By Chad Napier, Crosswalk.com
All of us have at least one summer vacation memory of getting lost on the way to the destination. Most of the time, we can pinpoint exactly where the wrong turn was taken. It was either a left instead of a right, a missed exit, a failure to recognize a landmark, or from self-confidence thinking we already know the way as we’ve been there many times before. There are certain parallels to our spiritual destination. Our path either has been a direct journey or more than likely a trip that has included backtracking. As we are in the midst of Vacation Bible School season, it is a blessing to reminisce of the impact that these early spiritual influences have made in our spiritual walks.
The office work of the Holy Spirit convicts the believer of sin, but solid Christians are impactful influences along the journey. God in His providence put us in the family that we have at this chosen time in history. The value our family placed on church has had much to do with our spiritual state today. Further, the doctrinal and spiritual foundation of our churches we attend or have attended either strengthened our biblical foundation or caused it to be hindered. The type of friendships and relationships have either sharpened or dulled our spiritual senses and convictions. Christ is our foundation, our sustainer, and nourishment. Our environment, however, played a large part in who we are today. The roads or means are in no way a justification for unbelief or a backslidden condition. We are free moral agents and have trodden upon our own roads by choice. Each path or direction has an avenue to Christ.
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Started at a Young Age
If you grew up in a household which placed a priority on the church, you can rejoice as being a blessed individual. By God’s grace, He placed those impactful gray-headed Sunday School teachers from our youth, and the faithful men and women of God who held our hands while making crafts at a Bible School. We were given a head start when this spiritual seed was planted in fertile ground at such an early age. The psalmist at Psalm 71:5 wrote, “for thou art my hope, O Lord God: thou art my trust from my youth.” Looking back in life, we can clearly see God’s impact in our life at an early age in terms of both grace and mercy. Jesus emphasized the importance of not hindering children In Matthew 19:14. The season of youth is important as the world has yet to influence and desensitize the child with fleshly corruption.
I Inherited It
Some of us were blessed to have had godly parents who put an emphasis on the church, prayer, and Bible study. Others grew up in separate households where the priority was placed upon Sunday recreation, drugs, or alcohol with no mention of spiritual matters. This “generational curse” is difficult to overcome as it is unlikely for a young adult to make Jesus a priority for the first time later in life. We would like to think a person’s heart softens with age, but it is often not the case.
Parents make a spiritual impact upon their children whether it be positive or negative. Notice in the book of Kings the negative influence made by Jeroboam upon all future generations. The refrain in 1 Kings 15:26, “He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and walked in the way of his father, and in his sin which he made Israel to sin” shows not only an impact upon his family, but also the people of Israel. Generational curses are not sentences of automatic judgment in the church age in which we live. Living a godless life in front of your family and children, however, is spiritual child abuse.
I Took a Wrong Turn
Some of us lived out in the world “working on our testimony” for a considerable portion of our life. We grew up in church, but never fully “bought in” to the “Jesus thing.” We satisfied our parents and attended church when we lived under their roof but went another direction after high school. Paul taught the church in Galatians 5:7-9, “you were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” We can look back to the exact decision or series of decisions that took us down this pathway of separation.
Married the Wrong Spouse
This person had a solid spiritual foundation and made the church a priority until the new love interest came into the picture. The relationship was nurtured while the spiritual relationship floundered in neglect because the significant other was either an unbeliever or not as serious as you once were about faith. Paul was serious in 1 Corinthians 6:14, warning, “be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?” “Fellowship” in the Greek language contemplates a more intimate meeting than we think of in today’s English context. Paul made much sense by asking why would someone who is spiritually reborn want to fellowship with someone who is still under the dominion of sin? The answer always focuses upon the flesh. More times than not, the lost spouse drags the believing spouse out of the church.
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Got Hurt by the Church
This person was all-in for the local church for most of his or her life. He or she filled in to teach Sunday School classes whenever needed, never missed a worship service, and supported every ministry within the church. Then on that fateful Sunday, this dedicated servant heard the whispers which changed his or her course within the church. His or her faith in the local church was forever tarnished. Church people can be the most critical people in our lives. In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul gives the reader insight into the criticism he received from the religious people in and around the church. Paul was criticized as being less educated and not as eloquent in his preaching as others. In verses 5-6, Paul felt compelled to write, “For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles. But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been thoroughly made manifest among you in all things.”
Sooner or later, our feelings will be damaged to some extent during our ministry. The prayerful inspection of the sincerity of our motives is necessary. If our heart is to serve the Lord and we have been led in a particular way of ministry, the voices of criticism should be directed toward Heaven. Therefore, we can’t take criticism in response to our obedience personally.
Went With the Wrong Crowd
Peer pressure is not isolated to children or teenagers. We all have an instinctive desire to be accepted by social groups. This person has great initial intentions of becoming a good influence on the “drinks after work” crowd at the office. He or she meets up with them after work solely for the purpose of social networking with the premise of being a witness. Week after week and month after month pass by and now this person convinces him or herself that a couple social drinks are acceptable. “Salvation” and “faith” have never been mentioned by this person despite the many opportunities. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:33, wrote “be not deceived bad company ruins good morals.” Proverbs 13:20 teaches that “whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” As the wise old man preached, “if you lie down with dogs, don’t complain about the fleas.” The friends within our circle either make it easier to stand for God or easier to compromise our spiritual convictions.
Worldy “Busy”ness Got Me
Early morning workouts, daily practices after school, camps, and tournaments every Saturday and Sunday leaves parents exhausted even without a full-time job. Allowing the activities of the world under the premise of rearing “well-rounded” children or just trying to “provide for my family” are guises from the devil. Worldly entanglement is a tiresome burden.
In 1 Peter 5:8, we are taught to “be sober-minded; be watchful” because “your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” The desires of the flesh are a detriment to our spiritual health. The world tries to convince us that since we work hard, we deserve to please ourselves with new “toys.” We then financially burden ourselves, resulting in extra work which has the likelihood of replacing time we normally spend in church or in Bible study. Further, the world entices our minds with the convincing argument that since we work hard during the week that the weekend is for “family time” or recreation. The voice in our head asks, “What good is it to have a new boat if you are unable to take it to the lake?”
In Luke 10:38-42, we are told of Jesus’s visit with Mary and Martha. While Martha is busy keeping house, Mary is “at the Lord’s feet and [listening] to his teaching.” Martha gets frustrated and asks Jesus, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” Jesus’s reply to Martha is His same message to us complaining of our busy life, “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Our relationship with Christ is eternal and must be our priority. Instead of making the world a priority and the church a convenience, we must forgo fleshly entanglements when it conflicts with our spiritual duties. Worldly “busyness” forces us to neglect Christ to some degree in some manner. We have the full realization of “rest” when we live as 1 Chronicles 16:11 instructs us to: “seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” He is that “good portion.”
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