HOW TO BE A SUCCESSFUL BACKSLIDER
Derek O. Swann
‘It is a miserable thing to be a backslider. Of all unhappy things that can befall a man, I suppose it is the worst. A stranded ship, an eagle with a broken wing, a garden covered with weeds, a harp without strings, a church in ruinsÂ—all these are sad sights, but a backslider is a sadder sight still’ Â— J. C. Ryle
The golden rule of backsliding is ‘a little at a time’. Backsliding cannot be achieved overnight; it takes time and effort to be a really successful backslider. Most people make the mistake of believing that some great sin will start them on the road to successful backsliding, but this is a grievous error. When we hear of Christians falling into some disastrous sin, it is more likely to be the result of steady backsliding than the cause of it. A brick wall doesn’t collapse without there being some reason, such as decaying mortar or crumbling foundations. When Christians fall, you can be assured that there has been some steady decaying, or serious crumbling, somewhere.
To the would-be backslider here is some sound advice:
First, you must abandon the practice of prayer. However, this must be done very carefully, and with as little fuss as possible. Don’t give up praying altogether, otherwise you will frighten your conscience into action and that is fatal. Remember the secret is ‘a little at a time’. Don’t be in a desperate hurry; try to be as busy as you can, preferably in Christian work, so that you have less and less time to devote to prayer. You can always quieten your conscience by telling it that while you haven’t been praying as much as you should, you have at least been doing the Lord’s work in other ways.
Secondly, you must stop reading the Bible. But again, remember to ease your way out gently or you’ll have your conscience shouting at you. Some have found it useful to substitute the reading of good Christian books instead of the Bible, and then quietly to drop these off. In this way you hardly notice that you’ve stopped reading the Bible!
Thirdly, you must misuse all opportunities for Christian fellowship. It is advisable not to break off contact with other Christians, otherwise your conscience will prick you, and one of your friends might become suspicious, and try to help you. When you meet with other Christians don’t talk about the Lord Jesus Christ, but about other things. Discuss events, people, books, the weather, the latest fashions, anything in fact but the Lord Jesus Christ.
Fourthly, you must get as much of a worldly spirit into your life as your conscience will allow. There are several ways in which you can do this. Love of money is a sure winner, as long as you remember to call it ‘thrift’. This is a very respectable sin and will
hardly be noticed by your Christian friends. Again, under a cloak of spiritual zeal, you can dabble in all sorts of worldly alliances which will help to weaken your spiritual resistance. For example, you might engage in an intimate friendship with an unbeliever of the opposite sex, and justify it on the grounds that you may win this one to Christ. Many a Christian has been kept in a healthy state of backsliding by this means.
Fifthly, you must as soon as possible make a resolution that one day you will mend your ways. This is very important because it helps to subdue even the slightest twinges of conscience. You can always say that you intend to do something about matters ‘one day’. But, remember, don’t decide when that ‘one day’ will be;
keep it as vague as possible, and try not to think too much about it.
Last of all, you must try to forget that backsliding brings great dishonour to God. Never allow this thought to stay in your mind for a moment, otherwise you cannot succeed as a backslider. Say to yourself ‘I’m not hurting anyone, andÂ—in any caseÂ—if anyone suffers it will be me’. Refuse to think of the dishonour that a backsliding Christian brings to God. Tell yourself that you are the only one who will suffer. If once you begin to realise that backsliding drags down the name of God into the mire, you won’t succeed. Fear of dishonouring Him is one of the chief deterrents.
Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy back-slidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts’ Â— Jeremiah 2: 19
‘I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him’ Â— Hosea 14: 4
Reprinted from the Scottish Protestant View