There is a song in the 2005 movie Hustle and Flow, “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp”. Some of the lyrics are “You know it's hard out here for a pimp, When he tryin' to get this money for the rent For the Cadillac's and gas money spent..” There’s much more but I won’t include them in this post. The point of the song is that it’s tough for the pimp to survive in a world structured for a very different lifestyle than his. It’s the same thing for a Christian in this world with its current secular worldview. “It’s hard out here for a Christian”. I write three blogs based on faith in God and His word, the Bible. Some of the names and descriptions of Christians in general and for me in particular would surprise and shock you. Some of the nicer ones are , idiot, dummy, ignorant, clueless. There are others that I wouldn't publish in this or any other blog.
I’ve learned over the past five years to not let the name calling and negative comments discourage or stop me. However I do know that constant criticism can cause you to not speak out when challenged, especially when your critics are more knowledgeable that you. But “be not dismayed” there are things that you can do to strengthen you in the face of criticism and ridicule. It takes work but if you want to and are willing you can strengthen your faith. You can be stronger when you realize that the Creator of the universe is on your side and He has promised to never leave or forsake you.
Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Max Lucado tells about his neighbor who was trying to teach his 6-year-old son how to shoot a basketball. They were out in the backyard. The father shot a couple of times, saying, "Do it just like that, son; it's real easy." The little boy tried very hard but he couldn't get the ball 10 feet into the air. The little fellow got more and more frustrated. Finally, after hearing his father talk about how easy it was for the 10th time, the boy said, "It's easy for you up there. You don't know how hard it is from down here."
You and I never can say that about God. When Jesus became man and lived among us, He walked where we walk; He suffered what we suffer; He was tempted as we are tempted. He was Emmanuel, which means, "God is with us."
6 Ways to Strengthen Your Faith in a Secular World
By Wesley Baines (Scripture references mine)
It's becoming harder than ever to be faithful in a faithless world, but these tips will keep you strong.
It’s not easy being a Christian in a world that is increasingly hostile toward religious belief. The rise of secularism has placed believers in the difficult position of being belittled, ostracized, and lampooned. And sometimes, this intense pressure to join the ranks of non-believers can break a believer’s faith.
But there are ways to strengthen that faith—some expected, and others, surprising. These methods are challenging, but if you can work to introduce them to your life, your faith will be better than ever.
This isn’t the only benefit of sharpening your faith. Much of the criticism leveled at believers is a reaction to hypocritical behavior within the Christian Church—it’s a reaction to the kind of weak and uninformed faith that doesn’t accurately represent the character of God.
But the very act of strengthening your own faith strengthens the Church, and by living out a strong and scriptural faith, you can help change how the world sees Christianity. Showing others the true character of God invites curiosity and interest rather than derision.
Cultivate a Deep Understanding of Scripture
Strong faith requires a strong foundation, and you don’t get any more foundational than the Bible. It’s the Word of God, the collection of thousands of years of wisdom, and the source of your beliefs.
Psalm 119:105 NIV Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
2 Timothy 2:15 KJV Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
It’s time to become intimately acquainted with it.
This means actually taking the time to read the Bible closely. You need to do more than merely flipping to a random page, trying to glean some prophetic meaning from the first scripture you happen to see. No—this means taking your time. This means reading entire chapters. But most of all, it means reading with context in mind, paying attention to who is speaking in each verse, who is being spoken to, and what’s going on in the background. It’s through this context that you can more deeply understand scripture, and it is through this deep understanding that you can truly craft a Godly life.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Shallow reading makes for a fragile faith that shatters at the first signs of adversity, but understanding strengthens all, giving us answers to the questions the secular world throws at us to break our faith.
Learn to Defend Your Faith Through Apologetics
Once you have a better understanding of what the Bible really has to say about life and God, you can further strengthen your faith by learning how to respond to the intellectual challenges that the secular world will throw at you.
Saying “because the Bible says so” just isn’t enough when someone questions your faith. This convinces no one.
Instead, become familiar with major works in the field of Christian apologetics—the art of defending faith through reasonable arguments. This can help you take what you know about the Bible and communicate it more effectively in a way that makes sense to everyone—non-Christians included.
But studying the great apologetics authors does more than allow you to communicate your faith—it allows you to defend it internally, as well. Otherwise, those arguments against faith might start cracking your own.
Explore Other Worldviews
Explore other religions in order to strengthen your own faith? Sounds crazy!
Except it’s not. Taking a deep look into other worldviews and seriously considering the ideas of other religions can strengthen your faith beyond anything you can imagine.
This is because doing so will force you to choose your faith rather than simply having fallen into it.
Most Christians are born to Christian parents. They’re raised in the Church and are exposed to Christianity every day. It’s normal. It’s life. And so they just sort of fall into their faith.
This kind of faith is weak. It’s immature. And in a secular world, it won’t last.
That’s why, when you’re ready, you need to study other points of view. Find out why your Muslim neighbor loves his faith so much. Talk to your Buddhist friend about her beliefs. Read up on Hinduism.
Seriously consider the ideas of these other religions. Why do or don’t they work for you? What do you like or dislike? Do they adequately describe the world for you?
When you become familiar with multiple faiths, you can truly choose Christianity as your own. At this point, it’s yours, rather than simply that of your family and peers.
In addition to strengthening your faith, knowing other worldviews helps you communicate with, understand, and love the diverse array of people around you who don't hold the same views.
And that is never a bad thing.
Fellowship With Believers
It’s easy to feel alone as a believer in a largely secular world, and this loneliness can sometimes tempt us to give up on faith in order to obtain acceptance.
But remember this: the Church will always accept you. Spending time with other believers can be spiritually refreshing and affirming.
Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
These are the brothers and sisters who love you for who you are—including your faith. They won’t berate you, make fun of you, ostracize you, or hurt you. They share your most deeply-held values and remind you that—yes—it is okay to be a Christian.
Not only this, but fellow believers can help you in your struggles, teaching you how to read scripture, directing you toward great Christian authors, and gently letting you know when you aren’t displaying Christ-like behavior.
Acceptance is a human craving. Don’t deny yourself—head to church and spend a little time with the people who share your faith. Yours will be strengthened as a result.
Live Out Your Faith
It may seem like common sense, but a lived-out faith is far stronger than one that’s merely intellectual. But many Christians don’t realize what living out faith truly means.
So what does it look like? It looks like service, love, and discipline. And it’s hard.
James 2:14-17 NIV What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
You can’t be a lazy Christian and have a strong faith. When Christ was asked what God’s greatest commands were, He replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Take a moment to consider the implications of Christ’s statement. It means that the secular world is not your enemy. You are not to attack non-Christians. You are to love them. You are to serve, help, and comfort them.
Look, also, at the Fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are the attributes cultivated by the faithful, and that strengthen faith.
Galatians 5:22-23 NIV But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
So get involved in loving others through charity work, kindness, and whatever other ways you may be able. That’s how you live out your faith, and how you make it stronger than ever before.
Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Finally, we come to the most vital component of faith: a close and personal relationship with God.
We’re flawed human beings. We make mistakes. We sin. We have a hard time believing in anything that isn’t immediately before our eyes.
And so because of this, without God’s grace, strong faith isn’t possible. But when we ask God for that grace, for the ability to have faith, He listens. He’ll give us the faith we ask for.
Beyond this, a personal relationship with God lets us get to know Him, and to know God is to love God. A stronger relationship with Him leads to stronger faith.
Keep this dialogue with God going every day. Pray often, and you’ll slowly feel your faith begin to grow more resilient. Just like talking to a loved one every day results in a closer bond, so it is with you and God.
Among the business of your everyday life, find time to talk to God. It’s the most essential ingredient for a stronger faith in a secular world.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
A Chosen Faith
There’s no denying that these tips are hard to follow. They take effort, time, and dedication, but they’re well-worth it. The result is a strengthened faith that will direct your thoughts and actions to better ends—you’ll be a more loving, kind, and compassionate person who feels secure in your belief system.
This blog is for you! If you have any questions or topics you would like me to address please use the comments section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.