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Why Faith Stagnates

And what to do when it does

Relationships are rarely straight lines. I will have been married to my wife for 23 years in December. I can testify that two things are true; there is no person on earth that I love the way that I love her, and I love her more now than I did when we got married. But this doesn’t mean that our marriage has always been easy or that it has been a continuous upward trajectory since we first met.

Like all relationships, real life happens. There have been exciting moments and seasons of passion and ecstasy. But here have also been a lot of moments of the mundane; paying bills, driving kids to school, and figuring out what is for dinner.

Our relationship with God is similar. We will have seasons and moments where we feel very close to God, but we will not stay caught in this moment all the time. It is not realistic or healthy to evaluate our relationship with God based solely on “spiritual experiences,” nor should we be chasing a feeling of emotional connection all the time.

Nevertheless, sometimes we know that something is wrong. We are aware of a distance in our relationship. Somehow we have reached a plateau and no longer sense that we are growing spiritually. Below are some reasons that your walk with God might be plateauing.

You are not investing in the relationship

Any relationship takes investment. If my wife and I didn’t speak for several weeks, it would cause major problems in our marriage. In our relationship with God, we speak to Him in prayer and He speaks to us in the Scriptures. If we do not prioritize prayer and time in the Scriptures, it will not be long before the relationship begins to stagnate.

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:12–13, ESV)

If we are serious about going deeper in our relationship with God, then we must be serious about spending time with Him. God wants us to pray and trust Him. He wants us to spend time in the Scriptures. Of course, God doesn’t just want us to study the Scriptures, we must obey them also.

You have unrepentant sin

Sin impacts our relationship with God. While all Christians struggle with temptations to sin, when we willfully and persistently disobey the Bible, we impair our walk with God.

“but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2, ESV)

Sometimes we have become so familiar with a sin in our lives, that we no longer recognize it as sin. This can be the case with the types of media to which we expose ourselves or bad habits in our lives. Sometimes we need to ask God to show us sin in our lives.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23–24, ESV)

You are not active in a local church

God will most often point out blind spots in our lives through other believers, but church is more than that. We never meant to live the Christian life in solidarity. We have spiritual needs for communal worship and fellowship. (Check out my article “You need to go back to church” on why church attendance is essential to the Christian life.) Without regular church attendance, our faith will often stagnate.

A common blind spot

In my Christian school, a teacher once showed us a picture of various children climbing a tree. She asked us to identify which child was a picture of our relationship with God. Most of us chose kids who were near the bottom of the tree, but one girl in the class pointed to a kid near the top. She said, “he looks like he wants to go higher, but his foot is stuck.”

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Many Christians find that even when regularly guarding against many of the common pitfalls, they still hit a wall in their walk with God. Many times we feel like the rich young ruler:

The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” (Matthew 19:20, ESV)

One blind spot that I see with many Christians is that they have forgotten the mission. When Jesus first called his disciples, He told them they would become fishers of men.

And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19, ESV)

When Jesus left his disciples he told them to go make more disciples by evangelizing and teaching others.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19–20)

Yet many Christians still want to be discipled instead of making disciples. They want to be filled up when they should be pouring out. If you have been a Christian for very long and you feel like you are doing everything else right, then the problem is likely that you are not investing in anyone else. You continue to want job training when you should be doing the work of building the kingdom. If you haven’t seen opportunities for kingdom work, it’s probably because you haven’t sought them.

A disclaimer

Those of us who have done the work of the ministry know that there can still be difficult, lonely seasons. Our walk with God is not a day in a theme park where we run from one rollercoaster to the next. God is shaping us so He can use us. Sometimes the shaping means long periods of painful endurance that teach us to continue to trust Him.

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3–5, ESV)

To those who are presently enduring what has been called “the dark night of the soul,” keep being faithful. God who sees your work and will bless it. Your labor is not in vain.

Live for Jesus.

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AuthorMichael Small | BCWorldview.org

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