SIGNS OF A HEALTHY SPIRITUAL LIFE #1: DEVOTION
Sally and Tom have been married for several years. When they first met and fell in love, they could not get enough of each other. They stayed up late at night talking on the phone. They called each other on breaks at work and met for lunch as often as possible. Even when they were not together, their minds were always on each other. Tom made Sally feel loved and secure.
After the honeymoon stage of their marriage, things began to change. Tom’s love for Sally never faltered. He always wanted to be with her and longed for her company, but it did not seem to be reciprocated. At first he thought, “Maybe it’s just a season we are going through.” But Sally continually grew distant. It was not that she was doing anything wrong. She was not seeing another man; she just got busy. Other things became more important than Tom. When he would confront her, she would always promise to try harder. “You know I love you with all my heart and I am yours,” she would respond.
At first, Tom was very forgiving. However, as time went on, he became more impatient. He was jealous for his wife’s attention. Once after she gave her usual, “I love you, I’m just busy” speech, he slammed his hand on the table and said, “If you love me like you say you do, then spend time with me! Change your priorities. Cancel some appointments!”
To this Sally replied, “But my schedule is just too full. You know I would change things if I could.”
Tom—head held low—just replied, “You make time for everything else. Don’t lie to me and tell me you cannot make time for me. That is simply not true.”
I do not think that anyone reading this story can say Tom is being unreasonable. This does not sound like much of a marriage, does it? No marriage can be very strong without intimacy. This marriage that began strong had really become a one-sided relationship.
The Ephesian Problem
I fear this story accurately illustrates the spiritual lives of many in our churches. Tom represents the Lord, and Sally the believer. After first getting saved, many go through a ‘honeymoon’ stage. They love to be with Jesus. At one point, it was no sacrifice to wake up early, stay up late, give up hobbies or cut off the TV to be with Him—it was their joy. Over time, they grow disillusioned. They get hurt. Promises seem unfulfilled and prayers seem to go unanswered. So, they begin to drift.
God’s love for them never changes, but like Sally, these Christians get busy. Without realizing it, their first love begins to dwindle. They get caught up in the affairs of this life. This is not necessarily sinful activity, but other things become a priority over their relationship with God. All the while, they still claim the Lord is truly first in their lives.
Like Tom, God is patient. He continually calls out to us, beckoning us to seek Him. The Bible tells us He is a jealous God.1 He is jealous for our affection. The whole reason He created us was for relationship. Yet many Christians are just like Sally: full of justifications and empty excuses.
The Ephesian church experienced a similar situation. They were one of seven churches that had the amazing privilege of receiving a personal message from Jesus written in the Apostle John’s revelation. When Jesus shares His evaluation of their spiritual condition, it was not all negative. In fact, He praises them for their deeds, hard work and perseverance. (Revelation 2:2) He shares His appreciation for the fact that they were able to discern false teachers in the church as well as for their ability to endure hardships. (vs. 3)
However, despite the good things happening in the church. Despite their hard work and the acts of service they were doing, there was something off. It was not that they had abandoned the Lord completely, but like Sally in our story, the busyness and activity was causing them to lose their first love with Jesus. Their devotion to the Lord was being challenged by other things.
The Devotional Life
Devotion is ongoing communion with God. Salvation is an event that should lead us into a lifestyle of communion. A professing Christian trying to walk with Jesus without any intimacy is only fooling himself. Intimacy does not come from spending a couple of hours with Him in church services throughout the week. I do not know any marriage that would have a fragment of intimacy in it if both spouses only spent a couple of hours on Sunday mornings together and one or two hours throughout the week. Intimacy requires devotion to a person.Salvation is an event that should lead us into a lifestyle of communion. Click To Tweet
Loss of intimacy is one of the first signs of backsliding. Pursuing and maintaining our devotion to the Lord is a foolproof way to avoid growing cold. Everything in the Christian life flows out of intimacy. If you lose that part of your Christian walk, you are on a slippery slope.
When we hear the term devotions, many of us automatically think of 365-day books with a quick thought, short prayer and a verse. But a devotional life is so much more than that. The devotional life is a lifestyle of living to please God. Like William Law said: “Devotion does not imply any form of prayer but a certain form of life that is offered to God everywhere and in everything.”1
The true believer who is walking in the Spirit will find that the Lord is constantly pursuing their hearts. He wants all of our hearts because He loves us. A sign of spiritual life is a growing hunger for the presence of the Lord in our daily lives. In the same way, a sign of spiritual death is a lack of devotion to God outside of church. Many people filling our churches have pathetic devotional lives. They look great on Sunday, but if you followed them throughout the rest of the week, you could easily ask the question, “Where is Jesus in their lifestyle?” Some make feeble efforts when they really feel guilty, but soon revert back to spending no quality time with Him.Like everything else in the Christian life, seeking the Lord has to come from the heart, or it means nothing. Click To Tweet
I once was in the same rut myself. There were times I really tried to seek Jesus, but it would never last. Why? Because I did not do it out of love for Him, but rather as an outward commitment to try to be more spiritual. Like everything else in the Christian life, seeking the Lord has to come from the heart, or it means nothing. There will be times that we do not feel like we are connecting, however, outward actions without inward sincerity only harden the heart even more.
The level of a Christian’s spirituality is directly proportional to the quality of their devotional lives. It is time well spent to consider specific ways that we can improve our time with the Lord. Are there distractions I need to cut out? Do I need to set my phone in another room when I go to seek the Lord? Do I need to change up my routine to bring a freshness to my time with Him?
Why not take a moment to pray a prayer like this:
“Lord, I want to live a life fully devoted to you. Forgive me for my tendency to make time with you into a lifeless ritual. I pray you would bring fresh life into my times of prayer, devotion, worship and waiting on you. I long to experience a greater level of intimacy. Draw me closer to yourself. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”
This blog post was adapted from an excerpt from the book, “Pile of Masks: Exposing Christian Hypocrisy” by Dustin Renz.
DUSTIN RENZ is the President of Make Way Ministries, a non-profit organization that exists to see the world changed one Christian at a time. He has a passion to see the Body of Christ find rich intimacy in their relationship with Jesus and step out in faith to share the Gospel with the world around them. He is the author of Pile of Masks: Exposing Christian Hypocrisy and Something Better. He resides in Dayton, Ohio with his wife and three daughters.