BACKSLIDING (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah
(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on June 5, 2019)
Do you have to stay on your kids to clean their room, do their homework, or finish their chores? What happens if you get out of sight? They start goofing around. Some kids don’t but most, like ours, do. Then, when you return, they give you some lame excuse. You have to stand over them and hold them accountable. Unless they personally want a clean room, good grades, and finished chores, it will be a constant battle. So also, many Christians need a balance of accountability and personal responsibility to make it in the Christian life. Just like kids, they get distracted and start goofing around. They need others to hold them accountable but that’s not enough. They have to personally want to live the Christian life. If either accountability or personal responsibility is lacking, they will backslide.
Paul was in a Roman prison when he wrote his letter to the Philippian church. He wanted to visit them but he couldn’t. But, word was getting back to Paul, maybe through Timothy and Epaphroditus, that the Philippians were backsliding into their old way of life. They were starting to regress in their faith. So, he wrote them a letter encouraging them to press forward. First, he began by reminding them that he is “confident…that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) We all need a Paul in our lives who will remind us of God’s faithfulness in our lives. Next, he told them that he was praying that their “love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” I have many godly people who pray like this for me every day. Do you? Paul even assured them of his personal commitment to stick around and help them even though he was ready to go and be with Christ. Finally, he pointed them to the ultimate goal of having the mind of Christ in Philippians 2:5-11. What a great model of accountability! Do you have a Paul in your life who keeps you from backsliding? Are you a Paul to someone who may be backsliding?
Paul also knew that the Philippians needed to take personal responsibility for their spiritual growth. So, he said in Philippians 2:12, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” In other words, he was saying, “You don’t need me to stand over you for you to behave as a Christian is supposed to behave.” Some people have confused “work out your own salvation” for “work for your own salvation.” There is a big difference. Salvation is only by “grace through faith.” (Ephesians 2:9) We can only receive it as a gift from God. In the context, Paul was telling the believers in Philippi to take responsibility to cultivate the mind of Christ in themselves. It’s great to have people in our lives who can hold us accountable but we have to do our part in reading the Bible, praying daily, turning and repenting from sin, obeying the Word, submitting to the Holy Spirit, rejecting the Enemy, attending church regularly, connecting with other believers, and sharing our faith.
Charles Spurgeon, one of my favorite preachers from the Victorian era, said it best, “The Christian life is very much like climbing a hill of ice. You cannot slide up, nay, you have to cut every step with an ice axe; only with incessant labor in cutting and chipping can you make any progress; you need a guide to help you…. If you want to know how to backslide, the answer is leave off going forward and you will slide backward, cease going upward and you will go downward of necessity, for stand still you never can.” Are you moving up or are your sliding back in your Christian life?