Is Your Christian Faith Stuck in a Rut?
Don't remember the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now shall it spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:18-19
Some years after discovering Jesus, sometimes people find that their initial excitement and enthusiasm to follow Christ can wear off. Things start to feel routine, and ordinary, and not as special as when you were first converted. It can also happen with people who grew up in a church environment, and haven't yet got to experiencing how much of a blessing it really is to be a believer in Jesus Christ.
Stuck In a Routine
For many people who've been following Christ for a while, things can sometimes get into a routine. The kind of routine where you forget some (or a lot) of what it was like to first know Jesus. Or, perhaps you grew up in a Christian environment and just got used to doing certain things, and didn't think that much about them.
Pulled Away By Distractions
It's very easy to underestimate how distracting the non-Christian world (often just called "the world") is. Its pull towards worldly things, and away from Christian things, is relentless and intense. If you live in modern society it's quite rare to not be constantly exposed to things that gradually and relentlessly pull you away from your Christian life.
For a great many people, a balance occurs at around the point where 2-3 hours a week are spent on Christian activities. For example, church which may last an hour and half. Pus a bit of prayer and/or reading the Bible, and — maybe — perhaps a home group or some other Christian activity apart from church itself.
Some simple maths then reveals that the remaining 165-166 hours a week are left over, to be spent on other, non-Christian thoughts and activities.
Of course this can vary a lot — but generally speaking, there are a lot of Christians out there spending by far the largest part of their time on worldly, non-Christian things.
It's Never Too Late to Start Over
You can always start over again, as if you're newly converted to Christ. Even in this moment right now, you can do that, if you feel inspired to.
Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, so that there may come times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.
No Matter What You've Done, You Can Be Forgiven
Jesus will forgive all who come to him with an attitude of sincere repentance. That means, you can always be forgiven, for anything you've done. The Apostle Paul was in charge of persecuting Christians, rounding them up and having them jailed and even executed. Before he saw the resurrected Jesus Christ, and then was himself converted, and forgiven. He then went on to write much of the New Testament of the Bible, and to become the main figure in bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to the non-Jewish world.
And I thank him who enabled me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he counted me faithful, appointing me to service; although I was before a blasphemer, a persecutor, and insolent.
However, I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. The grace of our Lord abounded exceedingly with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. The saying is faithful and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
However, for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first, Jesus Christ might display all his patience, for an example of those who were going to believe in him for eternal life.
Inspiration, or Investment?
I think perhaps the biggest reason that a non-Christian routine happens is that both the demands and the pleasures of ordinary life can appear on the surface to be more important — or at least more immediately rewarding — than your path in following Jesus. This is especially true in the short term. A good example is that of bills that need to be paid. Also there are many things which can seem on the surface to be more enjoyable than Christian things.
In this kind of context, it's possible to get into the mindset of thinking of your Christian life as mainly an investment, where sacrifices are made in the present and short-term, in order to win longer term benefits.
One reason why it's so easy to get drawn into this kind of mindset is that to some extent it is actually true. For example, I know for a fact that a shot of morphine would make me feel better (at least physically) than I do right now as I'm sitting at my desk typing. I like working on this website, but then a big block of chocolate (perhaps combined with some Fentanyl and/or OxyContin) would be pretty nice too. So there is, in some way, some genuine need for self-discipline. This is true of many (if not all) things in life, not just Christianity:
Don't you know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run like that, that you may win. Every man who strives in the games exercises self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. I therefore run like that, as not uncertainly. I fight like that, as not beating the air, but I beat my body and bring it into submission, lest by any means, after I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.
But it's also true that:
- In return for self-discipline we get an absolutely massive reward, which is worth more than the initial effort and/or sacrifice. And;
- Once we've built up sufficient momentum with this, the reward itself becomes ongoing. The more we do things that lead to a life of happiness feeling close to God, the more happiness we get out of doing these things.
Which, of itself, would be a self-reinforcing cycle — leading to ever-growing closeness to God, holiness, and happiness.
Keeping Your Eyes On the Prize
If that was all there was to it, then all we would have to do is kick-start our Christian lives with a boost of self-discipline. And then, (like when you start an actual internal combustion engine such as in a motorbike, car, lawnmower, speedboat, etc.), once the engine gets going, it provides enough energy to more than sustain the effort needed to push the pistons around the engine. In spiritual terms, our happiness in Christ and our motivation to follow Jesus even more would just keep on increasing.
But what happens is that instead of this natural, ever-increasing cycle of spiritual growth, the distractions of "the world" start to creep in.
There are multiple reasons for this (which I'll cover more fully later on, on other web pages). One big reason is that most of us vastly underestimate the distractive power of the world. And allow ourselves to be constantly exposed to that which only detracts from our success and our happiness following Jesus. Doing too much of this allows us to be gradually tricked away from keeping Jesus at the centre of our lives.
We also underestimate the highly addictive nature of these distractions. This allows us to become trapped within the worldly things that have attracted us, and then distracted us. Since most of us are members of ordinary modern society, we then also look around and see everyone else doing the same kinds of things. This allows us to not even notice how far we have fallen away from, as an example, the lifestyles of the original disciples of Christ.
To overcome this does require some amount of deliberate, intentional planning and action.
Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect; but I press on, if it is so that I may take hold of that for which also I was taken hold of by Christ Jesus.
Brothers, I don't regard myself as yet having taken hold, but one thing I do. Forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Without some action taken to shield oneself from worldly things (which can be activities and/or patterns of thoughts or feelings), the pull of their distractive power is so great as to create the illusion that Christian things are more like work than actual work — and that worldly things can raise your spirits more than spiritual things.
When this happens over a long period of time, the idea can develop that Christianity is mainly about discipline and routines, and putting limits on your enjoyment — instead of the limitless inspiration and joy that following Jesus can be about.
Stretch Out Your Hands Towards God
The thing which joins these ideas together — the idea of sacrifice, self-discipline, and "investment" — and the limitless inspiration and joy that can be found right now in following Jesus Christ; is that knowing your future is totally secure, and knowing you're totally and completely loved, gives you the freedom to feel confident, secure, and happy right now.
If you set your heart aright, Stretch out your hands toward him. If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, Don't let unrighteousness dwell in your tents.
Surely then shall you lift up your face without spot; Yes, you shall be steadfast, and shall not fear: For you shall forget your misery; You shall remember it as waters that are passed away, Life shall be clearer than the noonday; Though there is darkness, it shall be as the morning.
You shall be secure, because there is hope; Yes, you shall search, and shall take your rest in safety. Also you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid.
Next Page: Bring Your Faith Back to Life!