Isaac Newton was a 17th Century scientist, mathematician, and physicist. He perhaps known best for his Three Laws of Motion. The first of which is commonly summarized by saying, “a body in motion stays in motion, and a body at rest stays at rest.” Some people also think of this as the Law of Inertia. We understand this principle, because we see it at work everyday. If you’ve ever been walking and needed to move left or right quickly, it’s more difficult to move left or right than it is to keep moving forward.
Please know that I don’t think about physics often…or ever really. However, I do think about disciplemaking and following Jesus a good bit. Issac Newton’s three laws can teach us a little bit about our spiritual-self and our tendencies.
… A body at rest stays at rest. John Piper wrote, “None of us by nature is a person of praise and thanks and love…we need not be satisfied with the way we are.” (A Godward Life, 69). If Sir Isaac were here he’d probably summarize and say, “A spiritual body at rest stays at rest.” We understand these thoughts. We’ve all been spiritually dry, where God seems distant and we find ourselves bogged in a spiritual valley. Whatever you’d like to call it, we’ve all found ourselves there. Here are a few factors that may cause us to loose our spiritual motion.
If your family is like my family, you know that time is a precious commodity. I have three girls whose current ages are 8,9, and 13. Mornings are spent hurriedly downing coffee, fixing breakfast, fixing hair (my wife’s job), and trying to make sure everyone gets to school and work at a reasonable time. Afternoons are spent transporting kids to and from dance and cheer only to get home, eat supper, muster up enough strength for homework, get kids in bed, and get ready for tomorrow. Sometimes it’s 10:30pm before we have a moment to catch our breath. You get it. I get it. If there were only a few more hours in a day, right? If we’re not careful, the clock can easily drain our spiritual life. The solution: Prioritize. Make sure there’s time in your day to pursue God in His Word and in prayer. Some people say that you’ve got to do this in the morning. Although I currently have time in the mornings for spiritual renewal, I think it’s more important to be consistent. A great time for you may be during lunch, it may be in the evenings. Make sure it’s quality time, where God has your energy, focus, and attention.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we have certain things we’re more apt to do for the Lord and tend to draw a spiritual line in the sand regarding other things. More times than not, this isn’t an issue of open rebellion (like Jonah), it’s more about personal comfort. Remember the story from Luke 9:57-62.
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Simply put, we prefer to do things for God that we’re comfortable doing, and prefer not to serve in areas that we find taxing. I like Isaiah’s response to God in Isaiah 6:8. After his vision of the Lord, God asks a fairly open-ended question. “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” – Wait a minute here. Go where? For how long? What will I be doing when I get there? These are the questions I would’ve asked. Wouldn’t you? Those are of no concern for Isaiah. He finds himself so captivated by God that his response is, “Here I am! Send me.” By the way, the task he’s given ends up being very uncomfortable at times. The solution: Be willing.
Trust me. I understand the value of a good sale. I live with four women. We’re always looking for a good deal aren’t we? It doesn’t matter if we’re shopping for clothes, cars, or groceries, people love a good deal. I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten a “good deal” on a car. And I always find it humorous when I’m at the grocery store and spend $258.63 and as the receipt spins out of the register the the cashier says, “You saved $2.14 today!” I always think to myself, “Actually I spent $258.63. I didn’t save a thing.” We often do this with God. We’re looking for the best deal we can get. We do this as we look for which church to join. We inquire about worship services and styles, we evaluate the preacher’s sermon to see if it’s tolerable. Is it entertaining? Is it long? When people are looking for which church to attend, I’ve even heard it called church shopping! I’m not saying that many of these questions aren’t legit. The solution: Approach the whole of discipleship with an attitude of giving, not just getting. The heart of consumerism in our spiritual life often revolves around personal preference. I think the consumer mindset influence much of our spiritual life, not just what church we may attend. In can impact us in our spiritual nourishment, spiritual progress, and ultimately, if we’re not careful, it can definitely impair or spiritual movement.
So what’s the solution? I don’t know if I have an easy one. We can all struggle with maintaining spiritual momentum and we can all find ourselves under Newton’s first law, after all, a body at rest tends to stay at rest. The apostle Paul said, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14). I think that’s a good place to start.