Encouragement for the Lonely Believer
In the midst of an increasingly and very noticeable shift away from the Word (even in once-sound churches and ministries), we may find ourselves feeling lonely and discouraged. As we watch the crevices and cracks that are left in the wake of removing biblical authority (in practice, if not from doctrinal statements) be filled in with other things (such as reliance upon experience, unity with false religion, and tolerance), we find that few people are willing to stand with us against the apostasy that is coming in like a tsunami across all denominations and organizations that use the name of Jesus. The fear of being labeled “not very nice” and the sin of “appearing negative” are the great things to be avoided in most churches and Christian organizations these days and if you do not bow to this agenda, you are generally sidelined, ridiculed, or just plain ignored.
This change leaves so many Christians without the support that God intended for us to have one with another as we traverse this difficult journey of sharing a Gospel that is no longer tolerated and standing for the Truth of the Word that few people (even those who call themselves Christians) have interest in.
So what is a lonely Christian to do?
In my own journey, I’ve learned a few things along the way. I would like to encourage you today with some of the things that God has been teaching me over the past few years as many of you have mentioned to me your own battle in standing strong while feeling so alone.
First, seek to love and please God above all.
Mark 12:30 says we are to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, with all of our souls, with all of our minds, and with all of our strength. In other words, with our whole self. So often we hold back things from God that make us uncomfortable. Certain decisions that we know we should make but are just unwilling to. I have been learning that we need to give our all to God and let Him take care of the rest (and He does! He is so faithful!!). I have made many uncomfortable decisions with many questions marks. Some of those decisions have not gone at all how I thought they would and some have ended up much better and, even occasionally, worse than I thought. But here’s the thing–through it all God cares so deeply for the one who loves Him and makes choices with this love for God in mind. In fact, Romans 8:28 makes this so clear, doesn’t it?–
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.
If we love Him, He will work all things out for our good and His glory. And this is no empty promise. I am sure that you, like me, can look back over your life and see His wonderful faithfulness through that tough choice to stand for truth when it required sacrifice. So even if we have to make a difficult decision that we know is the right decision, we can be confident that we are doing the right thing, despite any deep sadness or antagonism that may surround that decision.
Second, seek to know and honor the truth of God’s Word, at any cost.
This is no easy task in this current “Christian” culture. Most people are uninterested in the truth because–let’s face it– much of God’s truth from scripture certainly doesn’t give us the warm fuzzies or fill us with peace and comfort. None of us likes the idea of being a sinner; of there being an eternal hell for those who reject Christ; and any number of doctrines that make us uncomfortable from a human standpoint.
But God has given us His Word and we are to believe, submit to, and obey all of it. Notice there is no clause anywhere in scripture that tells us we can ignore, rewrite, or re-interpret what is confusing or unpleasant to us.
The one critical thing to keep in mind here is how the Bible becomes clearer and clearer the more effort we give to studying it. I remember talking to my brother (the Pastor) a few months ago and he mentioned how he was looking forward to studying a specific passage that had a lot of questions surrounding it. I said something along the lines of “Well, I guess we can’t always really know the answer.” And his response has stuck with me– “I have found that if I really give effort to studying it, the answer will be found in the Word.”
The problem for most of us is that we’d prefer to read a novel or watch a movie than to study the Word. And so we flounder in the confusion born of a lack of knowledge so much more than we should.
This is a constant and daily struggle and endeavor for me, as well. I have not arrived in any way. I am simply thankful that God has been teaching me the value of knowing His Word and of the authority it must hold for all who would claim Christ.
Third, don’t tolerate compromise.
Compare everything against scripture. As John says “Test the spirits” (I John 4:1) and Paul exhorts: “Test everything; hold fast what is good.” (I Thessalonians 5:21). If something shows itself to be unbiblical we should speak up with love. It is not easy but if not us, then who? Always be loving. Always use scripture. Man’s opinion doesn’t matter.
And if the party you are speaking to doesn’t care? If they have no interest in what you are saying or in looking at scripture? Well, then we learned a hard lesson about that very thing.
“If you stay you will become like them.” This is what we heard when we were seeking wise counsel in a very difficult situation so many years ago. This profound statement was filled with wisdom and we did find it to be true. In this current age of great apostasy, we (my husband and I) have learned that rather than affect the change we so longed for, we would end up giving in and tolerating unbiblical ideas and programs. Thankfully, we recognized that this is the first step on the path of deception. We are thankful for that wise counsel given so many years ago and continue to consider it whenever we are faced with a similar situation.
Fourth, don’t let yourself be ruled by the crowd, the trends, or by what’s popular.
Many, many years ago now, I spoke up against a false teacher that was being brought into the youth group at the church where I attended. At this time, this particular teacher was becoming well-loved in evangelical circles and my words were not well-received. I found myself second-guessing myself. But then I’d go to scripture, compare what this teacher was saying to the scripture, and realize afresh that–if one was judging this man by scripture–that he must be classified as a false teacher.
Many years passed and then one day, I remember very specifically realizing that this same teacher had now made his heresy abundantly clear through books he wrote and associations he had.
This experience reminded me to stand up for the truth, no matter what the world (and the mainstream church) is saying. It just doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is: What does God say?
Fifth, find your identity in God and not in the good opinions of fickle man.
I hate to even use the word “identity”. It brings the idea of psychological babble to my mind. But what I am referring to here is the deep need that we all have to be loved. We try to get that love through the wrong places and even as born-again believers we can find ourselves caving and compromising because we want so badly to be liked by our families, our friends, our co-workers, and our church families.
God has taught me much about this through the past thirteen years of blogging and through many other situations in my life. And, yet, I still battle this desire almost every day. I don’t want people to think I’m strange, negative, or divisive (or any other number of words that have been used to describe me in my efforts to stand for God’s Word).
And, always, in the midst of these accusations, I eventually come back to the same conclusion: God is my all. I need nothing else.
As a side note, I have learned that I must, with humility, evaluate every accusation and examine myself. I cannot simply and pridefully assume that someone is wrong when they say something about me I don’t like. And so that must be our first step as we encounter the opinions of others. And changes should be made if we find ourselves lacking in love or some other godly attribute. But, when it’s all said and done, it is God we must please and not man. Paul puts it like this in Galatians–
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)
The only approval that matters is Christ’s. If we are worried about winning the approval of man we are going to be sorely disappointed as those who seek to speak truth. For man is generally uninterested in the spiritual truths of the Bible and will hate the one who shares it (John 15:18-20; I John 3:13). In fact, Peter tells us to expect to suffer for the sake of righteousness–
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (I Peter 4:12-14)
Sixth, keep your eyes on Jesus.
This can be so hard in the midst of such great apostasy and in a world heaving with trials and troubles, the likes of which we’ve never seen before. But as the prophet Isaiah reminds us so clearly, only the person whose mind is stayed on the Lord will experience the peace that is promised to the children of the Lord–
You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
4 Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. (Isaiah 26:3-4)
It is when I allow my eyes to focus in on the troubles and the hurts and the pain that my spirit is so disturbed with in me. As one of my favorite hymns puts it–
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
Seventh, and last but not least, give great effort to prayer and Bible study in the hard decisions.
Oh, what a faithful God we serve! If we will but seek Him and His will for our lives, He will make it known. Of course, it is not always on our timeline, is it?? But He cares about us and loves us so much (Romans 5:8; I Peter 5:7) and He has promised to guide and direct us as long as we aren’t leaning on our own understanding or continuing in willful sin but, instead, fearing and trusting Him above all else (Proverbs 3:5-8).
I am not sure if this of encouragement to anyone or not. I hope that it is. And, remember, that you are not alone. Not everyone is enamored with the modern fodder that goes by the name of Christianity. Not everyone is leaving the Bible behind. And not everyone has turned their back on biblical authority. And, through God’s faithfulness, you may find a little pocket in your own community of like-minded believers that will encourage your soul. But, if not, then God will provide you encouragement through some other avenue. Perhaps even through this blog.
Oh, my dear readers, stay the course. It would seem that our redemption draweth nigh! Let’s continue to proclaim the Gospel and stand for the Truth until the Lord returns! Maranatha!