It is wrong to think that following Christ gets easier with age. Paul didn’t think that way; he had no problem admitting in Romans 7 that he was a wretched man, or in 1 Timothy, the chief of sinners. 2 Timothy, the last written work we have from Paul, composed shortly before his execution, reveals him to be a man who has fought the good fight and has finished the race. Yet, a few verses later, he’s asking Timothy to make sure he brings the books and the parchments. Apparently, he wasn’t done striving. He desired to stay sharp. He wouldn’t let down.
A signal of Christian spiritual malfunction is ease in the Christian walk. I’m not talking here of circumstantial ease or circumstantial comfort. Those things are blessings from God. I’m talking about inner ease– the kind of attitude we usually call complacency.
We all have experienced this. It happens when we minimize sin, and relax our disciplines, and lose the wonder of God. Its symptoms are blame-shifting, name-calling, apathy, laziness, obsession with trivialities, self-centeredness, disobedience, etc.
Why call it a malfunction? Because if a Christian is growing in his relationship with the
Living God, his sin will be exposed, his heart will be humbled, his love for Christ will be deeper, his joy will abound, and his appetite will increase. The bigger your God is, the bigger your sin is. The heavier your sin, the more broken your back. The more shattered your person, the more glorious the healer. The more glorious the healer, the bigger your God. And the cycle goes on, unceasing, until eternity.
I like to use a metaphor that helps me explain this concept. Christianity is like walking toward a mountain. From a distance, we can tell it’s big. We can see the peaks against the backdrop of the sky, and it’s pretty. So we walk toward it.
The closer we get to the mountain, the bigger we realize it is. The peaks are massive sheets of granite; the valleys fall deeply from the heights. Giant sequoias look like hair covering the sleeping beast.
Standing before the mountain we feel infinitesimal. The winds blow cold and suddenly the same mountain that looked so tame from a distance reaches mighty and majestic above us. We thought we knew it from afar, but sitting at its feet we realize how little we know; how unprepared we are to ascend.
Our climb only serves to prove how incapable we are. The mountain is dangerous. The trails are often obscured. The weather isn’t always sunny. The jutting crags and sudden chasms slow our steps in caution. We’re not as sure as we used to be. In fact, most climbers stop here, and descend a little to find a place where the mountain is less demanding. Few press on.
But for those brave souls who continue the course, the mountain yields its treasure. They’ve been captured by the wonder of the place; they won’t leave, indeed, they can’t leave. They are enthralled by the majesty of it all. They long for breathtaking vistas and the stunning rock formations and the quiet pools that only the persistent have come to enjoy. They know that the mountain has infinite pleasure and unlimited treasures — so they spend the rest of their lives seeking them.
Christians spend their lives traversing God. Complacency undeniably means you’ve lost the childlike wonder. And once God ceases to be awe-inspiring, we cease to explore him.