There are a large variety of forces working together to further stagnate the growth of the church. Worldliness, denominationalism, and the pervasive nature of sin are critical issues that we face each day. They erode the efforts of the church to battle Satan. Yet, so often we sit idly by as the forces of evil score victories without a shot being fired. As our lethargy increases, we become the victim of spiritual atrophy.
Atrophy is the degeneration of one’s muscles due to a lack of use. For example, someone who is in a coma must receive daily exercise so that their muscles remain pliable. When we spend time in a cast, the muscles grow accustomed to inaction, and painful rehabilitation is needed to restore the muscles’ normal range of motion.
Spiritual atrophy is therefore the degeneration of one’s faith due to prolonged inaction. This condition is especially sad because it is so unnecessary. We have no reason to sit idly by as our faith grows stiff and cold. Faith always dies when it becomes inactive. “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26, NKJV).
C.S. Lewis in the “Screwtape Letters” said that Satan is more effective when our faith grows stale than when he conspires to steal it away. Accordingly, our spiritual condition will die peacefully, without a struggle. We do Satan’s work for him when this happens, thus giving him more time for our brethren.
In the Chronicles of Narnia, the children discover the frozen world of Narnia where the Lion, representing Christ, has been sent away. When he returns, the world thaws and is soon revived to its glory.
The Laodiceans were “neither cold nor hot” and God said he would “spew them out of [his] mouth,” because of their slumbering faith (Revelation 3:14-17). Discipleship is found in a conscious effort to be active in bearing fruit for God (John 15:1-8). It evidences that we believe his cause deserves our full attention and that his rewards are worthwhile.
I cannot assemble the ingredients for a cake and let them sit and expect a cake to appear. I must labor to prepare the dessert from start to finish. Likewise, if we will build our knowledge, faith, and commitment to God’s cause, we must work to see it through. We must answer the question, “what is that in [our] hand?” (Exodus 4:2). What can we do with our resources and abilities to further the kingdom of Christ? As we begin our efforts, we must remember that small steps are still steps.
When spiritual atrophy has deadened our spiritual muscles, what can be done to restore them? We must go back to the beginning. We must restore our relationship to God by discovering why we fell in love with Christ in the beginning. We must realize again that he is the only path to everlasting life (cf. John 10:10; John 14:6).
The powers of prayer and Bible study must be re-discovered. The wealth and power gained from an immersion in the Word of God is unlike anything else man has at his disposal. Within the Bible we find ourselves, our mission, and our destiny. An honest, humble reading of the Bible’s message, handled properly, will lead to a life plugged into the power of hope and peace found in him (2 Timothy 2:15; Philippians 4:7).
When several people in a congregation succumb to spiritual atrophy, the work stops. The church needs the helping hands of all of its parts (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). Remember, there aren’t any passages of Scripture discussing the inactivity of Satan’s army. Think about that.
An Inactive Faith is a Dead Faith