You’ve lost that loving feeling…for your faith.
We need spiritual breakthroughs when our hearts resist God, when things in our life compete with Him, when God limits us and we don’t like it, or stretches us to become larger and we don’t understand it. All these create crisis moments that require us to change. But what if you’re stale and apathetic about your faith, not particularly interested right now?
If that is your situation, you have a lot of company. The trenches are full of Christians who have passion deficit. Their relationship with Jesus has atrophied, and nobody will notice, as long as they keep showing up with the rest of the church crowd, and playing along.
Passion deficit is often treated as normal. I’ve heard of old church members telling enthusiastic new believers, “You’re on your honeymoon with Jesus right now. Don’t worry, you’ll calm down and become like all the rest of us.” That is, “Your love for Christ is going to wilt just like ours did.”
Much to the contrary, God expects us to enjoy, and delight, and rejoice in his salvation. It’s not something we’re supposed to grow out of.
First of all, He commands us not to live a flat, deadened, spiritual life:
“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the gentiles do” (Eph. 4:17). Typically “gentile” refers to all the non-Jewish people of the world. But it is used here from the Christian perspective, generally referring to the non-people of God.
The unsaved live a certain way, and Scripture says we shouldn’t live that way any longer. As Paul goes on to say,
“They live in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.”
If the apostle had to tell believers not to live this way, that must mean it is a common things for us to do. Any Christian who has ever backslid, even for fifteen minutes, will recognize the symptoms here in these verses:
- Alienated, estranged, distant from spiritual reality
- Hardened, unwilling, stubborn
- Callous, unfeeling, numb
- Giving up, surrendering to sensuality
- Greed, growing addictive hunger
When someone is like this, and yet carries on in the grind of religion, it won’t be a “Christian life” they’re going to get much out of. It will be especially insulting to God, who poured everything He had onto a cross so we could have the Holy Spirit, enjoy fellowship with Him, and enter His glory. Salvation is supposed to be the best thing ever. When it’s not, we’re not happy and neither is He.
While growing up, I never could figure out why, after my mother put together a big meal of pork chops and loaded potatoes and salad and hot bread, she would get bothered when we kids didn’t come to the table fast enough. She would start off nice, almost singing it: “Diiiiiner!” But eventually if we were too slow getting there, her song turned into a war cry, and then finally, dark oaths—“If you don’t get down here right now…” The reason was that the meal would get cold and not be so good. The steam wouldn’t be pouring off it, and the butter wouldn’t melt on the bread the right way. The ice in the drinking glasses would start to water down the sweet tea. This bothered her, because after so much effort on her part, we might not enjoy the meal to its fullest potential.
It’s like treating salvation as if it were the religion we were forced to participate in as kids, back when boredom and pretense ruled. You may have carried this deficit into adult life, and instead of parents, now your spouse hassles you to continue in Christian things, or if you’re single, your Christian buddies.
In this case, God would say to you, “What you are calling salvation is a plate of food left out on your back patio for a week, getting cold and hard, while animals nibble at it. This is not the salvation I won for you. And it is certainly not a glory to me that you get nothing out of it. You must no longer walk this way.”
Your joy in Christ is worth fighting for.
If you don’t know how to begin that fight, God knew you would be clueless. He knew you would slip in and out of spiritual lethargy, so He arranged for His grace to reach us in all kind of ways.
For instance, when someone faints there are different ways to revive them, all through appeals to their senses. We could wake them through their sense of smell with smelling salts, or through their hearing, or by shouting their name. Even if they’ve just zoned out, which people sometimes do in the course of conversation, we could wave our hand in front of their eyes, using sight to help them snap out of it.
In a similar sense, God revives us with an appeal to our spiritual senses.
In Psalm 119:103 David says, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” He doesn’t say how educational are your words, but how sweet; the flavor is something calculated to get your attention.
Jeremiah, the weeping, morose prophet, said, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.” (15:16). The word has the power to revive us out of the blahs. Read the scriptures slow and deep, and you’ll taste it.
Once the taste of the word gets your attention, that savoring pause leads us to another sensory ability of our new birth–that of the heart to see. Psalm 34:8 says, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!”
2 Corinthians 3:18 adds that, “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” While we behold Him, we start to change, transform, and we find ourselves revived. This is how the word of God can reach us through both taste and vision.
Still, sometimes I need outside help, because I tend to get lost in my own personal space. Revelation 2:17 says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Hearing happens in the midst of the church as we gather. If I haven’t responded to taste or sight, maybe I’ll respond to sound.
Too many times I’ve felt exhausted at the end of the afternoon, without any spiritual acumen. Then I remember the small group meeting is coming up that night. Suddenly, I feel even more tired. I start negotiating with myself—If I don’t show up, nobody will care, there’ll be another one next week, etc., etc. But I go anyway. And I hear the Spirit’s speaking through other people. I always leave a different person than when I showed up, because the church stunned me back to life.
On other occasions, I’m dully aware of carrying around a load of sin. I feel heavy, dark, unqualified to be a Christian, and not spiritually alert. Ephesians 5:2 says, “…Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” When I take ten and get honest with Jesus about where I am and where I’ve been, the blood of His cross and His forgiveness is there. I smell the fragrant offering of His sacrifice for me–the aroma of grace that takes away condemnation and revives me.
And that’s not the only fragrance. 2 Corinthians 2:14 says, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.” This is the smell of Christ’s victory, as He leads. At times we’re not doing well because we’re in a controversy with Christ, a fight for control. When we give in, and trust and obey Him, a powerful fragrance of His lordship restores us. It gives the comforting assurance that He is in charge.
Yes, each of these cases involve some amount of fighting. Grace, after all, does not mean passivity.
A massive mine in eastern Russia is over 1,700 feet deep. Why did human beings dig it? Diamonds. Diamonds that apart from human market appraisal, have no inherent value at all. Yet, look at the effort that went into digging them out. Even if there were no modern excavation machinery, probably an army of volunteers would have shown up to shovel them out manually.
The Christian life requires some level of activity, but it is exercise well spent. Unlike the shiny rocks whose value fluctuates with world markets, there is stable inherent worth in what the Lord died to give us. Nor should we consider it too hard to open one’s hand to receive this free gift.
The fact is, we undertake all kinds of unpleasant, inconvenient hardships, trusting the outcome will prove worthwhile, whether it’s waiting in a Black Friday line for that video game deal, or training for a marathon, or fishing for six straight hours without a bite simply for love of the sport. In comparison, the Christian fight often comes down to opening a Bible and reading part of it, uttering a barely audible prayer, or getting in your car and driving for twelve minutes to a meeting. Yet incredibly, with this modicum of effort eternal grace cascades in, worth more than all the gold and silver of the earth.
But what happens when after such simple efforts, you remain in the doldrums? Please remember that spiritual disciplines are for cultivating a joyful relationship with Jesus, and not with a vending machine. Psalm 40 says,
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. 2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”
Our part is to seek Him patiently, trusting He knows what He’s doing. His part will be to fill your heart and mouth with fresh grace—a breakthrough of divine proportions.