“You ever encounter backslidden Christians?” I asked Stan one morning.
“You might as well ask me if I like blueberry pancakes or if I ever take a breath,” Stan replied with a smile. “It seems to me that the fact of Christian backsliding is as old as Christianity itself.”
“Actually,” I replied, “come to think about it, didn’t Jesus say something to the apostle Peter at one point about backsliding?”
“He did,” Stan said. “Jesus didn’t use the term ‘backsliding,’ but I think that’s what He was talking about. As well, Jesus told Peter about His solution.”
“Jesus has a solution for backsliding?” I asked.
“He sure does,” Stan said. “At least He did for Peter and I think it’s no different today.”
“What kind of prayer?”
“Intercessory prayer,” Stan said. “Jesus interceded on behalf of Peter because He knew that Peter was going to deny that he even knew Him. To me, that seems like big-time backsliding, to go from walking closely with Jesus for three years to denying that he even knew Him.”
“If Jesus knew what Peter was going to do,” I asked, “why didn’t He just pray that Peter wouldn’t do it. Couldn’t He have done that?”
“Sure,” Stan replied, “Jesus could have done that. But I don’t think it would have had the same impact for the future — for what God had in mind for Peter down the road.”
“Down the road?” I said. “How so?”
“God had a role for Peter to play in building the church after Jesus’s death, resurrection, and ascension. I believe it was important for Peter to repent so deeply that he would be moved in the way that God could use him to help strengthen other believers to help them in their faith walk and to keep from backsliding.”
“So,” I said, “it was more that Jesus prayed for Peter to return from backsliding rather than to not backslide in the first place.”
“That’s what it seems to me,” Stan replied, “and I think it’s the same today. There’s tremendous power in the personal testimony of someone who has walked with God, walked away from Him, and then turned back. It’s a strength that God can use and I think that God wants us to pray continually for those who have backslidden, that they will return to strengthen others.”
Bible verses to consider:
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32.
Then he (Peter) began to curse and swear, “I do not know that man!” And immediately a cock crowed. And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a cock crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly, Matthew 26:74-75.
He (Jesus) said to him (Peter) the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, Lord, you know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” John 21:17.
Prayer: Thank you, Father, that you have a role for each Christian to play in building your kingdom and in strengthening other believers. Thank you for the illustration of how you used the apostle Peter in a mighty way even though at one point he had denied even knowing your Son after he had walked with Him for three years. There are many who have followed the same path as Peter, walking away from you. I pray for each one of those people that they will be moved to return to you and be open to using all you have shown them to help others who may be in the same backslidden state with their faith. Please, Father, open each one to see, receive, claim, and demonstrate all you have for them as they walk with you again. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Think on this: Do you know any backslidden Christians, perhaps, even, yourself? If so, what is your attitude about those people? Do you pray for them? Have you ever seen how God uses a “returning” Christian in ways that may differ from how He uses someone who has never backslidden? If you have seen that, how did you react to what God was doing, with rejoicing or with maybe a little bitterness (kind of like the brother of the prodigal?) If the latter, what was that all about?
The book: Waiting for the Train — Biblical Food for Growing before Going, by S. Tory Teller (Foreword by Josh McDowell). Available at amazon.com as well as from the publisher at s-toryteller.com