Hope for the Backslider
Francis Bourdillon, 1873
Was there ever a time when you were more in earnest about your soul than you are at present? Did you once pray more and read your Bible more and take more delight in spiritual things? Were you more watchful against sin? Did you strive more earnestly to serve God? In short, are you now more cold and careless and worldly, than you used to be?
Alas, if so—then it is a woeful change. For what is it that has happened? Just this: you have gone away from God. You have gone back. You are a backslider. Even if you have not fallen into gross sin, if you keep up the forms of religion, if you still kneel down morning and evening and read your Bible and attend the house of God—yet, if your heart has grown colder and your interest in spiritual things has become less and your love to your Savior has died away—then you have lost ground; you have gone back; you are a backslider. For one may be a backslider in heart, even when not seen to be so outwardly.
How sad a state! The Christian ought to be always going forward—but you have gone back. “Grow in grace,” says the word of God—but you have grown in coldness and carelessness. Many around you have gone forward, but not you. Many who were careless when you seemed so much in earnest—have now turned to God; while you, alas, have turned away from Him.
Does conscience never speak? Are you not sad when you think? Are you not ready to cry with Job, “Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God watched over me; when His lamp shone upon my head, and when by His light I walked through darkness” (Job 29:2-3). Whatever it is that has led you away from God—can anything make up for what you have lost? Are worldly amusements able to give you that happiness which you once had in communion with God?
Do you find in a cold and careless state of mind and in following your own will—that comfort which you used to find in serving God? Does anything that you now have, make up for the loss of that sense of pardon and acceptance in Jesus Christ and that witness of the Spirit within your heart, which you once had, in some measure at least? Are you not sad, when you compare the present with the past? Must you remain as you are—cold, careless, dead? Must what you have lost, be lost forever? Is it really true, as you sometimes think sadly, that for you, at least—there is no more blessing or comfort in religion? Is there no help, no hope?
Yes, there is hope, and hope for you. Far as you have gone from God, as much as you have lost, as cold and careless as you have become—there is yet hope for you in Him.
Who was it that first led you to seek God? How was it that, in those bygone days—you were roused to be in earnest about your soul? Whence did those serious thoughts come? Why were you ever sorry for your sins? Who taught you to pray indeed and to look in faith to Jesus? Was not this the work of God in your soul? Did He not seek you by His grace? Did not His Holy Spirit show you that you were a sinner and give you a sense of need and lead you to a hope in Christ? Was it not all God’s work?
“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear” (Isaiah 59:1). His grace did much for you of old—and His grace can do as much now. He used to hear your prayers—and He is willing to hear them now. He began the work—and He can revive the work. He began it of His free grace and mercy—and He will not refuse your prayer, if you ask Him now to work in you afresh by his Holy Spirit.
There are special promises for the backslider. Here is one: “‘Return, backsliding Israel,’ says the Lord; ‘I will not cause My anger to fall on you. For I am merciful,’ says the Lord; ‘I will not remain angry forever. Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the Lord your God'” (Jeremiah 3:12-13). Here is another: “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, for My anger is turned away from him” (Hosea 14:4).
Backslider! These promises are for you—God speaks them to you. Do not harden your heart—do not despair. Satan would have you despair—God would have you hope. Go to Him; tell Him all; with tears of sorrow and shame, pour out your heart before Him. He will not refuse your cry. Jesus died—Jesus lives. There is your hope. “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them!” (Hebrews 7:25)