A few years back, Pastor David Jeremiah wrote his daily devotion about an “old school” (or old church) term that you just don’t hear much any more: backsliding.
The word “backslider” is a visual term that describes someone who, having made progress in his or her Christian life, slides back into old patterns. It’s like a man climbing a hill who takes a step forward but slides two steps backward. Perhaps you can identify.
I remember hearing that term in church back in the day, usually with some level of guilt-ridden condemnation attached, but I had no idea that it had its roots in Scripture. The prophet Jeremiah warned God’s people, “Return, you faithless people; I will cure you of your backsliding.” (Jeremiah 3:22) Likewise, the Lord spoke through the prophet Hosea and observed, “My people are bent on backsliding from Me.” (Hosea 11:7)
We do tend to be “bent” that way, don’t we? The famed preacher, Dr. Harry Ironside, once said, “Any Christian who is not at the present time enjoying Christ as much as he did in a past day, or living for God as devotedly as he once did, is just to that extent a backslider.” Or, as my home church pastor used to say regularly, “If you’ve ever been closer to God than you are right now, you’re backslidden.”
I am not so sure that I would say it quite that way any more, unless I was in the mood to heap some guilt on my congregation. My understanding of grace has certainly changed my thinking when it comes to things like that. I realize from week to week, all of us are ebbing and flowing in our walk with the Lord, and that at any given time, some of us are moving forward, some of us are standing still, and some are struggling to keep our heads above water.
The problem comes not because we move off of a constant upward trajectory toward perfection, but because we get complacent in our spiritual lives. Backsliding comes when we get satisfied with just going through the motions. And as someone has said, if you find that you are coasting in your spiritual life, you’re probably going downhill.
But that’s where the news is good. God is merciful, and understands where we are, and what got us there. He says of all of us backsliders, “I have seen his ways, and will heal him; I will also lead him, and restore comforts to him.” (Isaiah 57:17-18)
So today if you feel yourself sliding backward, or coasting downhill, into sinful habits and faithless religion, may I suggest that you change direction? The Lord loves you, and He is waiting to bring His healing and restoration and to change the trajectory of your life. Let Him today.
Have a blessed weekend. I look forward to seeing you Sunday.