Have you ever seen a believer implode spiritually? This person, who seems to be a solid Christ follower suddenly steps off His path, behaving, uncharacteristically, in a spiritually foolish or ugly way. It may be a mean flash of temper, a bout with pornography, an unethical action, etc. Recently I saw this happen with a believer for whom I had held a lot of respect.
What hurt most about my friend’s action, is that it turned out to be more than a temporary lapse. It continued and got worse over time. Furthermore, they managed to rationalize it into a virtuous act of unselfishness; not even sinful. I fear for their soul – that a temporary slip may turn into a long spiritual decline. They’re in my prayers often.
What I want to talk with you about today is not attaining spiritual perfection in this life. You won’t. Realistically, sin happens. James says, “We all stumble in many ways”(James 3:2). All of us have our ugly spiritual moments. I’ve often been glad that my life is not monitored on a video for all to see; especially my inner thought life.
What I want to focus on today, however, is what I’ll call “spiritual resiliency”. Our spiritual resiliency is measured by how long, after we’ve sinned, it takes us to repent and get back in line with God again. Spiritually strong believers are usually quick to catch their spiritual misstep and quickly repent of it. When they go down, they normally pop right back up, often within minutes or hours. Spiritually weaker believers are slower to recognize and acknowledge their sin and more reluctant to repent and make things right. And there are a few believers, who’ve allowed themselves to become so spiritually degraded, that they go down and stay down, growing even more defiled over time. In fact, one hopes that they are real believers and not just posers. Only God knows.
Strong spiritual resiliency is a crucial part of becoming spiritually beautiful; resembling more and more our dear Lord Jesus. Without strong spiritual resiliency we’ll stay mired in spiritual baby-land; living mediocre Christian lives composed of “wood, hay and straw”, though our lives are capable of producing “gold, silver, and precious jewels”(1 Cor. 3:12). Isn’t that what you want when God judges you?
Why is strong spiritual resiliency so important?
1. Strong spiritual resiliency is important because the power of a particular sin over us increases quickly the longer we allow it to remain
Just as cancer is easiest to treat in stage one, so sin is easier to repent of the earlier it’s caught. The longer we rationalize it, the longer we put off dealing with it, the stronger a grip it gets on our lives. That flash of temper, which might have been fairly easily repented of, and released, when nursed, grows more stubborn and strong. Resentment deepens. And usually we add to it with more hurtful words and behavior.
2. Strong spiritual resiliency is important because sin, unchecked, increases its territory
Unlike righteousness, which usually takes effort to achieve (along with the help of the Holy Spirit), sin is naturally expansive, increasing in size effortlessly, drifting into an unguarded spiritual zones and degrading them. If I have a bad attitude toward you, and will not deal with it, I’m more vulnerable to other sorts of sinful temptations as well. When I leave one door open to sin, my resistance goes down in other areas as well. If I allow sin here, than why not there?
3. Strong spiritual resiliency is important because my sin encourages your sin
Paul, speaking of sexual sin unchecked, in 1 Corinthians 5:6b, says, “. . . don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?” What he means is, by allowing one man in the congregation to live in sexual sin, unchallenged, others will be encouraged to do the same, or at least to engage in other unchecked sins. A bad attitude spreads. If he can get by with his sin, without being disciplined, then why can’t I do the same?
4. Strong spiritual resiliency is important because it strengthens our testimony to the world
Although you may not be aware of it, others outside the faith are watching you. They don’t expect you to be perfect, but when they see a pattern of hypocrisy it makes them cynical toward Christianity. On the other hand, if we are quick to confess and correct our sin, that makes a positive impression.
5. Spiritual resiliency is important because it allows us to grow faster and deeper
Do you want to be like Christ; to be spiritually mature and beautiful? That will happen more quickly if, when you do fall, you get right back up and start running God’s race again. On the other hand, if you dally in paths of sin, your pace of spiritual growth is slowed, and may be halted, or worst of all, may even regress.
How can I grow more spiritually resilient?
1. I grow more spiritually resilient by deepening my constant dependence on the Holy Spirit
This, of course, is the foundational key to all spiritual development. Without the Spirit’s help we’re all in way over our heads. He provides every necessary resource we need to stay strong and grow. Just trying, on your own strength, won’t get you far. Don’t be afraid to cry out for His wisdom and strength. This leads to the next point:
2. I grow more spiritually resilient by regularly immersing myself in healthy spiritual exercises
Just wanting to be holy isn’t enough. We must prepare ourselves consistently for the challenges we will face each day. These include Bible reading, prayer, worship, confession, fellowship, etc.
3. I grow more spiritually resilient by dealing promptly with my sin
When you know you’ve overstepped God’s bounds, even if no one else sees it, confess your sin and repent of it as soon as possible. Hesitation only makes it harder to do as time passes by.
4. I grow more spiritually resilient by acknowledging my sin, where appropriate, to others
If you’ve wronged someone else and it’s possible, acknowledge this to the person and ask their forgiveness. And none of this: “I was wrong, but so were you” manipulation. No excuses. Others may also be wrong, but no one can force us to sin. If needed, make restitution; in other words, fix what you’ve broken.
5. I grow more spiritually resilient by repenting and then moving on
Dwelling on our past failures, refusing to let go of our guilty feeling and remorse, only wastes spiritual energy and motivation. You’re forgiven – get your eyes back on Jesus and the race you’re running for His glory.
6. I grow more spiritually resilient by rejoicing in the grace of God
Isn’t it wonderful that God forgives and uses imperfect people? Let that glorious truth fill you with thankfulness and joy. Don’t dwell on your own imperfections; dwell on His perfection.
7. I grow more spiritually resilient when I look ahead to the finish line
This race we call life, while it sometimes drags on, is actually quite short. If we just keep on the path; just keep running, one day soon we’ll finish and run straight into the arms of Jesus. Won’t that be great!