Well it’s been quite a year for many of us! Even though it’s October, I don’t think it’s too early to consider the implications of 2023 ending and 2024 beginning. I’ll admit, I’m a pretty reflective and contemplative guy when it comes to looking back and looking forward. I get excited about it and probably am a bit too giddy when it comes to things like ordering my new yearly planner. Here’s a picture of mine:
But this fall I’ve had some of what I would simply call spiritual apathy. It’s been kind of a “meh” attitude towards my own walk. Have I completely gone off the rails in terms of where my faith is at? No, not at all. But I sense my closeness with the Lord isn’t where I want it to be and even though I yearn for more, I’ve grown a bit lackadaisical. Rather than pressing in and pushing through, I’ve taken short cuts and ran things on auto-pilot for awhile.
Yes, many are probably in a similar spot. Many are looking at how bad the world is and rather than relying more on the Lord, we’ve gotten content with where things are at. “I guess this is as good as things will be,” is a prevailing attitude in the church. But I heard the other day what the underlying reason for apathy is and what the cure is for it. Ready for me to drop some knowledge? Here you go:
Apathy is rooted in loneliness. The remedy for apathy is intimacy.
When I heard this, it made sense. I considered that I was lonely…not necessarily for another person (my wife or kids). But lonely for the Lord. And the only way to fix that loneliness (and underlying apathy) was to spend more time with Him. To draw closer. To allow intimacy to grow.
Today’s blog features a few ways I address this in my own walk. I’m still learning and some of these are just examples for you to try. Certainly this is a message that would make sense at the beginning of a new year and perhaps it is something to start developing as you look to 2024. Really, it’s a year round kind of thing and I hope it spurs you on to move more in faith and less in apathy.
1. Start collecting the landmarks
Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the LORD has helped us.” 1 Samuel 7:12
There is such an important part of our lives that relies upon remembrance. When we talk about looking back, we are really looking upon what God has done and considering that it has been His hands that have brought us this far. Following a battle Israel has with the Philistines (in 1 Samuel 7), the prophet Samuel raises an “Ebenezer stone” and dedicates it to the Lord. This stone was to call their minds to remember: to look at how God delivered them and gave them victory.
When I very first started blogging, I wrote an article called “Setting Up Memorial Stones” and it dealt with this concept. Just recently I went back and looked at some old journals I wrote…5-10 years ago. It amazes me to see how God worked out certain situations I was facing and that He kept myself and my family going through various seasons. For each of us, how do we collect and treasure up these landmarks and Ebenezers that show where God has brought us? It’s important because seeing those things causes us to trust and want to go deeper with Him.
2. Get into community if you’re not already
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:1
It might seem strange to add this point in a topic that concerns us and our own individual relationship with the Lord. After all, if our loneliness is really rooted in an intimacy problem with God, what can any other relationship offer? Yes, we cannot replace the intimacy we need with Jesus with anyone else. But those other relationships are important because they reveal to us that need and help hold us accountable.
In this day and age, simply attending church once a week is not enough. To come, sing and hear a message for 60 minutes is a great start but what else from there? Are we in Bible studies with other Christians? Are we being mentored or mentoring someone else? Are we being discipled? These things help to cultivate the intimacy we need because rubbing shoulders with other Christians sharpens us. If you are a man, do you hang out with other godly men? For women, the same question. Those relationships spur us on and keep us from simply trying to live the “Lone Ranger Christian” lifestyle.
3. Consider just how personal is your relationship with Jesus
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! Psalm 139:23
This last point may sound accusatory. It’s not meant to be. A concept that must be regularly built into our spiritual lives is that of self-examination before the Lord. If I’ve made Him Lord and Savior, how deep does that relationship go? Do I meet with Him regularly? Am I in prayer and do I have a hunger for His word? Do I want to grow and become holy as He is holy? Are there things I hold onto because I have a hard time letting go of creature comforts or habits?
If I’m honest, it’s been a spirit of complacency that has gripped me in recent weeks. The apathy I’ve felt has been a reflection of my own hesitancy to keep going, to keep growing, and not just settle for what worked yesterday or last week or last month. I haven’t counted the cost and I have been too flippant (“not showing a serious or respectful attitude”) towards my God. Forgive me Lord. Cleanse me. Wash me in Your sanctifying blood once again. I want more of You and less of me.
As you consider these things, what are some action steps you feel the Lord is prompting? It might just be one thing. Maybe picking up a pen and journaling some thoughts and prayers about what’s going on in your life. Maybe it’s getting a Bible that you can start reading, circling verses, underlining, and highlighting (I can suggest a few if you’re shopping for a journaling Bible). Maybe it’s reaching out to a brother or sister who can hold you accountable and pray for you regularly. Maybe it’s talking to your pastor about what Bible studies (community or life groups), your church offers. An action step is a great thing to take and it will help spur you on towards greater closeness with Him.
Guys I want us to put away any spirit of apathy that may be hanging over us today. I want it to be replaced with a fire…an unquenchable appetite for more of Jesus! This world is needing saints who are filled up with the Holy Spirit and ready to minister. If we are not filled up, we have nothing to give and cannot be poured out for His work. Those daily times in His presence are necessary to keep us from a faith that tries to get by on “just enough.” Let us never settle for just enough. Lord, keep the fire burning!
Until next time! I love walking this journey with you guys and I am praying for you!
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Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17