Discouraged by defectors

Today I read about someone who once loved the Lord and served him zealously, but now she has walked away and disowned him. I feel so disheartened. I feel sad and frustrated. How does this happen? How do you change your mind about Jesus? How can you come to a place where you no longer need a Savior?

If this were a rare isolated incident I could explain away the anomaly, but it seems to be a frequent occurrence these days. Many are leaving the narrow road for the twelve-lane highway.

Why does this catch me off guard? Jesus warned that this would happen as the end approaches. “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase in wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” Matthew 24:10-13. Notice Jesus uses the word many three times.

Jesus experienced personally the betrayal of one in his inner circle. An interesting thing happened when Jesus announced to the twelve “One of you is going to betray me.” “His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant” John 13:21-22. None of them looked at Judas and pointed to him as the obvious one. He blended in well with the others. It was inconceivable to the disciples that any of them, who had left everything to follow him, and who had been with him day and night for three years, would sell him down the river.

And yet it was true. Judas Iscariot, who was part of the distribution of loaves and fish to 5000, who witnessed the demon-possessed liberated, who heard Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, became a traitor, undetected by the others.

Why do people defect from the faith? Why did Judas? Some will say that Judas did it for thirty pieces of silver. But look closer. The Chief Priests did not bribe him—he approached them. He asked them, “What will you give me if I hand him over to you?” Matthew 26:15. Judas had already decided to walk away from Jesus, and then looked for an opportunity to cash in on it. We see the same thing today—theologians, authors, celebrities of every kind, cashing in on their departure from Jesus to a more “enlightened and tolerant philosophy.”

But there’s a more fundamental reason why people leave the faith. The Apostle John tells us, “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us” 1 John 2:19.

The same night that Jesus shocked the disciples with news of a defector, he encouraged them by his prayer to the Father on their behalf. Two points that relate to Judas (and all defectors):

• “You (Father) granted him (Jesus) authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him” John 17:2

• “Holy Father, protect them (disciples) by the power of your name… While I was with them I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled” John 17:11-12.

Jesus taught this same truth earlier in his ministry. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” John 10:27-29.

It’s unsettling to know that there are Judases among us—they appear to be followers, insiders, even truth-proclaimers. But their love grows cold and one day they will defect.

We don’t understand how this happens or why God allows it to happen. What we know for sure is that “God knows those who are his” (2 Timothy 2:19), and none of God’s sheep will be lost. If one of them wanders away, Jesus will leave the ninety-nine and go after the one who has strayed (Matthew 18:12-14).

A heavy topic today. It’s one more reason to stay in God’s Word. It tells us what we need to know—the good things and the hard. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

12 comments to Discouraged by defectors

  • Susan M.

    No one can snatch us out of His hand–yet He gives us free will to leave. What an awesome God we serve! Greater love has no man!

    • Hi Susan, The most reassuring truth is that those who truly belong to Christ will not want to leave. They will persevere in the faith because God’s Spirit lives in us as a deposit guaranteeing our future inheritance. So we don’t have to doubt our own ability to stay, God will keep us. That is reassuring!

  • Amy Calvetti

    Thank you for the reminder that God will never let me go even when I’m struggling in this world. His Word is the truth I need to hold close to my heart to get through this life.

    • Hi Amy, We are ALL struggling, some days are more difficult than others. Some days we get a reprieve and life is joyful and glorious. Other days we have to plod along with every ounce of strength God gives us. I like to remind myself that this is not my home. Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us, and it is OUT OF THIS WORLD. Press on dear sister. We’re in this together.

  • Kyle Rhynerson

    It is discouraging to see people leave their faith.

    We face a persistent, powerful enemy in Satan. I wonder if we don’t give him enough credit for his influence, and if we don’t take enough care to examine the things we allow and do in our lives that Satan can use as weapons against us.

    1 Peter 5:8 (ESV) “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

    Fortunately, we have a more powerful savior, the Lord Jesus Christ!

    • Kyle, You are so right. By ignoring our enemy we think he will leave us alone. Wrong! He’s out to get us. Thanks for reminding us to be watchful.

  • Arlene Young

    We all walk in a fleshly body. We are given free will. We are offered salvation when we repent of our sinful ways and yield to God’s Holy Spirit in these jars of clay.
    Should anyone fall away from the faith in Christ Jesus, there is still hope for them. Here is where we find the awesomeness of God’s grace and love.
    For everyone, the obvious yet mysterious key to living in God’s presence is “repent.” God is a god of second chances; it is our free will to go for that second chance.
    One of many things that I love about our God; He thinks outside the box. The box we sometimes put him in. Isaiah 55;8-9.
    When we do encounter someone who falls away from the faith, our job is to pray deeply for them and watch the hand of God create his miracle in their lives. We are God’s Creative Prayer Warriors.

  • Richie Malone

    I never saw before two things: Judas wasn’t the obvious betrayer and he didn’t do it for the money since he had already decided to leave. He wasn’t lured away or tricked into it; he never had surrendered in the first place. I find it comforting to know “the Lord knows those who are his”. Hard teaching but insightful. Thank you!

    • Hi Richie, God’s Word is so helpful. We see and understand things we couldn’t possibly know without it. I love when I learn new things. And I love to pass them on to others.

  • Thank you Janet. I just recently memorized 1st 2nd and 3rd John. Such rich books which give assurances and warnings about what those who walk in the light and walk in the darkness are like. Words like “truth”, “lie”, “deceived”, “confidence”, “abides” ” Know” phrases like “that you may know” “I have written to you” and “have eternal life” . It doesn’t say , “may” have, or “possibly”, but it is in a tense as is it currently in possession. “Second John says something so interesting to me. He says, ” The elder, to the chosen sister and her children whom I love in truth, and not I only, but also all those who know the truth. For the sake of the truth which abides in us and WILL BE WITH US FOREVER, grace mercy and peace WILL BE WITH US from God the Father and Jesus Christ, the son of the Father in truth and love. There is such comfort seeing words of such definite nature. Thank you for bringing up this difficult topic.

    • Thank you Heidi for those words from 2 John. So insightful, so specific. God’s Word tells us what we need to know. And memorizing helps us see things we might not see while reading. The truth will be with us forever – so comforting!