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2021 online sermons » Dr. David Jeremiah » David Jeremiah - A Theological Prophecy, The Falling Away

David Jeremiah - A Theological Prophecy, The Falling Away

David Jeremiah - A Theological Prophecy, The Falling Away
David Jeremiah - A Theological Prophecy, The Falling Away
TOPICS: Where Do We Go From Here?, Apostasy, Faith, End times, Prophecy

Imagine writing your first book at the age of 22 and watching it land on a Best Seller's list everywhere. A few years ago that happened to an American pastor. His book conveyed biblical advice about love and relationship, and it encouraged thousands of young people to make better choices. This pastor became known for his speaking and writing and counseling, as well as for nearly two decades of pastoral ministry in a local church. Yet somehow and somewhere during those years, his own relationship with God evaporated. In 2019, he announced his marriage had come to an end. Then in a follow-up post on Instagram, he disclosed an even deeper divorce. He wrote, quote, "I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is deconstruction. The biblical phrase is falling away. By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian," he wrote, "I am not a Christian. Many people tell me that there's a different way to practice faith. And I want to remain open to this, but I am not there now".

Now, that probably touches you in some way, but it cuts me to the heart because I am a pastor, and this is happening to more pastors than I've ever seen before. Many others seem to be falling away from Christ and his gospel. I saw a recent op-ed with this title, "Everyone is leaving Christianity and nobody knows where they're going". This departure from biblical faith is happening so often that there's a new word that's been coined. These defectors are no longer evangelicals, they're ex-vangelicals. Why is that? What is that all about? Well, the falling away is not a new phenomenon. Throughout history, there have been many who have taken up the banner of Christ only to lay it down again. Even the first generation of Christians face challenges like this.

Have you ever heard about a guy named Demas? Yeah, when Paul wrote to the Colossians and to Philemon, he sent them greetings from his coworker Demas who was at his side. In 2 Timothy 4:10, he described him like this, "Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world". There's another book in the Bible that's devoted to this topic. It's the little book Jude. I was love to tell people about Jude and tempt them to ask me what chapter 'cause if you ask me what chapter, I know you haven't read the Bible. There's only one chapter in the book of Jude. So, when you say Jude, you just give verse numbers, you don't give chapter numbers. This book was written by our Lord's half-brother, the son of Joseph and Mary. And in only 25 verses, Jude reminds us that some of the angels themselves fell away from their allegiance to God.

Did you hear that? I'm almost hesitant to say it, but it's true. A third of the angels left their first estate and walked away from God who had created them as angels of light. I'm almost hesitant to read Christian news sites these days because it seems like every time I do, I read or hear of somebody else who's walked away from their faith. Recent headlines are not encouraging, and neither are the statistics. There are more than 72 million millennials in America, almost one quarter of our population. An increasingly large percentage of that generation has walked away from faith of any kind, choosing to identify themselves as religious nones, N-O-N-E-S. When you check on the questionnaire, are you a Baptist? Are you a Presbyterian? Are you a charismatic? Are you a Catholic? And the bottom part says, "none of the above". That's where they all check, "none of the above".

In 2008, researchers noted that close to a third of all millennials describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated. And just ten years later, that number had grown to 42%. And there are more troubling numbers. Church membership in America has suffered a decade's long decline. No matter what you hear from church growth experts about the explosion of the church, let me give you the truth. When Gallup first measured US church membership in 1937, the number came in at 73%. In early 1980s, more than 70% of American adults were church members. In the year 2000, it was 65%. By 2010, it was 59%. And now less than half of Americans, 47%, belong to the local church. And there are corresponding declines in regular church attendance. That's not a good sign. That's not a good study. That's not a good trend. But the core issue here isn't even people falling away from the church or falling away from faith. We're talking, in this lesson, about falling away from Jesus himself.

These are people who have, these words are stark, trampled the Son of God underfoot, treated as an unholy thing, the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and insulted the Spirit of grace. Judas Iscariot is the poster child for all of this. He's the best example in the Bible of someone falling away from Christ. Listen to this. He was one of the 12 of Jesus's inner circle of disciples. He had the perfect light. He had the perfect example. He had the perfect evidence. And for some three years, he lived with truth incarnate and life incarnate. And he turned his back on the one who is truth and life. One of our Lord's 12 disciples did that, so did a pastor here in California.

After several instances of publicly criticizing the Bible's view on sexuality, this man was asked to resign from his church. He also lost his teaching position at two Christian universities. As a result, he decided to live for a year without God. In his words, he planned to try on atheism as a New Year's resolution. "For the next 12 months, I will live as if there is no God," he wrote. "I will not pray, read the Bible for inspiration, refer to God as the cause of things, or hope that God might intervene and change my own or someone else's circumstances". At the end of his experiment, he officially rejected his lifelong belief, declaring on national public radio, "I do not think that God exists". Again, this man didn't just simply fall away from the church. He didn't fall away from his faith. He chose to abandon his Savior. And he was left with nothing except atheism, which literally is faith in nothing.

If Jude were alive today, he would take notice and so should we. What does this mean? What does this mean to us? When I was getting started in ministry, apostasy was a hot topic. I remember thinking one day if you went to one of our conventions, if somebody said Jesus is Lord, they would yawn. But if they said apostasy is on the side, everybody would stand and cheer and pump their fists. Apostasy was a big deal. And you know what the apostasy was, what they thought it was? Well, there was the apostasy of long hair on men and short skirts on women. And there was the apostasy of dancing and going to movies. And there was the apostasy of having fellowship with other Christians who did not perfectly line up with all of your personal convictions.

Sometime after going to seminary, I found out what apostasy really was. And I found it to be something way more deadly than anything I'd mentioned above. In fact, true apostasy is far more deadly than all of them put together. To be clear, apostasy is not the same thing as atheism. By apostasy, which is the New Testament word for falling away, I'm not referring to people in general who reject Christianity or deny the truth of the gospel. That's not what this is all about. Apostasy doesn't reflect the rise of atheism in and of itself, nor does it apply to everyone who chooses religious systems other than Christianity. Instead, the concept of falling away has a narrower focus. It applies specifically to apparent Christians, to those who claim to follow Jesus, but then turn their backs on him.

Here is the best definition I have found for this term. This comes from the writing of John Walvoord, the former president of Dallas Seminary. He said, "The Greek word for apostasy is found only twice in the New Testament, Acts 21:21, and 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, and verse 3. And the word means a falling away from, a deserting or a turning from a position formerly held. Spiritual apostasy occurs when a person who once claimed to be a believer departs from what he formerly professed to believe. An apostate is not one who was saved and lost his salvation. An apostate, though having claimed to be a believer, never was saved in the first place".

Every apostate is an unbeliever, but not every unbeliever is an apostate. Here's what I mean. There are many people who have never heard the gospel. They wouldn't know the gospel from anything, so they can't be apostate. They can walk away from something that they never heard of before. They are unbelievers because they have not heard. But an apostate is well-acquainted with the gospel. He knows more than enough to be saved, but he walks away from it anyway.

In "The Sun Also Rises," Ernest Hemingway said, "There are two ways to go bankrupt, gradually and then suddenly". And it's the same with spiritual bankruptcy. We drift away gradually, and then suddenly we're out in the cold. Why am I talking about this theme of falling away? Why should I even bring it up? It seems sort of extraneous to some of you wondering, "Where is he going with this"? Because the proliferation of apostasy is an important but overlooked often piece to the end-times puzzle. As we know from Scripture, one of the signs of the end times is a rising number of self-proclaimed Christians who ultimately reject Christ.

Let me show you where that is in the Bible. 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, verses 1 through 3. Here's what the Word of God says. "Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come". Now, listen carefully. "Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition". This is indeed a prophecy about tomorrow that has implications for us today. This falling away that Paul is writing about is not just some gradual defection from the church. Paul calls this the falling away like it's a specific thing, at a specific time, at a specific moment. Paul calls this departure from the faith, and it will happen according to the Scripture during what we call the tribulation period.

Now, most of you know enough about prophecy to know there's some general things you should be aware of. First of all, the next thing that's gonna happen in the future is the rapture of the church. The Bible says that the Lord is going to descend and take to heaven, those who have put their trust in him. And that can happen at any time. There's no signs for that. It could happen before we say, "amen" at the end of the service. We could go to heaven before we go home and that would be all right 'cause we'd really be home then, amen? So, you don't have to worry about that. You know, you say, "Well, what's gotta happen for Jesus comes to get us"? Not one thing. He can come anytime. After the Rapture when the saints are all gone on this earth, the Bible teaches there's gonna be a period of seven years of tribulation. This will be literally hell on earth. And it's divided into two sections, three and a half years, the first part of the tribulation. And the last part, the last three and a half years is called the Great Tribulation.

Now, when Paul wrote to the Thessalonians he said, "In the tribulation period, there's going to be a great falling away, a great defection from the faith". Now, let's just suppose that this is not something that happens until the middle of the tribulation. I don't believe that's true, but let's just give ourselves a little wiggle room here. Let's say that this falling away doesn't happen until halfway through the tribulation period, that would be three and a half years. And let's remember that the tribulation commences immediately after the Rapture of the church. Watch this. And let's not forget that the Rapture could happen in any moment, and that the tribulation is a period of seven years so that the middle of the tribulation is just three and a half years. If all those things are true, and they are, the falling away could happen within our lifetime. If Jesus came back today, it would happen within three and a half years.

So, this isn't just something way out in the future that we don't have to be concerned about. It could happen, and it could start happening before we go to heaven. It won't fully completely happen until we're in heaven, but it could start happening before then. The Christians in Thessalonica were facing this kind of persecution. So, they believed the last days were upon them, and they were troubled. And we should be troubled when we go through trouble, right? That's part of it. But Paul wrote this letter to them to say, "Look, don't be so troubled because the falling away hasn't happened yet. So, you're not in the tribulation. If you're in the tribulation, the falling away would have happened. But it hasn't happened". It hasn't happened for us yet either.

You know, I sometimes hear people talk about how before Jesus comes back, we're gonna have this great worldwide revival. Have you ever heard anybody say that? Well, I hope we do, but there's not anything in the Bible about that. Somebody got their wires mixed when they started teaching that 'cause that's not true. You know what is in the Bible? In the Bible it says there's gonna be a great defection from the faith before Jesus comes back. And there is gonna be a revival in the tribulation period. You know why? One hundred and forty-four thousand Jewish witnesses are gonna be let loose on the earth. If you can't get a revival with that, there's no hope. And two witnesses, two special witnesses are gonna do miraculous things. And the Bible says that thousands will come to Christ during the tribulation period, but not before we go to heaven.

Could there be a great awakening? I believe there could be, and I pray that there would be every day because that will just give us a few more years to preach the gospel. Sometimes I think we might be on the edge of it, and then sometimes I think it's so far away, you'll never see it. But what I want you to know is this. While the Scripture does not prophesy a great revival, that doesn't mean there couldn't be one. But what you need to know what the Scripture does prophecy is, there will be a defection at the end of the age. So, here is this prophecy in Thessalonians. And John put it this way. This is really a very specific verse, 1 John 2: 18 and 19. He said, "It is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us".

John said there were many people who were in the church, and they went out and they became part of the false gospel. He said, they went out because they were never a part of us. They went out from us, but they were never of us. How many of you know that in our churches today, there are many people who are with us, but they're not from us, they're not of us? They come to church, they hang around the edges. They love the excitement of the church. They love the joy of the church. They love the comfort of the church. But if they've never accepted Jesus Christ, they're not of the church. And it's possible just to be around the edges. And then the problem is when trouble really comes and stress comes, a lot of things are revealed that you would never imagine.

How can this happen? How could anyone who has tasted the goodness of Christ in the church and the love of God, how could they ever fall away? Well, I'm gonna give you three things that could happen, and I think they all are in play. Why do some people get discouraged and walk away from their faith? First of all, some people fall away because they're deceived. There are many deceivers out there today. Can I get a witness? But the most dangerous ones aren't the cheats who take our money, as bad as that is. There's a scam every day somewhere. You gotta be careful how you answer the phone, what questions you... you all know about that. There's all kinds of stuff like that going on. But that's not the worst. It's the ones who operate in the spiritual realm.

According to the Bible, spiritual deception will cause many to fall away from Christ in the days leading up to the end times. 1 Timothy 4:1 and 2 says it this way. "Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron". According to this passage of Scripture, there are unseen demonic forces that are operating in our world, enticing and deceiving people into abandoning their faith in Christ. Their influence, even in the church, will only increase as we draw near to the end of history. It's overwhelming to see the deception that's going on within the church. You can watch it, you can see it. Maybe it's touched you or your family, you've been victimized by it.

The passage in 1 Timothy warns of false teachers who traffic in lies and hypocrisy. These men and women attempt to cause spiritual damage and to manipulate God's people for their own purposes. They're cold, they're callous, and they're calculating. And Paul says they don't even have a conscience anymore. It's been seared. They have lost moral sensitivity, and their spiritual compasses are broken. That's the reason why some people fall away. They get caught up in a spiritual scam. Can I get a witness? Some people fall away because they're disillusioned. Here's a little parable that you all know. And I'm just gonna extract some things for this parable and make some assumptions along the way, but I believe they're accurate.

In Luke 8, Jesus told a parable illustrating the reasons why people fall away from the gospel. You know the parable. He said, there was this farmer who went out to sow seed and he broadcasts it over a wide area, and some of the seed fell on pathway, or on road, where it was trampled down. Other seed fell on a rocky soil and as soon as the plants sprang up, they withered away having no route. And some seed fell in a thorny patch and were choked by briars. And some of the seed fell on prepared soil, yielding a great harvest. When the Lord's disciple asked him to explain the parable, he revealed that the seed represented the gospel message.

Here is Jesus's explanation of what that story means. He said, "Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, and riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity". Here's what Jesus was saying. The first reason people walk away from the gospel is that the devil comes and takes the Word out of their hearts. Did you know that?

I sometimes have prayed, "Lord, don't let the devil steal the Word of God from the people of God before they get to the parking lot". Because I think that he's really active at the end of the service. Whatever you heard that maybe touched your heart or caused you to think something that you should think, if you're not careful, before you get out of this place, the devil will come and steal it right out of your heart. The second reason's more complicated. Jesus describes those who hear the gospel, and they receive the Word with joy. Listen to that. That means they're emotional. And these people are genuinely excited about Christianity. They've seen the brokenness of the world, and they felt the brokenness in their own spirit, and they know there must be something better. And these people encountered the truth, and they received the message with joy. And they're all excited. And they see a pathway to peace and purpose and meaning. It's what they've always been looking for.

But stony-ground believers have no root. So, when times of testing come, the Bible says, they fall away. Many of these people are not looking for a Savior, they're looking for a solution. They want their problems to go away, and they don't want to surrender anything to get that. They want the blessings of belief without the burden of swimming against the cultural stream. And they like the idea of the gospel, but they lack a personal commitment to Christ. Sooner or later when they began to be disillusioned, disenchanted, and disappointed, they just fall away. I know people like that. Sometimes the people that are most emotional about being saved are the same people who are the most emotional about what happens to them when anything comes into their life they're not expecting. And how many of you know God gets blamed for everything?

Some people fall away because they're deceived, others because they're disillusioned. And the last one is probably where a lot of us would fit if we're in any of these categories. Some fall away because they're distracted. Jesus's third explanation for the parable of the sower points to another reason why apostasy has been prevalent throughout history. Verse 14 in Luke 8 says, "Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, and the pleasures of life, and they bring no fruit to maturity". Jesus said many fall away simply because they get distracted. When forced to choose between spiritual things, following Christ, and physical cares and riches and pleasures of life, they can't see past their own noses. They allow the pull of desire to lead them. They let go of their faith in order to grab all that the world has. And they grab with both hands, and there's nothing left to hold on to Jesus with.

I know that's not a pretty picture, but what God has chosen us to be here for as his witnesses, this is a critical thing. So, as Francis Schaeffer once said, "How should we then live with all this going on? What should we do"? Well, I'll tell you one thing, it's your easy to be discouraged if you consider the prevalence of this in the church and in the world, if you're a pastor, especially. Ladies and gentlemen, apostasy is not like an illness. It's not something that happens to you out of the blue. It's a choice. It's a decision you make based on your own values and priorities. So, what can we do today, based on all that we've just heard and talked about? What can we do to protect ourselves from what might be happening to us as a culture? How can we make sure that we are never among those who fall away?

I know this, there's not a person in this room who, if you sat down and talked to him and said, "Would you like to be among those who fall away"? Nobody would say yes. Nobody wants to do that. It's nobody's purposed to do that. You have children who've done that. You have friends who've done that. You know the pain of that. You don't want anything to do with that.

So, how do we protect ourselves from that happening to us and to the people we love? First of all, examine yourselves. That's what the Scripture says. 2 Corinthians 13:5, examine yourselves as to whether or not you're in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you? The most important thing you can do, in response to this message, is to make sure that you are truly a Christian. And you are not a Christian just 'cause you grew up in the church. You are not a Christian just 'cause your parents are Christians. You're not a Christian because you've lived a good life. You are not a Christian because you have served in the church and done great things for God.

One of the most sobering passages in the Bible is found in Matthew chapter 7. Here's what it says. "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many said Jesus will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, have we not cast out demons in Your name, have we not done many wonders in Your name?' And I will say to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" Is there a more stark, frightening verse than that? Jesus is not saying that good works do not matter. What he is saying is that good works will not get you to heaven.

If you want to read more about this, I suggest you read the book of James when you get home today. Go back to 2 Corinthians passage. It says, "Do you not know that Christ is in you"? Let me ask you that question. Do you know that Christ is in you? Have you put your trust in him? Are you certain that he's living in your heart? This is not some cultural Christianity. Sometimes people grow up in Christian families and they think, "Well, my parents were Christians. My brothers and sisters are Christians, I must be a Christian, too". Not. God doesn't have any grandchildren. He just has children. So, that's the most important thing. Has there ever been a time in your life when you have personally invited Christ to forgive you of your sin and become your Savior? That is what matters. That is what determines whether you are a true Christian, or a Christian in name only. That's the one thing. If you get that straight, you will never fall away.

Number two, encourage yourselves. I love this. In 1 Samuel 36, we read this about David. David was in one big mess. He was in a fight for his life. His troops were all fighting with him. They left camp one day and when they came back, all their families had been taken, including their wives and their children. And David's their leader. And you can imagine how that went through the camp. And they hated David. They turned on him. They were gonna kill him. He had nobody. He was totally all by himself. And this is what it says. "But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God". Sometimes we get so discouraged that we begin to entertain doubts. That's when we have to follow David's example and encourage ourselves in the Lord. Life had reduced David's options to one. Sooner or later, life does that to every one of us and the solution for every person is the same. When David's men turned on him in their despair, he encouraged himself in the Lord. When our faith is faltering, that is when we need to turn to God. There may not be anyone else around in whom you can place your trust, but you can trust God.

So, place your trust in him. Encourage yourself in your faith. Strengthen yourself in your faith. You will notice that all these passages use the word "yourself". You must not wait for someone else to do this for you. This is your responsibility, yourself. There are some things we need to do. First of all, we need to examine ourselves and make sure we're in the faith. You can all do that. In fact, you don't probably have to do much of an examination, you already know. Secondly, encourage yourself. You say, "Well, I'm kind of down now about my faith". Well, I'm sorry about that. But, you know, there's not anybody gonna rush to your help, so learn how to do it yourself. Learn how to take care of yourself in the Word of God. Learn how to take care of yourself in building up your most holy faith. It's good to have people help you. It's wonderful to be in a small group where somebody encourages you, but that's not always gonna happen. So, you better learn how to take care of yourself.

Number three, this one you'll love, exercise yourself. I love this verse. Exercise yourself toward godliness. 1 Timothy 4:7 and 8. "For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come". If you want to stay confident and strong in your faith, it is important that you keep growing in your faith. Stagnant faith is the devil's playground, and he will fill your heart and mind with doubts. Just when you really need God, it will occur to you that he has not been very important to you late in life. Some of you walked with the Lord really closely, but you've gotten so busy with everything. And maybe your business is in trouble and you got family problems and all that. And you said, "Well, I'm just gonna put God on hold until I get through this". Worst thing you could ever do. When you're thinking that you can get by without God, that's the time when you need him the most.

Andrew Murray wrote this powerful paragraph. I don't want you to miss this. He said, "In commerce, in study, and in war, it is so often said there is no safety but in advance. To stand still is to go back. To cease effort is to lose ground. To slack in the pace before the goal is reached is to lose the race. The only sure mark of our being true Christians of our really loving Christ is the deep longing and the steady effort to know him more. Tens of thousands have proved that to be content with beginning well is the first step on a backward course ends ends in losing everything. The whole point of the argument is, let's press on". What is he saying? He's saying the best thing you can do to assure yourself of your walk with the Lord is just keep walking with him. Set new goals for the things you're gonna do with Christ. Ask him every day, "Lord, what can I do for you? How can I be a part of what you're doing? Show me the way to be involved in the kingdom". If you just want to be a bystander and sit on the sideline, you are a target. If you're gonna be a target, at least be a moving one, right? Moving forward, moving forward to do something for God.

Earlier in this message, I mentioned the book of Jude, the small, one-page letter near the end of the Bible. It's a great, little letter. Most people don't ever read it or preach on it. But Jude was writing to Christians who were having all kinds of pressure in their life. Most of the leaders of the early church had been killed, Peter, Paul, and James, which left both churches and individual Christians feeling very vulnerable, as you can imagine. In the darkness of that moment, Jude wrote this letter and provided a ray of hope. In just two verses near the end of his tiny, little epistle, he explained to Christians how to remain committed to Christ during a time of apostasy. Here's what he said. "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, keep yourselves in the love of God". Jude was speaking to Christians and the phrase "building yourselves up" conveys the idea of, not just a one-time event, but a rather lifelong process. In other words, Jude tells us to keep building ourselves up to keep our eyes wide open to what we're doing to strengthening ourselves spiritually.

If we keep building ourselves up, we will not be targets for the enemy to pull us away from our faith. You know, it's possible to start out well, to love Jesus with all of your heart. And then all of a sudden, one day you realize things aren't the way they used to be. That's what happened to the people in Ephesus. And God had warned them, and John wrote this in Revelation 2. He said, "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works". John said to the people in Ephesus, "At one time you were really red hot for God. You were on fire. Church was open for something that needed to be done, and you were the first one to volunteer. Anything that could help move the ball forward for Christ, you were on the team". But then suddenly, a lot of other things came along like we read about in the parable. You were choked out by everything that's going on in the world. And if you're not careful, your faith can be marginalized until it really has no impact on your life at all. That's what John told these people in Ephesus that was so cold. Their faith had grown cold. Maybe it's time for you to do a little self-examination and ask yourself, "Am I walking like I once did, or have I allowed all these things to push me away from the God that loved me so much that he gave me his Son"?

I'm gonna tell you a story about a young girl named LeeAdianez Rodriguez-Espada, arrived late for the Wegmans Family 5k on a brisk, spring morning in Rochester, New York. She was 12 years old at the time. Her mother dropped her off at the starting line before leaving to find a place so she could cheer her on as she ran the 5k that morning. The mother expected to wait about an hour, pick up her daughter. At the starting line, LeeAdianez realized the race had just begun, so she just jumped in with the other runners at the back of the pack, concentrating on putting one foot in front of another. It wasn't until around mile four that she began to realize something was wrong. The finish line was nowhere in sight. After asking a few of her neighboring runners how much longer the race take, take, LeeAdianez realized her mistake. She was not part of the Wegmans Family 5k. She had instead entered the Flower City Half Marathon. This race was not 5 kilometers, it was 13 miles. So, she didn't know what to do. She decided to just keep going.

By this time, her mother was beginning to panic. She contacted the race organizers, and a police officer eventually found her daughter on the half-marathon course. Even then, 12 year old Lee refused to quit. Eventually she crossed the finish line after running a full ten miles more than she originally planned. And her mother was waiting for her there, crying tears of joy. "I see her with a medal and I thought, 'Oh, my word, she ran the wrong race, like for real. And she decided to just keep running and not give up.'" And that's my challenge for you today. When you feel the pressure to let go of your faith, you decide instead to keep running and never give up. Remember, this is your choice. Jesus is with you. He will keep you from falling, and he will empower you. He has every intention of presenting you faultless before the Father once your race comes to an end. So until that moment, just keep going, keep running. Don't look back. Don't give up. Commit to building up your faith and the faith of those around you.

And let me give you a little benediction to end this message and to bless your life. This is Jude's benediction at the end of that one little chapter I told you about. Listen to what he said. This is the blessing he wrote to those who would read his letter, therefore, to all of us. The blessing of Jude. "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever". Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling. Praise God. We have a God who doesn't let us go either. We can say we're not gonna let you go, but God doesn't let you go either. When you place your faith in him, when you trust him, he will keep you from stumbling.
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