David L. Goetsch
How to Respond When Your Faith is Challenged
Secular humanism, moral relativism, and political correctness are becoming the norm in contemporary society, a fact that is making life difficult for Christians. This is why we are seeing more and more anti-Christian bias in our daily lives. To review, secular humanism is a worldview that rejects the God of Holy Scripture. In this worldview, man is god. Moral relativism is based on the belief there are no absolute rights and wrongs; everything is relative and individuals are empowered to decide for themselves what is right or wrong.
Political correctness is societal pressure to avoid offending anyone, particularly when it comes to matters of race, religion, and gender. Although Christians should be concerned about offending people, advocates of political correctness are selective in their application of the concept. For instance, they have no problem with offending Christians. In fact, they make a habit of it and see no irony in their hypocrisy. In fact, a growing number of people claim they are offended by the mere mention of Christianity. Consequently, as Christians a dilemma we face in our daily lives is how to be faithful to our beliefs when interacting with people who vocally and sometimes stridently reject them.
The fact that we, as Christians, are encountering faith-related trials should come as no surprise. Rejection of God started in the Garden of Eden. Nevertheless, it can be difficult for Christians to live their faith in the midst of people who reject Christ. Christians are often viewed as villains by unbelievers. We are portrayed as intolerant, narrow-minded bigots. This view is hard to reconcile with our Christian commitment to loving our neighbors as ourselves, but logic is hardly a strong point of those who attack Christianity. To meet the challenge of standing firm in your faith when interacting with people who reject Christ, it is necessary to understand an important fact of life.
As a believer in today’s increasingly anti-Christian culture, your faith is going to be challenged. Count on it, and do not be surprised when it happens. Christ warned us of this in John 15:18. Understand that the devil is a predator who never stops hunting, and you, like all Christians, are his prey (1 Peter 5:8). When your faith is challenged, don’t despair. Instead, remember this: suffering in the short run for your beliefs is better than suffering in the long run for compromising them. Persevering in the faith is always the right decision when your Christian beliefs are attacked.
Consistently living your faith is almost guaranteed to cause you problems from time to time. In fact, the closer you walk with the Lord the more challenges you are likely to face in today’s increasingly anti-Christian environment. Nevertheless, maintaining your faith when others reject it is always the right choice. Consider what is written in Hebrews 12:3. This verse reminds us that Christ suffered for us, and that there has never been a time when Christians did not suffer for their faith. Consequently, we should not grow weary when we have to suffer. Suffering for our faith is part of being a Christian.
So how should you and I respond when our faith is challenged by those who reject Christ? In my book, Christians on the Job: Winning at Work without Compromising Your Faith (Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019) I recommend a five-step approach I call my “First-Response Model.” The model summarizes the first steps Christians should take when confronted by challenges to our faith. I recommend the model to counseling clients whose faith is being attacked by unbelievers, and I recommend it to you.
Step 1: Avoid responding out of anger, fear, or frustration.
It is important to stand firm in your faith when others attack it, but it is equally important to respond in a Christ-like manner. On the one hand, you are not called to be a doormat for people who hate Christ, but on the other hand you don’t want to become like them in responding. Recall when Satan tempted Christ in the wilderness. Jesus responded with the authority of His father rather than out of anger, fear, or frustration. Christ is our example. Thus, our responses to rejection and even persecution should be Christ-like.
Responses that are driven by anger, fear, or frustration are not likely to be Christ-like responses. Consequently, when you feel like responding in a way that would reflect poorly on Christ, take a deep breath and don’t respond at all, at least not in the moment. Follow the guidance provided in Psalms 37:8 where we are told to refrain from anger because it leads only to evil. Instead of responding out of anger, fear, or frustration, step back and give yourself time to complete the remaining steps in this model.
Step 2: Pray for guidance.
Never deal with faith-related trials without enlisting the help of God. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul says we are to pray constantly. Remember, no matter how helpless you may feel, all things are possible with God. The Holy Spirit is right there with you. He will be there at your side as you confront faith-related challenges. Seek God’s guidance through prayer. Remember, Proverbs 20:24 makes clear we cannot understand even our own way without the help of the Lord. This is another reason we should heed Paul’s admonition to pray constantly.
When you pray, ask Christ what He would have you do. Then listen. Never make the mistake of trying to go it alone or of thinking you are self-sufficient when confronted by Satan. Without the help of God, Satan will win and you will lose. Satan’s power compared to yours is that of an elephant trampling a flea. But compared to Christ, Satan is powerless. With God’s help, you will win and Satan will lose.
Step 3: Seek guidance in Scripture.
Every challenge you will ever face is spoken to in the Bible. Holy Scripture provides God’s guidance concerning how we should live, interact with others, face dilemmas, and solve problems, as well as how we should honor Him in how we do these things. Consequently, when facing faith-related trials, it is both wise and innocent to consult Scripture before taking action of any kind (Matthew 10:16). A word of caution is appropriate at this point. When you consult Scripture, do so to determine what God would have you do in a given situation, not to validate what you have already decided to do. Using the Bible to rationalize decisions you have already made is neither wise nor innocent. The Bible does not always tell you what you want to hear, but it does tell you what you need to hear.
Step 4: Seek the wise counsel of Godly men and women.
One of the many benefits of being a Christian with a church family is that you have a lot of brothers and sisters in Christ to help you face challenges to your faith. A fellow Christian might have already faced the challenge confronting you now. That individual’s experiences—both good and bad—might help you formulate your response. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of wisdom. The Bible is clear in its admonition that Christians are to seek the counsel of Godly men and women. Proverbs 12:15 makes clear that seeking wise counsel is the smart thing to do. Seeking wise counsel can involve talking to your pastor, a Christian counselor, fellow believers, or all of these. Never skip this step. God often does His work through individual Christians. Hence, He might use one of your brothers or sisters in Christ to help you deal with the challenge you are facing.
Step 5: Translate Scriptural guidance and wise counsel into practical action.
I have stressed that your best guidance for confronting faith-related challenges will come from prayer, reading the Bible, and seeking the wise counsel of Christian brothers and sisters. The answers you need are available, but it’s not enough to pray, read Scripture, and seek wise counsel. You can’t just stop there. Rather, you have to translate what you learn from these exercises into practical action. Philippians 4:9 makes clear that what we have learned and heard from God is to be put into action. How to put Scriptural guidance and wise counsel into action will not always be obvious. Consequently, it is important to remember the message in Matthew 10:16: be both wise and innocent when translating Scriptural guidance and wise counsel into practical action. Be tactful, kind, and respectful, but do not deviate from the path God has set for you.
In the next installment, I will provide recommendations concerning what to do when the anti-Christian bias you face crosses a line and becomes persecution, and even after diligently applying the “First-Response Model” the problem still persists.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com