No one wants to be in decline, and this is true both in the physical and spiritual senses, but whereas physical decline is predetermined and natural, spiritual decline is always optional. It is one of the blessings of grace that the older you get as a believer the more radiant and effusive your spiritual life can become. But the spiritual decline can set in almost unnoticed, and like Samson in Judges 16:20 you may find that when you need to call on your spiritual reserves they are not there. So here are some things to look out for that should prompt you to examine your situation carefully and strengthen and revitalize your flagging spirit.
Less spiritual work
It is easy to get weary when doing extensive spiritual work especially when the returns seem so tiny and you either reduce the volume of work or you just give up some of it altogether. No one minds doing this kind of work when there are many plaudits and compliments and everywhere you look you see booming results. But life is often very different with much labour required and mostly for little returns. The Bible warns about this, " And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." (Galatians 6:9)
Absence of spiritual growth
It may not be recognised and often it is overlooked but the moment one stops growing spiritually is the moment when decline sets in. Spiritually is a dynamic process comparable to a river; it must keep flowing or it declines and becomes stagnant. One can never reach one's ultimate spirituality and has nowhere to go because the process is ongoing and infinite. "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen." (2 Peter 3:18)
When Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:3) he was not referring to spiritual poverty as here discussed but to a condition of the spirit that was the opposite of arrogance, pride and conceit and a childlike acceptance of one's dependence on God. Spiritual poverty as used here is the erosion of the graces and the benefits of a close bond with God that eventually leads to backsliding. Not all believers are spiritually rich and able to share some of that spiritual richness with other believers, or even enlighten those who are going contrary. Paul acknowledged this when he said, "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." (Galatians 6:1)
No thirst for spiritual knowledge
Nearly every new convert has an enthusiasm and relish for spiritual knowledge and the quest should go on ad infinitum. As time goes by some believers seem to lose their hunger for spiritual knowledge, and spiritual things generally, and would rather spend their time on other temporal pursuits. The Bible is an inexhaustible source of knowledge and revelation that the Holy Spirit uses to refresh our spirit and consolidate our commitment to Jesus Christ. The truth is that you can study a passage of scripture and each time you study it you get new and uplifting insights. For good reasons the Apostle directed, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)
A spirit of peevishness and non-cooperation
Mature Christians usually have broad backs, take a lot of punishment metaphorically and otherwise and yet maintain a demeanour and civility that is Christ-like. But with time, and perhaps the abundance of travails, they can lose their cool and get irritable and prickly. It is true that circumstances are constantly evolving, new people, new neighbours, new co-workers, new worshippers, new methods and systems. Many believers, in common with a lot of humanity, do not cope well with change and find changes debilitating and allow themselves to fall away from the faith. Believers are asked, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." (Romans 8:35-36) and the Apostle Paul goes on to give the answer in the very next verse, "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." (Romans 8:37)
Wallowing in luxuries and pleasures
The believer's perspective on luxuries and pleasures is always a good indication of their spiritual standing. There is nothing sinful about luxuries and pleasures, as long as they are wholesome and clean, but there is much that is unfortunate and sad when these things dominate one's life to the exclusion of spiritual things or when they become excessive; hence the Christian model of "moderation in all things" (Philippians 4:5) need to be observed. Even worse, sometimes they are replacements for the things of God and the spirit becomes malnourished. It was because Job had a right perspective on prosperity that his enormous wealth did not impact negatively on his vibrant spirituality as we read in Job 1:22.
A diminution of spiritual happiness, spiritual well-being and spiritual healthiness
A dwindling of spiritual healthiness, spiritual well-being and spiritual happiness are all apparent when there is a spiritual decline and even if the believer does not recognize it, others certainly do; especially those with whom the believer has a close relationship. This is equivalent to the physical body suffering a debilitating disease and the entire body becomes listless and careworn. If you were a motor car, instead of a believer, then the mechanic's prognosis would be that it is time for an overhaul or a general tune-up.
Christians in need of a spiritual tune-up can approach the exercise in a positive and exuberant frame of mind because of three things.
1. It is God's good pleasure to have you rolling along at full steam, and to complete your journey in tip-top spiritual condition. Hence He makes available to you all of heaven's resources: "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19)
2. Fellow believers love it when you are firing on all cylinders and sometimes they depend on your joyous commitment and steady enthusiasm for all things spiritual. It is important to remember your place in the grand scheme of Christ, "…but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." (1 Timothy 4:12)
3. It is Jesus Christ himself, working through the agency of the Holy Spirit, and with the assistance of all the heavenly host, that will tune you up to the highest spiritual specification. What more can any believer want or ask for than this?
Remember these great and abiding promises of God, "He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." (Isaiah 40:29-31) "And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear." (Isaiah 65:24)
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