Lesson 9 - The Problem


Relapse or backsliding is not a one-time event or set of circumstances. It occurs as a slow and deliberate process of deterioration. It erodes our foundation of sobriety and holy living. There are several causes of relapse/backsliding. These are our wrong priorities, our half-hearted efforts, and our double-mindedness.

Revelation 2:1-4 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”’”

The first cause of relapse is confused priorities. God and those we love are no longer our first priority. We allow something else to get in the way of our focus on the Lord. The people of the church in Ephesus were doing all the right things except the most important one.

Matthew 6:24 No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

Another cause of relapse is a half-hearted effort in gaining sobriety. Jesus said that we cannot serve two masters, and a half-hearted effort will use up our strength and resources. (2 Chronicles 25:2; Luke 9:62; Revelation 3:15-16)

James 1:6-8 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

The people in Hosea’s time called on the Lord but their hearts were far from Him. They thought they were right before God and were truly worshiping Him but they were not worshiping Him in spirit and truth, they were double-minded. Hosea 11:7, “My people are bent on backsliding from Me. Though they call to the Most High, none at all exalt Him.” Also read Isaiah 29:13.

If we don’t actually do what the Word instructs us to do, we deceive ourselves. James 1:22, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

Relapse most often occurs because we falsely believe that our foundation of God’s love has somehow been diminished or shattered. We relapse when our trust in God begins to erode. This causes us to turn to self and pursue our pleasures. When we confront the issue of relapse in our lives, we must first understand the truth of God’s love for us. Reality is not defined from our perspective. It is not how we think God sees us or what He thinks about us. God’s knowledge and love for us define reality. He knows us completely—from beginning to end.

Psalms 139:1-6, 13-18 O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it…. For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with You.

This accurate perspective of reality protects us from relapse. We must make God’s Word and His love for us our number one priorities. We must believe His promises to fulfill His will in our lives. If we have accepted and committed our lives to Him as Savior and LORD, we must not take for granted His title of Savior and then forget that He is also LORD. Remind yourself and others daily of this wonderful fact. Never forget what Jesus did and accomplished for us. (Ephesians 2:10; Phillipians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24; Hebrews 13:20-21)

Next, we’ll see the characteristics that demonstrate the deterioration or erosion of a walk of sobriety. They happen as a process, not a one-time event. They all transpire in the battleground of our mind where this process affects our thoughts, words, and actions.