This week’s eNewsletter Feature
was written by Raymon Hylton
FPCE senior pastor.
Have you ever heard of spiritual drift? The general concept of drifting is certainly not unfamiliar to us.
How many times have you reached the bottom of a page only to realize that you weren’t paying close enough attention to recall what you just read? And how many times have you driven for miles without realizing the landmarks (and perhaps exits) that you’ve passed?
Spiritual drift is no different. It’s a subtle, imperceptible loss of focus, a decline in certain spiritual practices like prayer, reading Scripture, gathering for worship, and an insensitivity to the voice of God in your life. And then, one day, you wake up, and you find yourself on a completely different path.
Many people report drifting not just from church and spiritual routines but from other important relationships and activities, exacerbated by the wholesale disruptions of the global pandemic of 2020. For the better part of two years, we lost our regular cadence of public worship, being in a small group, reading Scripture in a purposeful way, serving the needs of others, and allowing others to call us back to the way of Jesus.
Like ubiquitous up-croppings of dandelions on our lawn, spiritual drift surfaced as a major problem for God’s people — at least, this is my main takeaway after reading the 12 prophetic books in the Bible this summer.
Here is a key observation from my reading of the prophets: When people drifted from the Lord, rarely was it a sharp, abrupt turn or rejection of God. In many cases, people outwardly continued displaying religious conformity — temple worship, observance of the festivals, and sacrifices to God — but, internally, they were walking away from God.
Here are a few examples of outward religious behavior invalidated by internal spiritual drift:
The Lord said:
Because these people draw near with their mouths
and honor me with their lips,
while their hearts are far from me,
and their worship of me is a human commandment learned by rote… (Isaiah 29:13)
Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, “We are safe!”—only to go on doing all these abominations? (Jeremiah 7:9–10)
I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps. (Amos 5:21–23)
So how do we avoid spiritual drift?
Couples who drift away from each other often point to the loss of small things–time together, face-to-face conversation, physical touch, honesty about feelings. Couples often stop the drift in their marriage when they care for the little things.
I think the same is true for us. Our relationship with God is maintained by what God does and by what we do. Is this what Paul meant when he said,
Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12–13)?
And then may I ask that you read this Sunday’s text, Jeremiah 2:4:-13, ahead of time? As you read the text, try to identify the conditions that foster spiritual drift.
And then do the “little things” as a regular part of your life:
Active Small Group participation
Grateful to be your pastor,
Pastor Ray Hylton