I recently had the chance to get caught up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. Because it had been a few months since we had talked, one of my first questions to him was, “How are you doing?” His response was, “I’ve been better” - which of course led to me asking more questions about what specially was going on in his life. After giving updates on his work, and his family, he summarized his situation by saying, “I guess I’ve just been in neutral in my walk with God for the past few months, and so now I feel far from God - and I hate being a backslider.”
I told my friend I was sorry he was feeling far from God, and then encouraged him to spend time talking to God and letting Him restore a sense of His presence in his life. And I reminded my friend to keep in mind that God hadn’t moved away, my friend had.
After the conversation was over, I kept thinking about my friend’s description of himself as a “backslider”. For many of us who were raised in the church, it's a harsh sounding word, bringing up images of someone whose life has become overwhelmed with “sins of the flesh”. Since that’s the context I’ve most frequently heard it used, it was hard for me to hear my friend describe himself that way. After all, he wasn't out actively engaging in sin, he simply had “slipped into neutral” in his spiritual life.
But of course, that's exactly where the problem lies because there's no such thing as “neutral” when it comes to our walk with God. We're either moving towards Him, or we're moving away. Jesus drives this point home in Luke 11:23 when He says, “Anyone who isn’t with Me opposes Me, and anyone who isn’t working with Me is actually working against Me.” So even if we're not out living wild, reckless lives, if our heart isn't with God, then we're “backsliding”. And the reason we can know this is true is because, when it comes to our relationship with God, it's more about the condition of our hearts than it is about our actions.
That’s why we all need to take a serious look at our own hearts to see whether we're for God, or against Him - since Jesus Himself says there's no in-between. The reality is, the moment we stop moving forward as a Christian, is the moment we begin the process of moving away from God. It's like parking a car on a hill and putting it in neutral. Gravity is going to take over, and that car is going to roll backward down the hill. In the same way, if we put our Christian life in neutral - if we stop seeking to learn and grow as a believer - we will naturally move away from God.
So today, let's ask God to build in our hearts a desire for His Word, a desire to spend time with Him, and a desire to live how He's calling us to live. Let's ask Him to give us the desire to keep moving forward in our walk with Him.