The Danger of Drifting

The Danger of Drifting

Most of us have experienced some kind of drifting! Maybe you were on a boat and you stopped the engine for a while and just floated. Unnoticed, you begin to drift away softly and silently. It is so pleasant to drift, but it is very dangerous. Without warning, suddenly you notice you are a long way away from where you were and may be headed for a shipwreck.

Some people drift their whole life. They are called drifters. All that's necessary for a life of drifting is to relax, to do nothing, to let go, to cease struggling, to submit to the worldly influences within us and around us. “If it feels good, do it,” is the philosophy.

Likewise, Christians can become spiritual drifters, unaware of their condition until they crash and realize how far they are from God. This process is so unconscious because we're floating on great under-currents. The currents are both within us and around us. The currents within are our natural desires—our love of ease and comfort, our fleshly appetites, and they are continually and constantly pulling at us, tempting us away from God! Away from church! Away from other believers!

Around us are other currents set in the same direction—away from God—the spirit of this world, social customs and habits, materialistic attitudes, literature, and entertainment. All these are around us constantly, touching us, acting on us, lulling us to sleep, and finding allies in our soul to which they are kin. If you have been a believer for any length of time, you have felt this temptation to drift! The worst part is we can be drifting and not even realize it?

Think of Samson. Samson took a strict vow before God as a Nazarite. Yet, he slowly drifted away, took pleasure in the enemy’s camp and did not realize his compromise until it was too late.

Judges 16:20 Then she called, "Samson, the Philistines are upon you!" He awoke from his sleep and thought, "I'll go out as before and shake myself free." But he did not know that the LORD had left him.

I’m sure we all have friends who once walked with the Lord, but now they don’t. What happened? They drifted away, and it can happen to us! Most people who drift away never intend on doing so! They just wake up one day and find they are far from the Lord!

Hebrews 2:1 We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.

“Pay more careful attention”, the verse says. Awful things can happen when we are not paying careful attention! For instance, at the end of their first date, a young man takes the young lady back to her house and they are standing on the front porch. Feeling confident, he leans toward her with his hand against the wall and says to her, "So, how ’bout a good night kiss?"
Embarrassed, she replies, "Oh, I couldn’t do that. My parents will see us!"
"Oh come on! Who’s going to see us at this hour?"
"No, please. I would just die of embarrassment if someone saw us."
"Oh come on, there’s nobody around, they’re all sleeping!"
"No way. It’s just too risky!"
"Oh please, please, I really like you!!"
"I like you too, but I just can’t!"
"Please? Just a small peck.”
"NO, no. I just can’t."
"Pleeeeease?..." he pleads, while still leaning with his hand against the wall of the house; when suddenly the porch light goes on, and the girl’s sister is standing at the door in her pajamas. In a sleepy voice the sister says: "Dad says to go ahead and give him a kiss. Or I can do it. Or if need be, he’ll come down himself and do it. But tell him to take his hand off the intercom button!"

What the author of Hebrews is saying is we need to pay careful attention to God’s Word lest we drift away! In God’s Word are the Gospel facts, truths, values, and warnings, which keep us morally and spiritually healthy. This Word, if seriously followed, has the power to give direction and blessings to our lives. If we become indifferent to what God has spoken, not only do we miss the encouragement of His teaching, but our lives cease to have stability, and become carried along by chance and circumstance. We drift away and shipwreck our lives. The same thing happens to nations that ignore the Word of God.

No man, by chance, ever drifts towards Christ. To follow Christ, we must go against the currents; sometimes all alone. That requires energy and strength of character. But to drift away from Christ requires neither. We only have to surrender ourselves to the force of our natural sinful instincts to drift away. It's as easy as that.

Because the life of drift is so seductively easy to follow, Jesus instructs us in Matt 7:13-14 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

In its early stages, the seriousness of drifting is rarely ever seen. It's only when drifting has run its full course that we see the disastrous result. Then, we realize drifting is as deadly as the most blatant sin.

There's a story in the Old Testament which powerfully illustrates this point. Abraham and Lot were traveling together, but they had too many animals for the pasture to support. So Abraham gave Lot his choice of grazing lands and they split up. When Lot selected the lush pasture lands of the Jordan for himself, he was well aware of the evil reputation of the cities of the plain. In the beginning, he never thought of making Sodom his home. Yet, that was the end he finally reached by gradual and seemingly innocent steps.

In five grim sentences in Genesis 13, 14, and 19, we read: “He chose the valley of the Jordan” (the location of Sodom); “he moved his tent as far as Sodom”; “he lived in Sodom”; “he sat in the gate of Sodom” (that is, he became one of its most influential citizens). And when the angels urged him to leave this city of corruption, he had become so callous that we read, “He lingered in Sodom.” He had drifted so far away from God, the angels had to pull Lot out of Sodom before it was destroyed by God.

Drifting is so dangerous in the spiritual life. Relationships fall apart because we don’t work at them. Just as a beautiful garden is destroyed by neglect and a house crumbles if we don’t maintain it, our faith weakens through neglect! Oh, we may still attend church occasionally, but we do not take a part any longer in the activities of the church. We are just drifting along.

However, a ship securely anchored never drifts. Likewise, a life securely anchored to Christ will never drift. Let us anchor our souls to the Word of God and to Jesus, the ever-living One, who fulfills and guarantees all the promises of God.

Heb.6:17-20 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

How can we tell we are drifting? Here are six signs:

1. Loss of Focus—we have lost focus when our schedule is more important than worshipping God, or when we are doing more serving than sitting at His feet! 1John 2:15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Maybe we can remember a time when we used to love to show up early at church, ready to worship the Lord. We used to go to a friend’s house and worship God, we used be so into ‘worship’, but now we are too busy! And because we are neglecting our worship, we find ourselves questioning, compromising, struggling with temptations we didn’t have before!

I have met so many that neglect worship, neglect church attendance, neglect prayer and Bible study, and as a result they are drifting away! They just don’t know it! We can even be doing the right things and still be drifting.

Rev 2:2-4 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.

The Ephesians were doing right things but they had left their first love. And they did not even realize it. People seldom lose their faith by a blowout—it is usually a slow leak. They lose their focus, which should be Jesus Christ.

2. Loss of Priorities—letting worldly things cause us to lose our priority on eternal things. When we lose our priority, we lose our burden for souls and are concerned about temporal things. We become more concerned about ourselves than others, including God.

Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Matthew 6:33 seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

3. Loss of Passion—we no longer have a passionate love for God or His Word.

Psalms 119:18-20 Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me. My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.

Does that describe you today? Do you remember when you were in love with God? You couldn’t put the Bible down. With a loss of passion, we just go through the motions. A loss of passion for worship, the Word, or even being in the house of God are all warning signs of drifting.

Matthew 15:8 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.

If praise and worship to Jesus has become a burden instead of a blessing, we need our passion renewed. If we are doing spiritual things outwardly because we are supposed to but there is no real meaning behind it, we have substituted our relationship with Jesus for a ritual.

A man had his ritual of watching sports every weekend. One Sunday afternoon he just blurted out to his wife, "Just so you know, I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on some machine and fluids from a bottle. If that ever happens to me, just pull the plug." So, his wife got up and unplugged the TV.

Yes, we can create rituals with God instead of a relationship: we go to church, read the Bible, pray, because that is what Christians do! But there is no real connection with God! No real change in our life! It’s kind of dry, there is very little excitement in seeking God! Christianity is an intimate, vibrant, growing relationship with Jesus Christ. It is not just a set of doctrines to believe, or habits to practice, or sins to avoid.

4. Loss of discipline—our lifestyle becomes more sinful. This world has a natural way of hardening the heart; it takes careful attention to keep our heart and spirit in tune with God.

Ephesians 5:5-7 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person--such a man is an idolater--has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

Hebrews 3:7-12 So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert,  where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.'  So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'” See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.

If we fail to be radical against sin, we will drift because sin is deceitful. Our heart becomes hard, unbelief sets in, and we begin turning away from the living God. The way to prevent this from happening is to adopt a radical posture against sin.

5. Loss of commitment—our church attendance becomes less important to us.

Heb10:24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one anotherand all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Failure to attend church services is one of the most noticeable danger signals that happens gradually! That is why we need to encourage those who begin missing services. We need to meet together to spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

6. Loss of Emotions—we have lost the joy of our salvation. If there was one word to define a new convert, the word would be exhilarated. They are full of joy, the joy of salvation. After all, the joy of the Lord is our strength. Joy is a characteristic of the Holy Spirit. When we sin, joy departs. There is only one remedy for the loss of joy—repent, pray, and return to our first love, Jesus Christ.

Ps 51:10-12 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

To keep from drifting, it is important to have an anchor. Our anchor is Jesus. There are some of us who have drifted in the past, we understand the danger! There are others who maybe on the verge right now! But we don’t have to drift if we fix our eyes on Jesus, the anchor of our soul!

Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

When we take lightly what Jesus has done, we are open to sin and compromise! That’s why a healthy view of what Jesus has done for us is important! This is why we need to stay in the Word, in church, and why Jesus commanded us to take communion when we meet! Jesus knows when we get our eyes and attention on what He has done and how great our salvation is, it will keep us following after Him!

If you realize that you have drifted with the current of your own lusts, away from God, I have good news for you! You can come back! Even if you have shipwrecked your faith, God wants to restore you and put you back on the pathway of following Jesus again.

1John 1:9 says, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.