Christian Living

Where to go when faith feels dry

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What is dry faith? Is it a heart grown dusty with the grime of the world? Could it be a soul that is cool rather than warm, or weary rather than energised? Perhaps it’s revealed in eyes that have lowered from Jesus and onto self, or a mind that has lost sight of God’s big plan for his kingdom and is instead focused on things that cannot last. Maybe it’s ears that are a little too attuned to the voices of the world and a mouth that is more used to boasting than praising God. Conceivably, it’s hands of service that appear sacrificial but hide an inner bitterness.

Dry faith can sneak up on you like a few extra kilos; it happens easily but is very dangerous. Paul prays for the Ephesians that the eyes of their hearts may be enlightened in order that they may know the hope to which he has called them, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people and his incomparably great power for those who believe (Eph 1:18). When our faith is dry we need a similar prayer; we need God to change our affections.[1]

Recently I’ve asked friends “Where do you go to remind yourself why you love being a Christian?” Their answers have reminded me of passages I’d forgotten, and have led me down rabbit burrows of encouragement and repentance. One dear friend told me of John Stott’s 1979 series of talks on Ephesians—what a treasure trove. What is going to re-enlarge our hearts and centre our thinking more than re-engaging with the character of God and his Son through his word and his Spirit? Sometimes, though, I need a jumpstart to re-engage with that life-giving word, and perhaps you do too.

Where do you go for such a jumpstart? Three things that have encouraged my heart recently are reading, listening and attending.

Reading

God gives life and communicates with us through his word. For the Christian, the Bible genuinely is our daily bread. In 2 Corinthians 3:18 Paul speaks of being transformed into the Lord’s image as we contemplate the Lord’s glory. When we are dry we need his word more than ever. Like a starving person needs food, we need the bread of life—our spiritual stomach may not be used to it, but we need it. When I am feeling dry I often read a psalm. The Psalms are wonderfully able to change our hearts as we pray the prayers of the psalmist, and begin to desire what the psalmist did. Psalm 103 is a favourite of mine—it’s a psalm that invigorates dry faith. It reminds us that the Lord is good; he is good in himself and he has been good to us. Reading Psalm 103 as New Testament Christians, we are reminded not to forget his blessings to us through the cross, to remember his love and forgiveness, to marvel at his grace, be satisfied in him, and also to recognise that we are weak children in the arms of a loving father. What is your go-to passage?

Listening

God has given the church the gift of teachers because he always meant his word to be explained and taught. It does our soul good to listen to the word taught. A talk that I have revisited a number of times recently and would commend is a sermon given by Vaughan Roberts in 2016 entitled ‘Grace will bring me home’. It’s addressed to gospel workers he shares lessons learnt from the life and ministry of John Newton who worked hard to delight in grace all his days.

Gathering

I recently just returned from a Christian mission conference which was a spiritually refreshing and challenging way to start the year. But you don’t need a conference to have fellowship with Christian family because church meetings happen every week. “Let us not give up meeting together” says the author of Hebrews (Heb 10:25). If your faith is dry, don’t move away from God and his people; run toward both.

A final antidote for dry faith from the apostle Paul: “Rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard to you” (Phil 3:1). If your faith is dry, praise the Lord. Praise him when you feel like it and praise him when you don’t. And perhaps as you praise him, he may just enlarge your heart, transform your mind, refocus your eyes, warm your soul and safeguard your faith. After all, our gracious God won’t let us go, and is in the business of changing us into the image of his Son.

[1] My thanks to Tony Payne for his reflections on Ephesians 1:18 and the affections. See his two-part article ‘Thinking about Emotions’, first published in The Briefing on 30 June and 7 July 2009, and re-published in The Tony Payne Collection (Matthias Media, Sydney, 2017).

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