Keith M. Greer
Las Vegas, Nevada
Much attention is often given to the "moral issues" of our time: drinking, drugs, immoral life styles, as well as adultery and divorce. Brethren should be concerned about these problems, and should take the necessary steps to correct them.
Yet, one of the grave problems in the Lord's church today is the alarming rate at which many are leaving. An average congregation, in a period of two or three years, may experience a number of people "quitting" for one reason or another. What are we doing about the countless brethren who just leave without even being noticed?
We commonly hear terms such as "disheartened," "laying out," "lost interest," "left the faith," "out of duty," "back-slider," or just plain "quit." The question we must ask is, why do some "abandon ship"?
Neglect is one route that many will follow. Often, it is the result of thoughtlessness or absent-mindedness. Forsaking, on the other hand, is a deliberate act. While some may suggest that there is no difference between neglecting or forsaking, the end result will be the same.
If we "neglect our salvation," we will be condemned (Heb. 2:1-3). And if we forsake our responsibilities, we will also be eternally lost (Matt. 25:13-30).
In Acts 27:18-3t, when the Apostle Paul and his fellow passengers faced shipwreck, Paul told them, "Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved." Had those passengers not remained in the ship, they would have been lost. Except we abide in Christ, we too will be lost (Jn. 15:4-7).
When we gave ourselves to the Lord, we promised to be committed for the "long haul" (2 Cor. 8:5). Many obstacles, discouragements, and doubts will be placed in our way by Satan. But, we are told that overcoming trials and tribulations helps gives strength to defeat and withstand the next hurdle placed before us until we finally gain a victory over them (1 Pet. 1:6-9; 4:12-16). Anything we must endure on earth is of little consequence when compared with our promise of a home in heaven.
Local churches are made up of people. People, as human beings, are not perfect. Since people make up the local church, the attitudes and weaknesses of men have to be dealt with. We must take heed that, if we "bite and devour one another," we may be "consumed one of another" (Gal. 5:15-16). Rather, we are to "walk in the Spirit." If we would remember our responsibilities to God and to each other, we would go a long way towards promoting unity and less strife.
When Jesus came to this earth, he was rejected by his own - they "received him not." He was called a "glutton and a winebibber." Many continuously tried to discredit him. His friends turned their backs on him - even one who betrayed him for thirty pieces of silver. And as he hung on the cross for ours sins, he said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Lk. 23:34). Where would we be without Jesus?
In the ocean, wind and high waves may come up very suddenly and violently toss a ship about. But if the anchor is secure, the ship will not drift away. We have an anchor for our souls. There will, at times, be storms in our lives as Christians. We can "abandon ship" and perish or we can remain steadfast and "press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:14). Without him, we have nothing.
"Disillusionment" may be one reason that many falter. Many individuals become Christians without any real understanding of what life will be like as a Christian, and they believe that life will be all rosy and sweet. They believe that they will no longer be tempted by sin, and that all of their old friends will not try to lead them away (1 Cor. 15:33; Rom. 12:1-2). They believe that other Christians will always be their friends, be kind and pleasant, uplifting, encouraging, and appreciative of their efforts.
Unfortunately, reality sets in. Many Christians already have a "set of friends" and may not readily accept others into their " circle. " They also learn that Christians continue to have problems, trials, and tribulations to overcome (1 Tim. 3:12).
What each Christian must learn is that he now has God to help him (1 Pet. 5:7; Heb. 13:5). While we will all face trials, we must remain faithful (1 Cor. 10:12).
Too often, an individual who becomes a Christian comes in with lofty expectations, burning with zeal, and willing to help in any way that he can, only to be discouraged by the slothfulness of brethren. Either from lack of knowledge, or because of a lack of spiritual leadership in a local congregation, he is ignored . . . he becomes embittered he just "abandons ship."
We must beware the "root of bitterness." It can cost us our souls (Heb. 12:15). As Christians, we are in "spiritual warfare," and our enemy is Satan. He will try to discourage and defeat us (2 Cor. 2:11), and although we may grow weary of the conflict (Rom. 7:7-15,22-23), we are to keep ourselves "unspotted from the world" (Jas. 1:27). God promises us that we will win if we "faint not" (Gal. 6:9).
In his world, God has given us a "pattern" we are to follow to stay on course. He never told us it would be easy. While we may try to blame others, if we "abandon ship" we must face the truth that it shows our lack of love for God, his word, and the sacrifice that Christ made for us. We have no one to blame but ourselves if we do not honor the commitment that we made to him.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 4, pp. 118-119