The fact of the matter is that Christmas isn't what is was when we were kids. Rememebr as a kid that "Christmas is in the air" feeling. The joyful buzz in the air, the laughter, the traditions, the smells, the presents, the Christmas parties at school, the Christmas music, the crisp air... I think you know what I'm talking about..
Maybe, as an adult, you itch for that nostaligic feeling that you used to get as you counted down the days to December 25th. There is something about growing older that causes the Christmas feeling we had as kids to slip out of our grasp.
This decline of the nostalgic Christmas feeling, unfortunately, is not limited Christmas. We can be prone to the same decline of excitement in other holidays, birthays, jobs, our marriages, and even parenting.
Unfortunately.. Our spiritual lives are not exempt from this trend. Can you recall being a brand new Christian? How excited and on fire were you? How is that fire now? Are you itching for the spiritual zeal you once had the same way that you're itching for the cheery, nostalgic feeling that Christmas brought you as a child?
Me too. Let's talk about it.
I want to give just a few pieces of information that may encourage us as we wrestle to free ourselves from the grips of spiritual apathy.
-- You Might Not Be as Apathetic as You Think...
You might not be as apathetic as you think. Rather, you might just think you're apathetic when you compare yourself to a trendy, yet false, picture of Christianity. The picture painted by the denominational world is that true Christianity is all about about "experiencing a relationship with Jesus." While this statement isn't inheritely wrong, the picture of this "relationship with Jesus" is misleading. Does this sound familiar: a young, attracitve individual with tears slowly falling down the face, gently closed eyes, hands raised, swaying to the inspiritional worship music mouthing "praise Jesus.." This is NOT Christianity. This is a caricature of a romanticized relationship with Jesus. Just like a caricature exaggerates your nose or ears to unrelaistic proportions, this picture of Christianity exaggerates the emotion of a relationship with Jesus to unrealistic proportions. My point is this: do not let a false depiction of a relationship with God be the measuring stick you use to determine whether you are apathetic.
-- Spiritual Apathy Is Normal...
So, maybe your feeling of apathy is not just based on the picture that we discussed above... Maybe you really are apathetic-- you have lost your concern for God, His desires, His Word, or His people. You are not really listening to lessons or classes, just filling space. Maybe you are not engaged in worship, just waiting for the last "amen." Maybe you are just "coasting" spiritually, as opposed to trying to progress in your knowledge and godliness. Maybe the peace and joy that Christ once brought you has gone and left a void in your heart.
Spiritual apathy IS real, and it IS NORMAL! We need to realize that a time of spiritual apathy does not mark the end of our spiritual journey. I am afraid that people believe that as soon as they don't feel the "fire" they once did, it's time to hang it up.. This is not true. Jesus warns Christians of apathy. But He does not say "you lost all your passion, time to hang it up you sinner..." Rather, He says, "remember from where you have fallen from, repent and do the deeds you did at first." (Rev 2:5) and "those who I love, I reprove and discipline, therefore be zealous and repent." (Rev 3:19). While these are harsh warnings, we see there is hope! Since Jesus expects Christains to return from our place of spiritual apathy, we can know that a time of apathy is beatable. Your apathy does not have to be then end, it is NORMAL, Christians in the Bible experienced it, Jesus taught on it. You are experiencing what every Christian has.
* I want to note that "normal" does not mean "acceptable."
-- How To Overcome Apathy...
While we could get more in depth with overcoming apathy.. I think there is one primary, simple, practical thing that can do to get out of the pit of apathy. Read God's Word. Make time to read. Don't worry about getting fancy, no need to bust out the highlighters right now- Just read. I'm not talking a verse or two before bed. But invest in it, spend time in God's Word. Keep track of how long you're reading. Maybe aim for 25 minutes a day. Next week try 30, then 35 and 40. I have found that one of the best methods of Bible study is to read a whole book of the Bible in as few sittings as possible-- then when you finish a book don't move on to the next book, REREAD it one or two times! (rereading a book of the Bible did wonders for my understanding of the Bible) If you're looking for where to start, I would suggest: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Chronicles, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Luke, Acts. If this seems like too much to tackle, just read Luke and Acts. These books listed will take you through the bare bones story of the Bible. The rest of the books fit in to the story that these books tell. When you have a question about what you're reading, ask someone! Ask me!
There are a thousand ways to go about reading your Bible, but all of them innefective if you don't pick up that big ol' book and JUST START READING!
The reason this is such a good remedy for spiritual apathy is because:
-- God's Word is addicting: when you read, and you start to get it, you want more!
-- God's Word is unchanging: God's Word is the same when you come to it with zeal or apathy,
-- God's Word is deep: There is always more to uncover in God's Word. We will never close the Bible and say "ok, done."
Let's not be people that talk about the importance of God's Word, but do not open it.
Invest your TIME in reading and understanding God's Word, and you will see your apathy be replaced with sustinence, hunger, energy and passion.
"You are my refuge and my shield;
I have put my hope in your word."