Drifting is dangerous. Ask anyone caught in a riptide. But what about spiritual drifting? How dangerous is it? What are the signs?
Drifting and Driving
Not long before Christmas my father drove home from church. He is a priest and, having finished the service, set off home for lunch. Rounding a bend on the narrow Kent country lane, he was startled to see a car coming towards him on his side of the road.
He took evasive action, pulling to the left as far as he could. But his Skoda was struck by the Land Rover Discovery. It was not a contest between equals. Fortunately, my father was not injured, but the car was seriously damaged. The drifting driver turned out to be a member of the church and took full responsibility. They could hardly lie to the priest!
December’s drifting driver damaged only a car. But what of spiritual drifting? What damage does it do?
Warning from Hebrews
The writer to the Hebrews has drifting on his mind. He wrote:
“We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” (Hebrews 2:1 NIV11)
What kind of ‘drifting’ did he have in mind? The word is, ‘παραρρέω’ (pararreo). In this context, it means to gradually give up one’s belief in the truth. In other contexts, it describes a boat drifting away, or a ring slipping off a finger, or water leaking out of a damaged jar.
One key to dealing with drifting is to be self-aware of your symptoms. When I taught on this passage recently I asked the group if they knew what their signs were? They said,
- “When I try to control everything”
- “When I get frustrated.”
- “When I stop reading my Bible.”
- “When I avoid people.”
Are any of those familiar? Some of my own signs are:
- Not answering the phone when it rings
- Getting inappropriately angry over trivial things
- Reading the Bible but not feeling it’s message in my heart
Rudie summed it up best when he said, “When I find myself reverting to type.” By which he meant his unregenerate nature. Do you know your symptoms?
What are our best defences to the drifting disease? The ones which help the most will depend on you as an individual. However, these will make a difference to all of us at one time or another.
- Listen to God – Hebrews 3.7, 15. Read the Bible, but don’t stop there. Pause before leaving. Ask yourself the question, “What was relevant to me from this passage today?” The better question might be to ask God directly, “What are you teaching me today, Father?”
- Listen to Friends – Hebrews 3.12-13 (Prov. 27.6; Gal 4.16; Eph 4.15). We need friends who care. They have insight we do not. They see us from a different angle. Listen to your friends, and pray for the strength to accept the truth they offer.
- Listen to You – James 3.14; 4.8. We are responsible for what is in our hearts. A lot of it is good, but not everything. It’s true that just because we have a clear conscience does not mean we are pure of heart (1 Cor 4.4), which is why we need 1 and 2 above. But you have a conscience for a reason. Listen to it. What is it saying? Guard your own heart by being honest with God and other people.
Drifting is inevitable. But its duration is controlled by you. The drift distance is decided by you. With God’s help and the love of friends, we can course-correct before we’ve drifted too far.
What do you do to deal with drifting? What suggestions do you have to help me and others? What questions come to your mind about the how and why of drifting?
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
I hope you have a wonderful week of quality quiet times.
God bless, Malcolm