CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

On Bored Believers

Jan 6, 2017

You all know what an oxymoron is right? In part it involves a contradiction in terms – or what seems to be. Examples are many: A married bachelor. A round square. Homosexual marriage. Arab unity. Here is one I would like to add to the mix: a bored Christian.

I raise this because every once in a while I come across a believer who says, “I’m so bored!” I usually don’t reply, but my mind always has plenty of things buzzing around, that’s for sure. So I will turn my thoughts into an article instead. Not that I am picking on any particular person here, but the general mindset.

Many believers may feel this way at times. But it really should not be this way. How can the disciple of Jesus Christ ever be bored, given everything that Christianity and the Christian life entails? The most wonderful, incredible, awesome, remarkable life there is, and some believers get bored?

bored-1How can a believer get bored with a God that we can never fully fathom, never fully know, never exhaust, never grow tired of, and never ever master? We are in relationship with an infinite, eternal God who is the creator of all things. Where does boredom fit into that?

How can a believer get bored seeking to know and love God more? We will always grow – in this life at least, if not the next – in enjoying God more, loving God more, experiencing God more, delighting in God more. Where does boredom fit into that?

How can a believer get bored in a world filled with those who do not know God and are headed to a lost eternity? How can Christians get restless and uninterested in life when we are given a great commission to reach the lost and make disciples of all nations? Where does boredom fit into that?

How can a believer get bored with a book which is really 66 books in one, a book filled with wonders and delights? It is a book that we will always keep learning more and more about and growing in understanding and appreciation of. Where does boredom fit into that?

How can a believer get bored with the wonders of creation all around us? From majestic mountains to vast oceans to amazing forests to simmering deserts, the world is full of the beauty of God’s handiwork. Simply enjoying a sunset each day or gazing at the stars each night should suffice. Where does boredom fit into that?

How can a believer get bored with life when we are called to be salt and light, called to make a difference in our world, called to influence our generation, called to resist that which is evil and stand up for that which is right? Where does boredom fit into that?

As William Wilberforce once said, “It is inconceivable that we could be bored in a world with so much wrong to tackle and so much misery we could alleviate.” Simply engaging in the moral and cultural battles of the day should fully occupy us, and keep us active, interested and alert. Where does boredom fit into that?

Sorry, but such boredom is something I don’t quite grasp. I suspect a good part of the problem is that far too many Christians live lives pretty much like that of non-Christians. They must forever be entertained, amused, thrilled and excited.

The routine aspects of the normal Christian life – such as regular prayer and Bible study – are just not exciting enough for these folks. They have become addicted to entertainment, trivial pursuits, emotionalism, and a daily batch of amusements. They exist simply to be charmed, cheered and enthralled with what the world has to offer.

Many of our church services are not helping things much here. Our times of “worship” are often little more than emotive rock concerts, complete with the black walls, smoke machines and strobe lights. The world has invaded the church, but the world often does a better job of entertaining than the church does.

No wonder so many Christians are bored. They live, think and act just like worldlings do, so they simply exist for one emotional high after another, one thrill after another, one buzz after another. In contrast, the life of the Christian disciple is faithfully plodding along doing what you know is right.

It is reading the Word even when you don’t feel like it. It is persevering in prayer when you would rather not. It is being willing to go without meals in order to get closer to God. It is visiting the sick, widows and prisoners when no one else will.

That is biblical Christianity, not the razzmatazz hyped-up church services we have today which are fixated on celebrities and entertainment. But the real deal seems to be just too boring for so many believers today. They must always be entertained and kept energised and have their fancies tickled.

It is time for something better. It is time to get back to biblical Christianity. It is time to let God reignite your passion for him, for others, and for your calling. There really is no time for boredom for the believer who has things in right perspective.

Back in 2002 Richard Winter wrote a helpful volume called Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment. Although much of the book looked at the secular scene, he had much to say about the church scene as well. The book is well worth getting and reading. Let me conclude this article with a few of his concluding paragraphs:

The Westminster Confession says that the purpose of life is to “love God and enjoy him forever.” Glorifying God means loving him. It also means that we love what he has made and seek to serve him by using the gifts he has given us. He wants us to love the ordinary as well as the extraordinary. Remember the wonderful line in the movie Chariots of Fire when Eric Liddel says, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” He was so caught up with developing a skill that God had given him that he had little time to feel bored. He saw every aspect of his life as spiritual and knew it was meant to be enjoyed before the face of the Creator. We are creatures who, because we are made in the image of God, have a glory of our own. God wants us to be as fully human as we can be, to live out our glory. He wants us to develop our gifts and capacities and use them to the full….
Bilbo Baggins, J. R. R. Tolkien’s famous hobbit, could have stayed at home in his comfortable little house and his garden. The Bagginses were, after all, “very respectable. . . . They never had any adventures or did anything unexpected.” But when Gandalf the wizard came to call on that memorable day, Bilbo sensed that something big was at stake. He was needed in the great (and as yet almost invisible) battle between good and evil. On the ensuing journey he faced many dangers and challenges, but his life was certainly never so boring as it might have been had he stayed home!
Like Bilbo we are called to an adventure—to a battle with evil for truth, love and life, and to deep, often complicated but wonderful relationships with God and with men, women and children in our lives….
My thesis in these final chapters is that to some degree we all have lost sight of what we are made for and have been seduced and brainwashed by the culture and often, sadly, by the church too. We can no longer see the drama of the bigger picture of life, where so much is at stake. We are called to an adventure of life with a true and knowable God that may have its profoundly frustrating and boring moments but that gives meaning to a life in which every situation has significance….
Ultimately we are faced with a choice. We can choose to surf the channels, the Web or the waves in order to try to satisfy our desire for “something more,” our craving for the next exciting fix to make us feel alive and to relieve our boredom. Or we can choose to respond to the call to love and serve the true and living God who promises to satisfy our pangs of hunger and to quench our deepest thirst for meaning and significance. He is the One who gives us a reason to delight in His world and a passion for living. He is the one who helps us patiently endure the inevitable moments of frustration and boredom. As we live in a relationship with Him, and in the light of what He has told us about the world and what we are to desire, our perspective on the often difficult and boring is, day by day, little by little, transformed. As we see things more and more from God’s point of view, we find there is rarely time to be bored!

[1519 words]

11 Responses to On Bored Believers

  • What a wonderful subject! Well covered. Thank God TV was not invented in Davids’ period or we may not have Psalm 8! To live and move and have our being in the God of all grace! Wow. We of course have a master-of-boredom in opposition working against the knowledge of God the Beatific Vision. No wonder praising God works miracles. That baby spills the beans eh, “(We) must be born again”! Wonderful. I love it, thanks Bill.

  • “….day by day, little by little, transformed…”

    That’s what I do. I’m one who has been through a few serious issues in the last decade and struggled every day over them, and still do, however reading up on Christian matters[basically everything Bill has covered] helped alleviate the burdens I was facing daily. I also practise the protestant work ethic and pray. I love being a Christian daily and I thank God for giving to me the opportunity to be a better person in the likeness of God everyday, that has soundly helped me and my family and given to me a lot of self confidence and happiness.
    {The issues I faced were not bought on by myself, they were inflicted by others, mostly their alcoholism and everything that goes with it. And I mean everything, and daily, weekly, monthly, yearly.] The Grace of God got me through all of that.

    Thanks so very much Bill and God Bless. Happy New Year too – I’m having one!

  • Excellent article & challenging as usual Bill.

  • I am thinking of that meme “Can You Imagine…? Bored Christians?

    I find it nearly impossible to get my head around it… 🙂

  • Hi, Bill, Your article today is very important to the spiritual well-being of most, if not all Christians. There are some Christians who would assign a bored Christian to the category of being unsaved. I don’t think that is the case. Paul himself categorized Christians as “carnal” in I Corinithians 3. These were Christians who were focused on the externals, who they followed, etc. Bored Christians are Christians who need outside stimuli to get them going. In other words, they must “feel” something. This was true of all of us. It is a form of spiritual immaturity. We have to learn to love God, to be content, to know the disciplines of the Faith. Then the day comes when we can’t imagine ever being “bored” with our Faith. We love God because He first loved us. Sadly, too many of us define love by getting what we want from God. But, praise God, we grow and learn God is more than what we wish for. Amy Carmichael used an expression in many of her writings: “Dwell deep”. We must do that especially in this day of strobe lights, entertainment formats, etc. But it is still possible. God moves heaven and earth to help us dwell deeply in Him. It is the main thing for which we must strive…yes, strive. Jesus told us to strive. Running our race as Christians is a full-time ministry. But, thanks be to God, it is not only possible through God’s grace, but it is our life’s work on earth. May God bless His people this year with a renewed hunger to follow HIm alone.

  • “… a contradiction in terms – or what seems to be. Examples are many: … A round square. …”

    Below is an interesting discussion where “square circles” are used to illustrate the seeming conflict between divine sovereignty and human responsibility.

    theoparadox.blogspot.com.au/2010/09/theological-paradox-square-circles.html

  • Great article Bill. This reminds me of one of my favorite William Wilberforce quotes,

    “To live our lives and miss that great purpose we were designed to accomplish is truly a sin. It is inconceivable that we could be bored in a world with so much wrong to tackle, so much ignorance to reach and so much misery we could alleviate.”

  • Thanks Brandon. Yes I partly quote that in the article. It is good to have the fuller version.

  • What a wonderful, inspiring article. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

  • When my children were young, I brought them up to understand that I never wanted to hear the words, “I’m bored,” come from their lips. I never did. They came up with some of the most creative games ever, loved the outdoors and were/are all avid readers. I also brought them up with the understanding that they could not turn on the television without parental permission – EVER – something they all followed until they grew up and left home. A vital strategy for any parent who wants to have some control over the formation of their children’s minds.

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