Jump Start # 3115
John 6:66 “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him any more.”
She was a young Christian. Her spiritual journey started off like that of many of us. She was full of questions, excitement and couldn’t get enough. She was at every service, every class. She had a notebook that she filled with notes.
But something happened. I ran into her the other day. She told me that she no longer believed. I couldn’t believe that she didn’t believe. I asked her what she no longer believed? She said, “The stuff at church, the Bible.” She even confessed that she wasn’t sure about God anymore. I asked her about her notebooks. She said that she had thrown them away. I asked her when was the last time she attended worship services. She said it had been months and months. She no longer went. She no longer believed.
Our verse today tells the sad story of the disillusioned disciples who gave up on Jesus. The Lord was no longer giving them free meals. He wasn’t “meals on wheels.” He had something much more important and that was spiritual truth. They were interested in their bellies and Jesus was interested in their souls. Since Jesus wasn’t going to give them what they wanted, they left. “His disciples withdrew,” is what the passage states. That’s actually an inaccurate statement. Those that withdrew were no longer disciples. A disciple sticks with his master. A disciple is mentored by his teacher. To give up on the teacher is to lay down your discipleship. They were no longer disciples. And, when they left Jesus, what were they returning to? Their lifeless, hopeless and helpless lives that they had been living. Without Jesus, their sins were going to kill them spiritually. Without Jesus, Heaven wasn’t possible. Without Jesus, there was no bridge to the Father. They walked and they left the best friend they ever had.
How is it that someone who once believed to later claim, “I no longer believe?”
Is there new evidence that changed their mind? Has evolution been proven factual? Have they found reason to no longer accept the inspiration of the Scriptures? Have they proven that the Bible is the product of man? I no longer believe? Why?
Here is what I have found to be generally true:
First, “I no longer believe,” is not based upon facts, evidence or proofs. “I no longer believe” is a choice that closes one’s eyes to what they know is true. For some, the Bible restricts them from the freedom of selfish sin. One can’t be sexually immoral and stay in fellowship with God and have the Bible as the compass of his life. One cannot be a drunkard and walk with the Lord. It’s so much easier to say, “I no longer believe,” than it is to say “No” to the world and “No” to the people who are pulling us away from the Lord. “I no longer believe,” removes the shame and the guilt of a lifestyle that is not godly or holy. “I no longer believe,” allows one to dance with Satan without any regrets or remorse.
Second, for some, it’s the crushing storms of life that leads to the absence of faith. A child dies. A mate is crippled. A family member is the victim of violent crime. And, through that long, dark journey, one wonders, “Where is God when I need Him?” “Why did the Lord allow this?” The questions. The fears. The emptiness. All of that takes a toll on a faith that was not as strong as one thought. Not understanding trials and temptations, having misguided expectations, being weary of the pain that never seems to end, one comes to a corner in their life and declares, “I no longer believe.” They would like to believe, but the pain has been too great. They once believed, but the reality of where they are has changed all of that. They question the goodness of God. They wonder if everyone has been brainwashed. And, in sorrow and pain, they confess that they no longer believe.
What can be done? How do we keep faith alive? How do we keep one from sinking so low that they give up and throw in the towel?
First, the love of the world, and the call of the far country is all it takes for some. You’ll notice in our passage that Jesus didn’t chase after those who walked away. He didn’t water down His message. He didn’t change His mind and decide to feed them after all. He didn’t buy their allegiance. They walked and He let them go. That’s hard for us to grasp. That’s hard for us when the one who is walking away is a family member.
Often there are tell-tell signs that indicate someone is heading to the far country. Look at their circle of friends. How many are followers of Jesus? That says something. Listen to what they are saying. Pay attention to the music and movies they are interested in. The jump back into the world isn’t like a belly flop in a swimming pool. Usually it’s slow and gradual. What’s their spiritual life like outside the church building? When you start seeing these things, that’s the time to move into action and move quickly. It’s time for a talk. It’s time for the shepherds to know. It’s time to readjust priorities. Don’t sit back and then later declare, “I saw it coming.” Ezekiel tells us of the watchman on the wall who saw the enemy approaching but failed to blow the trumpet. The blood of the city is upon his hands because he did nothing. Now, had he blown the trumpet and no one paid attention, that’s their fault.
Second, when someone is going through storms, help them stay put upon the rock of Jesus. Those winds can blow us right off of what we once believed. Help them by talking and praying with them. Help them by reminding them that they are not the only one who has experienced trials and troubles. Encourage. Help. Reach out. When we are vulnerable, we are really vulnerable. Satan knows that. Alone, our troubles seem much worse than what they really are. Alone, we feel out numbered and overwhelmed. This is why a fellowship of support and love is essential. Reach out. Be there.
“I know longer believe.” Sometimes that comes from a heart that doesn’t want to believe. They don’t want everything that comes with being a disciple. They don’t want to be responsible. They don’t want to support others. They don’t want to be pure.
And, when a disciple quits, the world gets a bit darker. God loses yet another worker. Our fellowship gets smaller. And, Satan smiles. He smiles only for the moment, because the Lord has plans for him.
When a disciple quits…