It seems to me that even evil follows a predictable pattern. I have seen one or two persons, on rare occasions, suddenly and unexpectedly bolt from the faith and forsake God – seemingly all in one motion. However, this has certainly been the exception and not the rule. Most people who leave the faith do so gradually. And when they do, they follow what almost appears to be an assigned course prescribed for the purpose of absenting oneself from the faith and separating oneself from a divine connection with God.
One who falls away from Christ usually begins by neglecting his private worship. For instance, he will go for long periods without giving any time to meditate about God. Even when he is not under the duress of existing circumstances, he rarely ever contemplates anything about his personal relationship with God. He, because of this same type of neglect, stops praying and giving thanks to God for his goods, health, or others of his blessings. He feels smugly secure in his own egotistical pride and begins to reason that humility is a weakness, tears are for "softies," and that things like moral courage, sacrifice, and virtue, are not worthy of his time or attention. In short, the time he once gave to personal devotion to glorify God is now totally wasted in efforts to satisfy himself.
One who becomes disinterested in spiritual service will soon begin to show a lack of interest in public worship services. No one can, for any length of time, "fake" interest in a cause. His lack of attention will soon expose his true feelings. So it is with one who leaves his first love. He starts the process by no longer listening attentively to the songs, the sermons, and the prayers. His mind is no longer "tuned in" to those things which should occupy his attention, and even though it may outwardly appear to be otherwise, he really is doing no more than occupying a pew.
The next thing you will notice about our wandering brother is that he will become sporadic in his attendance, particularly on Sunday nights and Wednesday nights. Then it won't be long before he ceases to avail himself of the opportunities at all. He makes for himself excuses that are logical only to him and make no sense at all to those who are anxious about his seeming lack of interest in the work of the church where he is supposedly a member.
Then when someone confronts him about his obvious lack of concern, he is immediately insulted and becomes indignant. He just can't imagine anyone thinking he is not as faithful as he should be. Why, the very idea! At about that time the excuses begin to pour out with the rapidity of white water rapids. The number of "reasons" for his lack of participation is so emphatic that it becomes obvious that too much emphasis becomes no emphasis at all. It's now apparent – if only to him – that someone is "out to get him," that he is "just as good as so-and-so," and that if he told all he knows about the other members there would be a moral explosion of major proportions.
Finally, he quits. He now has what he has sought for some time – a reason to leave. And, mind you, that "reason" has nothing whatever to do with him, nor is he leaving because of his own neglect, indifference, or lethargy. You see, he was driven away. The blame belongs to the church. They never wanted him there in the first place. How sad! How very sad!
The devil is subtle, cunning, and crafty. He doesn't often invite people into the slime pits of sin; rather, he induces them a bit at a time. "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip" (Hebrews 2:1).