One morning several months ago, I got a phone call from a family member. She indicated that she was struggling with her faith. Prayer wasn’t “working” and she was questioning her salvation because of it. She cited the last third of Proverbs one:
“ Then they will call on me, but I will not answer;
They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me.
Because they hated knowledge
And did not choose the fear of the LORD,
They would have none of my counsel
And despised my every rebuke.
Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way,
And be filled with to the full with their own fancies.” Proverbs 1:28-31 (NKJV)
She reasoned that God was ignoring her prayers because of her refusal earlier in life to be obedient. She was convinced that she must not therefore be called and saved. In Romans 9 she had convinced herself that she fit Esau’s profile and fate rather than Jacob’s.
As I tried to reassure her that her concern itself argued against her conclusions, and that she was listening to the enemy rather than God. She responded with a collection of evidence that she was convinced proved otherwise. Then she nearly brought me to tears when she said, “I could never be like you. You’re different. You became a Christian when you were four-years-old and have been steady ever since. You don’t doubt and you’ve been a good person all your life.”
Oh! What have I done? Gary, you hypocrite! You’ve led your family, and possibly others, to believe you’ve had it all together spiritually for fifty eight years!
She, and I’ve learned since, others, have thought that my life has been one of continuous spiritual growth. In a sense it has, but not like they have thought. They thought that, whenever God spoke I listened and obeyed. They should have noticed clues to the contrary if they had watched my life more closely.
Before we got off the phone, I told her that first of all I began trusting Christ at the age of nine – not four. Of course that was trivial. Far more important was that I have had, and still sometimes have doubts and some rather significant questions as well as things I don’t understand about God and the Bible. I don’t have everything figured out. I am tempted in the same ways everyone else is and have failed. I still fail. I am ashamed of my thought life. I have a morbid dread that someday I’ll have dementia in a way that past and occasional current thoughts that I can now suppress will flush out for others to hear. I really want my last words to glorify God, not shame Him.
I realized that day that I was wearing a mask. People – especially most of my family – were seeing only the result of continuous confession of the same kinds of sin they were struggling with. They weren’t seeing my struggles. Whether consciously or subconsciously, I was hiding all that from them and giving them the impression that I’m different from them.
That doesn’t mean that everyone needs to hear details. Satan has a way of taking some public confessions and using them to talk us into giving ourselves permission to sin in the same way.
“I’ll just confess it afterward like they did, and be forgiven.” That’s partially true, but there is more than one sin involved when we do that – the more serious of which is a slap in the face of our precious Savior, nearly – if not in fact, blaspheming His suffering. How can we treat Him so flippantly??!!
Some may really be like what people think I’m like in my thought-life, but I suspect there aren’t many.
We need to be able to be imitated. But we need to be careful that our disciples know what they are imitating – not a perfect life, but a life that keeps short accounts with God. A life that consistently runs back to God – confessing sin, claiming God’s promise of forgiveness, and moving on in renewed obedience.
If all we communicate to our friends, to our family, to our children, is the victory and they don’t see the battle, we are going to continue to mislead them.
• Some will respond like the dear one who called me, putting us in a category of people exempt from their kind of battles.
• Some will hide their own struggles and imitate our outward actions, make their own masks and continue to struggle alone, usually in defeat!
• And others will see through our whole charade, call us by the hypocrites we are, and have nothing to do with Christ.
You may be looking at another brother or sister and thinking: “They’ve got it easy. They’re not going through what I am. They don’t have the thoughts I do. They don’t have the questions I have. They don’t have the doubts I have. No wonder they’re so victorious. I could never be like them.” If so, please realize that you’re probably not seeing their struggles.
Hebrews 10:23-25 – “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
Brothers and sisters, we need each other. We need to come alongside each other, struggle together, hold each other accountable, and be honest with each other.
I need you – you need me.