"The only difference between a rut and a grave are the dimensions" Ellen Glasgow
I don't know about you but there are moments I feel like I'm in a spiritual rut. I feel this way when I'm struggling through a sinful behavior or attempting to rationalize my behavior. I also feel like I'm spiritually stuck when I'm experiencing a crisis and I attempt to walk through it alone. Sometimes I walk away from worship on Sunday wondering, "what did I just accomplish?" "I won't ever get that hour and a half back." I believe, at some point, all of us feel like we're in a rut spiritually. We suspect that there is something much more important and spiritually valuable that we could do or be invested in, but, we don't know what that something is. Have you ever felt that way? Do you feel like this now?
I'm going to share with you a few things that help break me free from a spiritual rut. It takes three things; and all three working together.
First. I need to be confronted with Biblical teaching.
When I'm in a spiritual rut, I may not recognize it. It's not like driving a car, it's obvious if you're stuck! But if you're mired in spiritual obscurity it may not be so obvious. Jesus tells us that Satan is the 'father of lies'. The devil is the ultimate deceiver. So for many of us when our worship is shallow the great deceiver has us believing that all is well. I may not want to hear the truth. It's a tough thing to hear that I'm spiritually stuck, but, I need to be open to the truth. If I'm going to be a follower of Jesus, then I must not only listen to Him, but, be willing to live for Him, too. Am I giving every part of my life to and for my Savior? It's impossible to be a follower of Jesus if I'm spiritually stuck in a rut. Jesus tells me to go and share the Good News about what He did for me, and it's kind of impossible to do that if I'm spiritually immobilized.
Second. I need help.
A few years ago, around Christmas time, my family was visiting some relatives in Nebraska. The roads were packed with snow and it was difficult to tell where the road side was and the ditch began. It was impossible, really, and we ended up in the ditch. It took a tractor to pull us out. There was nothing I could do to break free of the ditch I was in. I was stuck, but, good! The same is true Spiritually; we need help when we are stuck.
This is one of the most significant reasons God provided the church. We need each other. Now, what can happen, and unfortunately happens too often, is when one of us is stuck, instead of helping out we judge. Confident in our own salvation we point the finger at someone who is struggling and refuse unconditional love and support. In those times that I need unconditional love and help is often when I feel intimidated to call out for assistance because I'm fearful of what the church is going to think. Sometimes, I can project these feelings because of the guilt and shame I'm processing, so it's more about what I'm feeling than the reality.
The church has always come through for me. I have been blessed by God's people more times than I can count. But, I've had more than my share of conversations with folks who don't feel the same way. They say things like, "I want to go to church, but, I don't like how I'm treated there." "I don't feel welcome." "I don't feel loved." "I don't feel supported." You get the picture. The safest place on earth for someone who is stuck in a spiritual rut and wants help to get out of it should be the church. But sometimes, it's not. We need to take inventory of how we treat people in our church. Ask yourself if you are available to help someone, to love and support unconditionally, their desire to escape a stagnant faith and move in the direction of a vibrant and life giving faith. Is your church open to helping people break free?
And this leads to the third thing I need to break out of a spiritual rut.
I need a mission
Once I'm liberated and I'm convinced, convicted, and moved to be an active and engaged follower of Jesus I need a place to go. Jesus said, "Go." If you're driving a car that gets stuck, when the car is free, the wheels are turning. You have the pedal to the metal. The danger of not taking advantage of the momentum the moment you become unstuck is that the car will sink right back into the rut you were in. When a person is spiritually liberated because they are convicted in faith and believe in Jesus, they immediately want to put their faith into action. This is natural. This is the way we're designed. Our wheels are turning, we have momentum, but, often, we don't know where to go. And by the time we figure it out, guess what? We're back in the rut. We simply didn't keep the momentum going.
How many times have you been to a revival, or camp, or a retreat or had some kind of mountain top spiritual experience. You were feeling free. You were convicted of being a follower of Jesus, you were ready to devote your whole life to Him, and what happened after a few weeks? The routine of life caught up with you. Sin caught up with you. Friends or family who don't share your conviction of faith in Jesus caught up with you. And you got stuck. Again
In that mountain top spiritual experience, you put the first two things together. You heard teaching that convicted you, and you were surrounded by unconditional love and support from counselors, ministers, or other volunteers who were there specifically for that purpose. And your wheels were spinning. And you were ready to roll. But you had no direction. You had nowhere to go. Every follower of Jesus needs a mission that enables them to love God and others.
Dallas Willard says, "Every church ought to be able to answer two questions. What is our plan for making disciples of Jesus and is our plan working?" What is the plan the church you belong to has for making disciples? If you don't know then find out what it is. If there is no plan, then, you should find another church. Jesus says "make disciples." If the leaders in your church don't have an answer for how they are doing this, they are probably stuck in a spiritual rut themselves and will not be able to help you out of the one you're in. Belong to a church that is making disciples of Jesus and throw yourself into ministry. This is what Jesus wants you to do.
The two greatest obstacles to discovering your mission for Jesus is laziness and selfishness. You will fail to love God and others if you are waiting for someone else to tell you what to do. You will never break free of spiritual insignificance, if you're unwilling to give everything you own, have, possess, want and even need for His mission. This may not mean that Jesus will have you sell everything and move to India, or a third world country, although, this is exactly what it means for some.
One of my favorite worship songs is by Chris Tomlin, I Will Follow. .
"Where you go, I'll go. Where you stay, I'll stay. When you move, I'll move. I will follow.. All your ways are good. All your ways are sure. I will trust in you alone. Higher than my sight. High above my life. I will trust in you alone"
It's easy to sing. But I dare you to live this. If you really want to break out of a spiritual rut. If you're tired of being bored to death with faith, if you find your worship to God shallow and insignificant.
"Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter" - Jesus.
If you're spiritually stagnated I pray you will be confronted with Biblical teaching that will convict your heart, allow the church to come alongside you with unconditional love and support, and let go of everything else and discover the mission of Jesus for your life.