Sometimes little decisions are much bigger than they may appear at first glance. Let’s say that my boss at work wants me to stay back late, but it’s Bible study night. Should I go to Bible study? Or should I stay at work?
It seems to be rare that someone would fall away from the faith by making a one time decision that Christianity is not true. Usually people drift away from the faith, slowly.
A friend of mine works in ministry to the medical profession. He told me once that a survey showed that 70% of medical students who were Christian fell away from the faith. That’s an enormous percentage. The reason why this is the case is probably due to the fact that medicine is a career that is all consuming. Enormous hours at all sorts of times are required. Medicos can start to miss church and Bible study. They can find it difficult to find the time to keep reading the Bible. After several months they may find that they haven’t read the Bible or been to church, and it no longer seems to matter. Slowly they drift off.
Of course this is not true of all medicos (there’s the 30%!). And it’s not just doctors who are in such spiritual danger. There are some law and accounting firms that seem to demand similar hours from their workers. No doubt there are many work environments here and there that demand too much from their workers. Sadly some Christian ministries can even work like this.
But some folk would disagree with me and point out the doctors in their congregation who are so active in church, growing as Christians, and working hard as doctors too. However my point would be that such Christians are the exception to the rule. We should thank God for such Christians. However most Christians in medicine are not in that category.
How then do Christians in medicine (or other very demanding jobs) manage to fall away? No doubt there are many reasons that could be given, both theological and pragmatic. I want to highlight one reason that applies to most of us, whether doctors or not: the little big decisions.
Somewhere along the path in medicine there was a choice. It was a little choice. It didn’t seem like a big deal at all at the time. The tutor at hospital asks the med students to come in on a Sunday morning. Will I come in, or go to church? I need to stay back at work tonight, but it’s Bible study night. Do I stay back, or do I go to Bible study? It’s not like it’s some sort of sin to miss Bible study. We’re saved by grace, not by works, after all. I can always go next week…
I became a Christian in my second year of studying medicine. When I came to my end of year exams I continued my usual study practices: all of life came to a halt, except for eating, some sleep, and study! I stopped going to church and Bible study for about 5 weeks. I didn’t think much of it and returned to church and Bible study after my exams. However one of my leaders rebuked me. And so the following year, for my end of year exams in third year, I took my life in my hands, as it were, and I went to church every week. I went to Bible study every week. I read my Bible and prayed. I figured that if I was going to fail, I would fail, but I would put God first. It wasn’t easy. Yet it was a surprise to me (and shouldn’t have been) that it made no difference to my study at all. Actually it did. I was more calm, more trusting in God, and had a much better time. My marks were no different. But I was different.
When I make that little decision – do I stay back at work, or go to Bible study – I am being tested. No, I don’t have to go to Bible study. Of course I can stay back at work. But I believe it’s a test. Will I trust God by putting him first and putting work or study firmly in its lower place? That is, what is my attitude? What are my priorities? Is my approach to eat, sleep, do work, and everything else I want to do, and then tack on church and Bible study at the end? Or do I put God first – church, Bible study, personal Bible reading and prayer, and everything else takes a back seat to that? Sure, if someone holds a gun to my head and asks me to renounce Jesus, I will stand firm (I hope!). But what about the little decisions? Is it not in those that I am tested? Peter said he would never deny Jesus, and would go to his death with him (Mark 14:31). But when he was casually asked in an awkward moment by a nobody if he was with Jesus, he denied it (Mark 14:66f). It’s the little decisions that expose us.
What are my priorities? How important is God and the fellowship of his people to me? I will find out when I am asked to make one of those little decisions….