Is your faith on a steady course or could you be in danger of shipwreck?
Scripture warns us of the possibility of being shipwrecked in our faith – getting so far off course that we find ourselves beaten by the winds of the world and going down, spiritually. The Apostle Paul instructed Timothy to “fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience” so that he wouldn’t “shipwreck” his faith (1 Timothy 1:18-19).
So what shipwrecks our faith? I believe certain habits can slowly divert our course to the point where we are in dangerous waters, quickly going down, and eventually stranded on an island, isolated from our brothers and sisters in the faith who were once there to help us stand strong.
Here are seven habits to steer clear of so they don’t destroy your faith.
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1. Loving the World
It starts so innocently. We never intend to desire the things of the world more than the things of God. But before we know it, we have made idols of the objects of our desires and our faith pays the price. Scripture warns us: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). The world will vie for your love and affection. Be wary of loving anything in this world more than Jesus. When something else captures your heart, it will eventually destroy your faith.
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2. Neglecting the Word
One of the easiest ways to become attached to the world and to pursue the temporary, rather than the eternal is to neglect God’s Word. If we aren’t constantly pouring God’s Word and principles into our hearts and minds, we will be stained by the perceptions and priorities of the world in which we live. In His parable of the sower, Jesus warned of “the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22). Reading and understanding Scripture strengthens our faith in the God we sometimes struggle to understand. Don’t neglect the Word.
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3. Trusting Your Feelings
While we should be discerning of the Holy Spirit’s direction and aware of His conviction on our hearts, we can never put our feelings overthe facts of Who God is and what His Word says. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure…” Our feelings can mislead us by making us think God has abandoned us, when the facts of His Word say He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Our feelings might tell us God is angry with us and will not give us another chance, but the facts of His Word tell us “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Base your faith not on your feelings, but on the facts of Who God is and What He says in His Word. Your feelings constantly fluctuate but the facts about God (He is good, He is loving, He is all-powerful, He is in control of all things) never change.
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Worrying is an easy thing to do. But it’s dangerous. And it’s a habit that insults God. To worry is to say to ourselves and others “God can’t handle this, therefore I must stress.” Jesus instructed His disciples five times in Luke 12 not to worry, because God would take care of them. We are also told in Philippians 4:6 to worry about nothing and instead, pray about everything. Faith, like a muscle, must be exercised, or it will atrophy. Faith is exercised when we choose not to worry, but to trust our Heavenly Father – trust in His timing, His wisdom, His goodness, and the times He says “wait” or “no” for our own good.
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5. Hanging with the Wrong Crowd
Psalm 1:1 tells us prosperity comes to “the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers.” And throughout the Proverbs we are told to choose our friends carefully (Proverbs 12:26). Are you around others who sharpen your faith and challenge you to grow spiritually (Proverbs 27:17)? Or do you hang out with those who complain, criticize, gossip, and whittle away your faith, unknowingly? Choose your friends carefully so your faith is protected.
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6. Relying on Self
We live in a world that praises self-reliance. But Jesus never did. He stressed God-reliance, which takes faith. To rely on God, our achievements, success, blessings and rewards are no longer about us and our abilities. If they were, we’d have only ourselves to thank. This occurred to me recently after my husband interviewed for a job that we really need him to get at this point in our lives. He was going over in his mind the interview and how he might’ve responded better. But is God ultimately in control of whether or not he gets that job? Yes. And because we prayed, laid it before God, and then my husband did the best He could do, our hope is now in the God who opens one door and closes the other. We will trust in His best for us when it comes to getting that job offer or not. We will not trust in my husband’s first impressions, or his abilities to “wow” people. No longer relying on yourself propels your faith forward in ways you can’t imagine. However, to remain “self-sufficient” is to remain “faith-inefficient.”
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7. Refusing to Hope
It is in our human nature to become cynical and refuse to hope out of a desire to protect ourselves from disappointment. I used to be this way… expecting the worst, not the best, so I wouldn’t be disappointed. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop so I wouldn’t get my hopes up. I was finding myself saying the words “that’s just my luck.” But that is not faith. That is doubt and cynicism. And it is not the actions of a loved child of God who maintains hope in his or her Heavenly Father. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Who are you hoping in, regardless of the odds? What are you sure of that you don’t yet see? Place your faith, not in circumstances, odds, or people, but in the One who does wonders.
If you struggle with any (or all) of the habits above, you don’t have to stay stuck in that rut. If you are in Christ you are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) capable of developing new habits that build, rather than destroy your faith. Recommit your heart to Him and trust Him as He allows circumstances to come your way that stretch and strengthen your faith.
Cindi McMenamin is a national women’s speaker and author of 16 books who has been married 30 years to a pastor and introvert. For more creative ways to increase the joy in your marriage, check out her newest book, 12 Ways to Experience More with Your Husband: More Trust. More Passion. More Communication. You can find this and other resources to strengthen your walk with God, your marriage, and your parenting, at her website www.StrengthForTheSoul.com or anywhere you buy books.
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