Avoiding a Shipwrecked Faith
Avoiding a Shipwrecked Faith is a struggle all Christians face and many go through. Knowing how to avoid one and how to recover from one are important, both for our own faith and for helping others who are struggling.
Paul’s advice to Timothy to “fight the good fight” (1 Timothy 6:12) is still wholly applicable for us today. More specifically, he told Timothy to be aware of false teachers, which basically means anything that doesn’t line up with living out your faith according to the Gospel. It’s anything that veers you away from living a holy life and not offending God. Refusing to follow false teaching and insisting on living out the Gospel results in avoiding a shipwrecked faith.
For an even more detailed answer, let’s look at what Paul says next. He tells Timothy that those who suffered a shipwrecked faith failed to keep a good conscience. They knew the truth of the Gospel but chose to live contrary to it. They made a deliberate choice.
Think of your conscience like the ballast for a ship. Without proper ballast, a ship is unbalanced and cannot be maneuvered accurately. So, a captain can know the right path to take but not be able to steer the ship that way if the ballast isn’t working like it should. Likewise, we cannot live out the Gospel, our faith, if our conscience has been discarded.
In order for this truth to be fully applicable to our lives, we need to understand what exactly our conscience is and is not. Your conscience does not define right and wrong. For the Christian, the Gospel does that. Instead, your conscience directs how you live out your faith, whether according to the Gospel or contrary to it.
Let’s break down the truth of what Paul tells Timothy. How can we live out the truth of the Gospel by keeping a good conscience and thus avoid a shipwrecked faith?
Preserve a Good Conscience
Preserving a good conscience means refusing to drift. Recognize that drift begins imperceptibly and happens gradually, especially if we fail to consider it as a possibility.
Drift happens through compromise. Compromise comes when we tolerate what we should not tolerate, things like torn sails, overloaded ships, complacency, and arrogance. It happens when we refuse to challenge the sin in our lives. Sin destroys a good conscience and leads us away from living out the Gospel.
The blood of Jesus can restore a good conscience. Under the blood, there’s no guilt, shame, or fear of punishment. In Christ, we have peace and rest as our consciences once again function properly, and we become able to live our faith in the Gospel.
Preserving a good conscience also involves keeping short accounts with God and others. This means following a continual process of confession, repentance, and forgiveness. It means again and again returning to the Gospel.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
Determine to Be Separate
Being separate from the world requires that we know God’s Word. We must meditate on it regularly and actually fear not obeying it. We need to cast it as our anchor again and again and wait for God to show us the way through it.
Being separate also involves declaring Christian warfare. That means we decide to keep up the struggle of becoming righteous rather than giving in to the world, the flesh, and Satan. We decide to refuse the easy and to instead fight for our faith.
“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)
Finally, being separate means knowing without a doubt what you believe…
- About the future (Luke 21:25-28)
- About salvation (2 Timothy 1:12; Hebrews 6:19)
- About God’s goodness (1 Corinthians 10:13)
If we truly hope to be separate, we must continually return to these Gospel truths and choose to live them out regardless of what others think, say, or do. Separate is necessary if we hope to avoid the drift of our conscience.
Keep An Active Faith
An active faith is one that is alive and growing and focused living out the many directives detailed in Scripture.
“But as for you, O man of God, flee from these things; aim at and pursue righteousness [true goodness, moral conformity to the character of God], godliness [the fear of God], faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness.” (1 Timothy 6:11, AMP)
Paul’s advice to Timothy here gives clarity on how to live an active faith: flee from the bad (i.e., anything contrary to the Gospel) and pursue the good (i.e., that which conforms to and confirms the Gospel). An active faith refuses to be lazy and instead insists on actively living out the Gospel in every way possible.
Return to the Gospel
What if you’re already adrift and off course? What if your conscience has already been thrown overboard and left behind? What if your faith has run aground and the waves are tearing it apart?
What if you’re in a place where you’re refusing to take responsibility and instead continually blaming others for your circumstances? What if you’re already ignoring the limits God provides? What if you’re already compromising convictions?
The answer is the same no matter how far gone you feel you are right now: Return to the Gospel. Get to know God’s truth again and rededicate yourself to living it out.
- Rebuild your conscience based on faith in the Gospel.
- Reestablish your conviction to live separately.
- Reactivate the activity of your faith.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1)