“The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways…”
(Proverbs 14:14a, ESV)
Last Sunday, we examined the nature of backsliding, especially in the life of Jonah. Here is a fairly straightforward definition of backsliding. Backsliding is generally not an event but a process. It is when a believer, little by little, persists in disobedience, grieves the Spirit of God, and enters an apathetic, spiritually listless, but not altogether lifeless, state. The Scriptures inform us of many of the dear saints of God who experienced seasons of faithlessness. Who is on this list? Certainly Jonah, David and Elijah make the list. The Lord used a storm, pagan sailors and a great fish to shake Jonah out of his listlessness. The prophet Nathan and a powerful word picture was used by God to open the eyes of David. Finally, the Lord’s prescription for the reclaiming of his prophet Elijah included an angel, a cake (bread), a jar of water and some rest. (1 Kings 19) Yes, one of the ingredients used by the Lord to strengthen and refresh the spirit of Elijah was some simple rest.
One of the greatest theologians ever to write in the English language was John Owen (1616-1683). His writings are precise, demanding and extremely rewarding. Here is his insight on backsliding, “The subtilty and deceitfulness of indwelling sin, Satan, and the world; the fallacious reasonings of deceitful principles, extenuating duties, aggravating difficulties, and suggesting false rules of profession, are the principal causes of backsliding.” [John Owen, Oweniana, 51. (From “On the Hebrews, Vol. 2.”)] One of the causes for backsliding, according to Owen, is ‘extenuating duties.’ What is meant by that? I believe Owen means the vulnerability that occurs in the life of a believer when they become overextended. What strikes me about his list is that he mentions some really huge factors in backsliding—indwelling sin, Satan, and the world—and then places ‘extenuating duties’ among them. Wow! Sometimes the believer must simply rest and fight the impulse to burn the candle at both ends. Jesus modeled the necessity of rest and solitude. (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:15-16). His occasional withdrawal from a world filled with spiritually hurting and physically sick people was not a rejection of them but was motivated by his desire to minister to them over an extended period of time.
The book of Proverbs contrasts the backslider with the good man, “The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.” (Proverbs 14:14, ESV) A life of energetic activity mingled with periods of sanctified rest certainly constitute some of the ‘ways’ of the good or righteous man. Have a blessed week and we will see you on Sunday.
Privileged to serve,