumble in our faith, we slip from our confidence and slide farther and farther off course. Sometimes it feels like just returning to the world, to sin, and to pleasure would be far easier than following Christ.
“He asks too much of me,” we might be tempted to say.
If we follow this thinking to its conclusion, we will become the seed that fell among thorns: “worries, riches, and pleasures of life” will choke our Christian life and prove we were never truly converted in the first place (cf. Luke 8:14).
When our focus becomes too centered on career, relationships, and happiness–it might not even be anything sinful by itself–our Christian life will take a hit. This hit will lead to backsliding if we are not made aware of it.
And if i’m totally honest, i have been fighting for my focus to be on Christ alone in recent days, because it has been greatly shifted in the past months. It was terrifying to say things like, “I wish i didn’t care about having fallen into sin,” or “I want to turn my back on this Christian thing and stop trying,” or “I’m sick of waiting for a godly, Christian girl; i’m gonna find a worldly one who will actually be interested in me.” While the last one might not seem as problematic as the first two, i can assure you that they are all on the same level of sinful because they all exhibit a lack of faith.
In this time, i was greatly blessed to pick up, by the recommendation of blogger Tim Challies, Joel Beeke’s book, Getting Back in the Race: the cure for backsliding.
He pulls no punches. He explains clearly the danger of backsliding and pastorally pleads with his readers to return to Christ.
In the first chapter Beeke describes backsliding by quoting a Puritan. “Edward Reynolds (1599–1676) called [backsliding] ‘a repenting of repentance’.” He then goes on to explain, “The longer one persists in backsliding, the less right one has to claim to be a true Christian (1 John 2:3–4), for repentance is of the essence of true Christianity (Acts 2:38, 20:21; 26:18, 20).” He lists six causes of backsliding that he then elaborates on throughout the first chapter: “Coldness in prayer, indifference under the Word, growing inner corruptions, the love of the world, declining love for believers, and man-centered hopes.”
In chapters 2-4, Beeke exposits Hosea 14:1-9 as the Biblical escape from backsliding.
Chapter 2 speaks of runners returning. Beeke focuses here on verses 1-3. Almost immediately, he explains the absolute necessity of not flirting with backsliding. He quotes William Plumer, who wrote, “He who is determined to see how far he may decline in religion and yet be restored, will lose his soul.” From there, Beeke pleads for his reader to repent, to truly repent: “true repentance is multilayered, going deep into the heart and mind.” He then describes 7 components of true repentance, the means of grace to help us in repentance, and then explains that true repentance involves a true reaffirmation of faith. “If all the law, and so all our obedience, hangs upon loving God with all our heart (Matthew 22:37–40), so all sin is trusting in idols.”
Chapter 3 speaks of runners receiving. Beeke focuses here on verse 4 of Hosea 14. This chapter is a lengthy reminder of the grace that is available to us in Christ. It holds Jesus up as our everything. For every excuse we invent about why we need something else in addition to Jesus, He is there to say, “I got that covered in Myself as well.” We must return to Him if we are straying!
Chapter 4 speaks of runners recovering. Beeke focuses here on verses 5-9 of Hosea 14. He starts the chapter with a soul searching statement:
Christian, it may be that your spiritual life has taken a fall. Like a runner who has stumbled, you can hardly see the finish line—it looks very far away. Your sin may have broken your heart, dishonored your Lord, and damaged your ability to walk with God. You may have every reason to feel discouraged. But Christ can heal your soul and bring you to the victor’s crown. By his grace, you can recover from your fall. It is not only possible for you to survive, but under the healing touch of the Savior you can thrive. When it comes to living for and glorifying the one who died and rose for you, you can do all things through Christ.
We must run to Christ, we must rest in Christ, we must recover in Christ. We cannot escape backsliding by ourselves. It must be the work of God.
This book is very practical, very soul searching, and–more important than anything–very Christ-centered. I highly recommend this book. In fact, Beeke proves clearly that our only hope is Christ. We cannot pick ourselves back up. We must look to Christ and plead with Him to pick us up when we fall.
Falls start simple: a little excusing sin here, a little lack of prayer there, a little bad company somewhere else. Over time it all snowballs, and before we know it we are walking away from the faith.
If this is you, please turn back to Christ today. If you pick up Beeke’s book, he’ll plead the same. So please, look to Christ, say no to sin, and run the race with perseverance! It will get hard, but Christ is our hope. Your hope is not your performance!
If you heed Bruce Wayne’s father’s words, “So we can learn to pick ourselves up,” you are going to be discouraged because you do not have the power to pick yourself up. Fix your eyes on Jesus, not yourself!
(Pick up a copy of this book by clicking the link below. Kindle edition is $5.78 and it is an excellent use of $5.78.)
Soli Deo Gloria