By C. W. Naylor
HELP FOR THE AFFLICTED CHRISTIAN
I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. – Psalm 27:13
Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. – Hebrews 10:35
I HAVE KNOWN of hundreds of people who came to the altar, supposing that they were backsliders, but who were not backsliders at all, as a little inquiry into their cases revealed. They were not cut off from God — they had simply let down in their faith, given up their confidence, and believed that they were cut off from God. Many times these fainting souls are treated as backsliders. They are taught to seek God again, to repent, to “begin at the bottom,” as it is said. This treatment has resulted in many Christians losing confidence in God and getting into a place where they can never be certain as to their standing before God, except when they are under the influence of a joyful emotion. The only thing that will cut a Christian off from God is actual sin, a willful departure from the Commandments of God.
Some people are harassed much of the time by a feeling that they have done something wrong. Their various troubles bring them into condemnation and they question their standing before God. If God chastises them a little, or permits them to pass through a trial for a time, or if they do not feel just as they think they ought to feel, they do not know if they are really saved. There is nothing else that can so torture a Christian as this fear and uncertainty.
Perhaps a little of my own personal experience will help some distressed Christian. When I was first saved I formed in my mind an ideal standard of the Christian life. When my sins were forgiven I had very strong emotions of joy. My “cup ran over” with praises to God. I had never known that one could be so unspeakably happy. For weeks I seemed to “walk on air.” I supposed that this was the normal state of the Christian life and I expected it to continue permanently, but after awhile these emotions subsided. I began to question myself, “What have I done to grieve or offend the Lord?” I could think of nothing, but I reasoned that there must be something wrong or I would still have those joyful feelings. I began to let doubts come in, and they, of course, helped to depress my emotions. Thus, I was still further alarmed. I took refuge in prayer and I prayed until my former feelings were restored. Faith mounted up and I went along rejoicing, but later on my joy subsided again, and I began to question myself, “I must have done something wrong or the joy would not have departed.” My conscience seemed to trouble me and say, “That must be it.” Then I tried to repent and I prayed until at last my joy returned.
My conscience became very sensitive. It would condemn me for things which I now know did not affect my standing with God, but at that time it caused me to doubt and be distressed, and sometimes I was nearly in despair. I would feel so discouraged that I felt it was no use to try any more. It was only by a great determination not to give up trying that kept me going. Sometimes I was tortured almost to distraction by the doubts and fears that my sensitive conscience brought upon me. Sometimes I would go to church and have joyous seasons, and my confidence would be strong, but more than once I was hardly out of sight of the place of worship when I felt miserable again. This alternation of joy and distress was repeated again and again. While joy lasted faith seemed strong, but when joy subsided, my faith was gone and my conscience would begin to lash me. Years had passed by before I learned the lesson of true faith, and I brought my conscience to the place where it would allow me to be judged by the Word of God and to hold fast my confidence through every test of emotion. I did not give up, but many times I did not have the faith to testify that I was saved if I had been pressed to declare myself.
Under the influence of discouragement resulting from the lashings of a morbid conscience, or bad feelings, or something of this sort, many persons surrender their faith and give up counting themselves as belonging to the Lord. So far as they know they have not sinned but their faith fails. They reason that they must be in the wrong and so they give up their faith and believe that they are backsliders. They have a tender conscience toward God and they would not do anything wrong for the world. They desire to live right and to please the Lord. Their hearts have not turned away from Him — they simply surrendered their faith. They are not backsliders. They belong to the Lord just as much as they ever did. All they need to do is to renew their faith, and when they again count themselves as God’s children they will find that the ties that bound them to Him have never really been severed.
Surrendering to discouragement in this manner is not backsliding — it is what the Bible calls “fainting.” Some surrender their sanctification in the same way. Fainting does not bring impurity into their hearts. All they have to do to restore their confidence is to believe as they did before. You may say that you have no evidence of your salvation. If you doubt, of course you will not have any assurance.
The Bible says, “He that believes on the Son of God has the witness in himself” (1 John 5:10). It does not say that he who doubts shall have the witness. You can have the witness in your soul only as long as you believe. Doubts silence the voice of God’s testimony in the soul. Doubts “ground the wire” so that no message of assurance reaches us. God may be speaking to us but our doubts prevent us from hearing His voice. To give up under the influence of doubts is not sin, nor does it make us sinners. To count ourselves sinners when God does not, does not cut us off from Him — it only excites His pity. It is always dangerous for us to give up our confidence, for the discouragement that follows weakens us so that we find it difficult to resist temptation, and we may easily fall into sin. But unless we do thus go into sin, we have only to go to believing — just to take hold where we let go in order to be victorious again.
There is an unfailing remedy for fainting that never fails to keep us in the faith when used in time, and it is a cure when we have fainted. David said, “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 27:13). When people do not hold fast their faith they cannot see the manifestation of the goodness of the Lord coming to help them. If they will keep trusting Him, He will bring them safely through their trials. But instead of trusting Him many Christians heed the suggestion of the enemy (Satan), “You might as well give up.” They listen to his lies and act upon his advice. Thus, they take the worst possible way out of their trouble; and instead of getting out, only find themselves in deeper trouble. O Christian, do not faint at your tribulations, but trust God, and He will not fail you. He is watching over you. He will let the fire become just hot enough to take out the dross. It will refine you but not destroy you. You will only be the better for those tests of life. God may have to reprove and chasten you, but it will be for your profit and not for your destruction. Believe in God and believe in your own integrity. Hold fast your confidence and you will never faint. If you have fainted, begin to believe again and your spirit will revive.
Even if we should turn away from our righteousness and commit sin our case is not hopeless yet, for we have an Advocate with the Father, Christ Jesus our Lord (1 John 2:1). God is still merciful and His mercy will not fail us if we truly repent.
All sins do not have the same effect upon the soul, though every sin brings guilt. Some Christians commit sin when they are overcome by an unexpected temptation, and they fall into sin suddenly and yield to temptation before they hardly realize what they are doing. Their conscience at once feels the sting of guilt. They feel immediately penitent. They are stricken in their conscience and are full of remorse. They immediately regret the step that they have taken and would undo it instantly if it were in their power. Under such conditions, restoration to the favor of God is very easily obtained. There has been no hardening of the heart against God. There has been no thinking over the question of whether or not to yield to sin, and so they have never really turned away from God. They yielded under such pressure as Peter did in the palace of the high priest (Matthew 26:69-75). His courage failed him in a critical moment and he yielded to sin, but his repentance followed with equal rapidity. If you have sinned, repent at once. Seek God’s mercy at once and you will find it. Harden not your heart by putting off repentance. Grieve not the Holy Spirit by refusing to repent, for this hardens the heart as nothing else can and multiplies the guilt enormously.
Backsliding and Fainting was taken from Winning a Crown by C. W. Naylor, condensed and revised, and may be reproduced and distributed.
“He (God) giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:29, 31
He giveth power to the faint – “This is one of His attributes, and His people should put their trust in Him and look to Him for aid.” – Albert Barnes
“If we go forth in our own strength, we shall faint and utterly fall, but having our hearts and our hopes in heaven, we shall be carried above all difficulties and be enabled to lay hold of the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus.” – Matthew Henry