Not tossing to and fro

By Richard Lim

Have you ever been tossed to and fro in a boat? How do you feel? I believe it is not a good feeling. In Ephesians 4:14, Paul warned the Christians in Ephesus about “being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine.” It is a risky thing to be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine as it is detrimental to our faith.

“But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” Jas. 1:6.

God does not accept a wishy-washy person and He also doesn’t expect that doubtful person coming to Him in prayer. The Hebrew writer said, “Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein” Heb. 13:9. But what is the reason we are tossed to and fro? Paul gave several reasons in Ephesians 4.

It is because we are like children, not mature in our thinking. Eph. 4:14 exhorts us to “no longer be children.” In 1 Cor. 14:20, “Brethren, be not children in mind: yet in malice be ye babes, but in mind be men.” But wait a minute; didn’t Jesus tell us to be like children? Yes, indeed Jesus said that unless we “become like children, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). So, are we to be like children, or unlike children?

Like in so many other cases, the meaning of each part of this apparent contradiction becomes clear when we consider the context. Jesus said we must have the faith of a little child, a simple faith, a genuine belief in Him. Little children can be completely trusting, and we are to trust Jesus with a similar faith. Also, we must have the humility of a little child, knowing that we are weak but our Father is strong. These are desirable qualities for Christians, to imitate little children in these ways.

But anyone who has been around children knows that they have undesirable qualities as well.

  1. Children tend to follow the crowd.

From our experiences with our children, we would have noticed this trait.  If you have a family with many children, you would realize that the younger ones tend to follow blindly what the older ones do.   This tendency can be positive at times but it can have a negative impact too like when they follow their peers to commit vices.

Likewise, Christians can do the same: chasing fads and following the latest “new” teachings. Paul likened this to being “carried about by every wind of doctrine” or every new teaching that comes along. Paul warned us in Gal. 1:8, Gal 1:8-9: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema.  As we have said before, so say I now again, if any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema.”

  1. Children are easily diverted and distracted

Like following the crowd, this does not necessarily portray a negative characteristic in children.  When traveling long distances to a holiday destination, those car seats can get hard and hot after many hours on the road.  The kids would get fretful and restless. When this happens, we’d look around for something unusual to point out to the kids. A passing fire engine or an aeroplane zooming past would be great for distracting them because they are easily distracted with the things surrounding them.

Likewise in our Christian life, if our faith in God is not built up, we too can be easily distracted from the truths of God’s word. Paul said that the equipping of the leaders in our congregation keeps us from being “tossed here and there by waves” keeps us from being distracted and losing our focus. Day in and day out, our leaders teach us these truths again and again, reminding us of what we already know, and then we live out these truths so that we might not lose focus.

  1. Children are easily deceived

Unfortunately, we have to warn children that not everyone who looks kind and nice are really so. Children are naive — and are in great danger because of that naiveté. Paul is very explicit about the dangers here, saying the leaders must equip the saints so that they are not taken in “by the trickery of men, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.” Satan is subtle, appearing even as an angel of light, and he tries his best to deceive us. If he can’t get us to reject the Bible outright, he will try to twist the doctrine in subtle ways or to change our mindset.  We can only be warned of these false doctrines if we have faithful leaders who know the Scriptures well and continue to teach us the whole counsel of God’s Word.

So, we are to display the simple faith of a young child, but we are not to follow the crowd, be easily distracted or be gullible. The proper and sound leadership in our congregation protects the church from these childish errors. It also serves in a positive way for us to graduate from childishness to full maturity as expounded in Eph 4:11-13  “And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ: till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a fullgrown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:”

Spiritual maturity should be desired by every Christian and it is the way to overcome being tossed here and there. Eph 4:15: “but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, even Christ.” There are some who have been Christians for many years but have never really grown unto maturity. They seem to possess the same attributes described by Paul. We are told in 1 Pet 2:2: “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:” We should not be like some Christians that are described by the Hebrew writer in  Heb 5:12-13 “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.” By right we should be mature being able to discern between right and wrong. “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” Heb 5:14.

We need to cultivate our understanding and use of the truth so that we would not be carried away by deceitful teachings. Let us take heed to Paul’s encouragement to the Philippian church:

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” Phil. 1:9-11.