Yesterday, we took a look at the idea that some athletes (Not Tyler, if there was any confusion) who don't give all their effort to their sport. They don't live up to potential and miss out on much. In the same way, Christians can become complacent in their faith, not following the command to work in the Lord to develop the faith we have been given.
Today, I want to look a bit at what causes this level of non-active faith. There are many reasons for a shallow faith in Christ. I believe that largely it boils down to a combination of three things: selfishness, distraction and comfort.
Ultimately our faith is completely and forever an exercise in promoting our triune God. The focus is never to be on our own lives, but on who God is and what He is doing in our lives. So, I suppose selfishness is the greatest hindrance for living out faith.
To expand the concept, however, think of what human selfishness affords for the believer. Due to our own desires for self gratification, we allow so much of the world to become a distraction. We pursue all sorts of elements within the world because we think it is what we need, but really it is just what we want the most. This can be anything: money, power, education, physical enjoyment, recreation, etc. We want it, therefore, we let those things get in the way of our true need of life in Christ. These pursuits take up our time, money and energy. They take away from devotion to the Lord. They distract us from the eternal reality in which we live.
In the same way, our selfish desires for comfort in such distractions cause us to be inactive in the development of faith. We come to a point in our lives where we like what we have, like what we do, feel we are doing "good" in such things, and we don't want this to change. We innately know that when we pursue more of the Lord, the more our lives might be called into change. Greater devotion requires the eradication of our distractions and comforts in a way that we humans really don't want to let go. And so we become complacent. We may not be living in overt sin, but we are certainly not relentlessly pursuing our Lord's desires either.
A wise person once said that change doesn't come until someone can no longer handle the state in which they reside. In other words, we will not stop embracing the selfish distractions and comforts until we grow weary of the spiritual emptiness of them. The only way to truly see these as life destroying elements of our humanity is to allow Christ to draw us closer to Him.
From all that we know of first century tax collectors, Zacchaeus had a pretty good life. He would have been wealthy and possibly feared by others. He could do as he pleased and had the tacit backing of the Roman government in all that he did. Yet, when Jesus joined him one evening for dinner, Zacchaeus was completely changed.
Perhaps he was ripe for the picking as he climbed the tree in hopes of seeing this Rabbi from Nazareth. Maybe he had already begun to notice how the friends were around for his parties but not when he was lonely. It is possible that all the comforts and pleasures that his money afforded were growing tiresome and he was realizing that none of it was truly fulfilling. Or it could just be that for the first time Zacchaeus had let the Lord into his life.
Whatever the reason, in the presence of Christ the tax collector was changed. Salvation entered his heart and house. He realized the emptiness of his life and began with a huge change to honor God, care for those he had hurt, and live as Jesus taught.
Letting Christ gather us up into His arms of love also includes being brought to our knees in submission to His rightful reign in our lives. Things that seem so vital to our lives will be shown for what they are in actuality. Many of our pursuits and things of import will be shown to be selfish pursuits and ultimately unable to fulfill our lives. My prayer for myself and all of you is that we will be gifted with a God-given dissatisfaction with any part of our lives that distract us from growing in faith. That we will become so frustrated with the happiness of this world so that we can experience the joy of the Lord. And that we will be continually transformed because, with the help of God's Holy Spirit, we will work to let go of the comforts of this world so that we can live in and for the eternal in Christ.