The longer I am a Christian, the more convinced I am about certain things. For example, I am convinced that so very much of today’s church is in a very sorry state. And the reason for that of course is because so many believers are in such a sorry state.
There has been little or no growth for far too many believers – and in fact, for many, they are actually going backwards. They are making no progress in their spiritual life, they are seeing no fruit or growth, and they are seeing no movement for the Kingdom.
People are not getting saved, believers are not growing, and much of the church is languishing. How do we account for this? Many things can be said here, but let me dwell on just one matter. Many believers are stagnant if not moving backwards simply because they have abandoned doing the things they ought to be doing.
I refer here to the basics of the Christian life: the fundamental spiritual disciplines which we all must engage in if we expect to grow, to please our Lord, and stay out of trouble. Many believers have simply stopped doing these most fundamental of Christian duties, and yet they wonder why they are getting nowhere, are in such despair, and seem to be just taking up space.
The basic Christian disciplines of course are so very obvious – but sadly today in the churches we are forced to keep restating the obvious. We are forced to keep going back to the basics. It sounds so mundane even to state them, but we must state them nonetheless.
These utter basic necessities are at least threefold: Regular prayer time. Regular reading and study of the Word. Regular fellowship with other believers. These are the rock bottom bare necessities of the Christian life. Fail to do these three and you fail as a Christian.
It is that simple. Yet simple truths seem to be lost on so many today. We have got all these foolish ideas in our heads that somehow we can climb spiritual mountains just by popping a pill. We think some magic pill will cure all our spiritual ills. But we are greatly mistaken here.
All these vain attempts at instant spirituality and holiness are mere pipe dreams. It just ain’t gonna happen that way. Never has and never will. Spiritual growth always comes through regular disciplined lifestyles, based on the basic Christian duties.
Yet I often have believers telling me they are getting nowhere, they are bummed out, they are depressed, they are not relishing the Christian life. When that happens I go back to square one with them. I ask them a few probing questions. The main one I ask is this: “So are you taking the usual spiritual medicines?”
I ask them how they are going with regular prayer, regular reading of the Word, and regular fellowship. I tell them that if they are skipping any one of these, they will most certainly be in strife. And sure enough, they usually tell me they are not doing any of these three basics, or at best maybe just one – and that half-heartedly at best.
Well, no wonder… That explains it all. I remind them of a few home truths here. If they complained about being exhausted, tired, unwell and out of sorts, the first thing to ask them are some basics: “Are you eating regular healthy meals? Are you getting regular good nights of sleep?”
If they say they are not eating much or sleeping much, and don’t really want to, then you rightly can stare at them and say, “Well no wonder! How in the world can you expect to be even remotely healthy if you refuse to do the basic physical disciplines we all need to do?”
Of course you will be in a mess if you don’t do what you know to be right. And it is just the same in the spiritual life. If you refuse to do those very basic spiritual disciplines that you know you should be doing, then of course we can expect to see you heading off the rails.
These folks are guaranteeing bad results by refusing to do what they know they should be doing. In addition to being prayed for and encouraged, many of these folks need a good kick in the butt – metaphorically speaking of course. One of the first things they need to do is to repent of wilful disobedience.
We are commanded to do these basic spiritual exercises, and if we refuse to, we are simply living in open rebellion against our Lord. Such people really do need to repent and then they really need to start getting a bit of discipline back into their lives.
Of course getting back to basics is not the only thing needed to fix our spiritual woes. There may well be all sorts of other issues that need to be dealt with. But I suspect that most believers who are floundering and getting nowhere will find substantial spiritual renewal and regeneration if they just start getting back to these basics.
As I say, there simply are no magic pills here. Obedience and discipline are crucial, and may well solve a good deal of what ails us. So we need to stop making excuses, stop feeling sorry for ourselves, and stop blaming others, and start doing what we know we should be doing.
So if you are not regularly reading the Bible, praying, and fellowshipping with others, then repent. Tell God you have been rebelling against him, and ask him for his help to get back to the basics. This will not necessarily fix everything, but it will be a very substantial step in the right direction.
Unless we are willing to start doing that which we know we should do, don’t expect to be getting well anytime soon. We won’t. It is just that simple.