I have been writing a series of articles that have to do with many of the major wrong thought patterns that lead to wrong or evil actions. Historically, the Church called these the seven deadly sins. They are deadly because they tend to destroy our character. These patterns have been given the names of pride, envy, greed, wrath, lust, sloth, and gluttony. In previous articles I dealt with pride and envy and their counterparts humility and contentment. Today I respond with the solution to sloth, which I wrote about in last month’s article. You can access all of these at http://www.baptistdigest.com/archive/article.
The solution I present to sloth (indifference toward our souls, toward God) is to become the kind of person who routinely hungers and thirsts after righteousness. We live in a world that is broken but has been put on a path of restoration by King Jesus. By hungering and thirsting for personal righteousness we cultivate the life in the kingdom of God among us. Hungering and thirsting after putting the world to rights is a good place to start. But first, here’s what I am not advocating.
I am not advocating here a busy life of doing more activities, or taking on more responsibilities in the church. Busyness will not work to overcome indifference to hungering for God. In fact, busyness is counterproductive. You’ve heard well meaning people state: “I want to burn out, not rust out.” Well now, are burn and rust the only options?
Doing more of the same to overcome sloth is madness when doing too much probably landed us in the lap of sloth in the first place. Do you share the angst in this testimony? “My mind is full and my hands are busy, but my heart is empty and emotionally distant from God. Life moves so fast that God has become a blur.” Perhaps this connects with you? “I have been doing ministry on a virtually empty tank, masking my immaturity and or/inferiority by doing great things for the kingdom of God. I find myself on the west bank of the Jordan unable to cross over to the Promised Land.”
A performance driven life will not get us at wrestling with sloth. A friend and fellow pilgrim on the Way testifies: “My journey with Christ until now has been based on performance. I know that Jesus saved me, and I say all the right things at church, just like everyone else, but I really don’t know Him well. It frustrates me but I keep up with the show.” We worked out a way for him to move from faking it to grace as way of life, of panting for God.
Well, if we would conquer sloth, it won’t be by busyness or performance. We’re not going to conquer sloth by consuming our way into righteousness either. Buy this program, get this book, attend this conference, or speed up your technology. The turbo boost does not sell on Wall Street.
What will work, then? Here I share personal experience that has proven helpful to me in resolving my bouts of indifference to life that is truly life in God.
I make it my daily business to know God. A while back I took the challenge of D.A. Carson seriously when he said: “The greatest need in the church today is for Christians to come to know God.” Not just to know about God, but to experience God in relationship. Practically, I take time to delight or to enthrall my mind with God. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart”, says the psalmist (37:4). I bring my mind to dwell on the beauty of God in his creation (from nature to babies to a beautiful veggie burger!). I place the object of my love before my mind (Thomas Aquinas). Emily Dickinson got it: “the soul selects her own society, then shuts the door.” Spot on! When God becomes the company we keep, we are in the presence of creation’s creator.
We enthrall our minds with God when we set our minds on things above: from the heaving of the seas to the flight of the bumblebees, from a baby’s first smile to his first step to her first word to his first love. Epictetus says that there is no end to enthralling our minds with God; “Any one thing in the creation is sufficient to demonstrate a providence to a modest and grateful mind.” Do this daily and you will be well on your way to conquering sloth.
I also make it my daily business to overcome sloth by listening to the past. God created and loved a people for his own pleasure (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). He loved us to the point he became one of us, to serve us, to suffer and die for us, to leave the Holy Spirit, to come back again, to restore his world to its original design. There is a life of enthrallment here. Listen to the past and present and future.
Finally, I make it my daily business to reflect on my experience of him and that of others around me. A word that is said in kindness becomes the voice of God. A gesture on my part that strangely warms another’s heart. A nagging problem or doubt lift. Love overwhelms. A disease that kills. A God-message in a song. A bird’s chirp. The world is alive with God.
Sloth can only be overcome by an intentional process of living for God. Those who walk with the Master just do it.
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