If you find more pleasure in living in the past spiritually instead of moving ahead into the future then... “Houston, we have a problem.”
It's easy to hit a plateau in the spiritual life and stop growing. Some people have been Christians for decades. At some point they begin to think, “I've done my part. I'm entering the retirement phase of my spiritual life. It's time to let the young guns provide the hands-on energy while I write the checks. I guess the good old days of my spiritual adolescence are gone forever.”
That's certainly not from the Bible. Why do we lapse into retro-spirituality, thinking that our best days are behind us? I think the world's model of Run > Reward > Retire > Rest has a lot to do with it.
We Run as young Christians. We attend group Bible studies, volunteer for ministry projects, go to conferences and retreats, attend marriage seminars, and serve as counselors at evangelistic crusades. It's an awesome time in our lives!
And there are Rewards that come from our running. We see God answer prayer, we're given responsibilities in church or on campus, God blesses our sacrificial giving… But then we begin to plateau. It's not long before we have granted ourselves the right to Retire, and pretty soon we're Resting and reminiscing about the “good old days.”
What a shame! God never intended for the world's model to be our model for the spiritual life. He intended for us to be planning for tomorrow, not reminiscing about yesterday.
Paul resisted the temptation to rest on his spiritual laurels. He considered everything in the past a loss, and everything worth striving for to be found in the future (Philippians 3). Paul had not lived as a Christian in his past, but there is still a principle at work for those who have been Christians many years: What's done is done! Whether our past contains “wood, hay, [or] straw,” or “gold, silver, [or] precious stones” (1 Corinthians 3:12), the future is the only thing we can change. The past is not to be mourned or memorialized. Instead, it is be covered by the grace of God and viewed as the foundation for what God wants to do in and through us today and tomorrow.
Stop and think for a moment about the following areas of your Christian life-and consider whether you have moved backward or forward in recent months or years.
1. Bible study. How much time do you spend studying the Bible on your own today compared to when you were a younger Christian? If a friend came into your home, would he find a daily Bible reading guide, study notes recorded daily, a Bible filled with your own notations? I recognize that applying the Word is the ultimate goal, not studying the Word. But I have known few Christ-like Christians who were not daily students of the Bible.
2. Prayer. How much is prayer a part of your life today? Remember when you used to keep a prayer diary... call friends to pray with them over the phone... say “I'll be praying for you” and mean it... stand up in prayer meeting to share God's answers to your prayers? Are you doing those things less or more today?
3. Personal purity. Do you watch things on television and in the movies today that you would have been embarrassed to watch years ago? Do you use language or laugh at jokes that used to be an offense to your sensibilities? Instead of walking out of a movie like you did as a young Christian, do you throw up your hands and say, “What are you ‘gonna' do? It's the way things are?”
I could list another handful of areas of the Christian life that are worth examining in terms of “Retro” vs. “Resisting-Retro.”
I love the retro expressions in our culture today as much as anyone. But I'm not willing to let a backward look characterize my spiritual life. I want to assume that what I'm going to discover in God today and tomorrow will put even yesterday to shame.
This article was excerpted from Turning Points, Dr. David Jeremiah's devotional magazine. Call Turning Point at 1-800-947-1993 for your complimentary copy of Turning Points.