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  • Zack DeBruyne

Stagnant Faith



Introduction

  • It’s a new year, and not only are we all committing to eat healthier, sleep and exercise more, and mindlessly scroll our phones less; but many of us also make some spiritual resolutions or goals. Maybe for you, it is reading the Bible for the first time or in a committed way for the first time. Maybe you are looking to pray more, or commit yourself to Christ in faith. Maybe you are coming into 2023 not really sure about faith, or God, or whether you even are a Christian. Maybe you feel like God is far away, that you are dry of any spiritual fulfillment, like wandering a spiritual-desert wilderness. So you might be flourishing, fulfilled, close to God, but if you are like most of us today, you probably feel a bit more of the opposite. Maybe even stagnant.

  • For the next 6 weeks, we are going to begin a series called Stagnant Faith. We are going to look at the experience of followers of Jesus throughout Scripture who experienced their own dry and desert seasons, and we are going to recognize that we are not alone in these feelings. In fact, we will be looking at how a wilderness season is not only Biblical, but can be life-changing for the better. We won’t end in the wilderness, though you might still feel that you are in a season of it. Instead, for the last two weeks talk about how we are given new life, refreshing reconciliation, forgiveness, and grace to come back to God.

  • So, join me, whether you are parched of God’s presence or soaked in it, as we talk about stagnant faith.


Read Psalm 42

A deer longs for streams of water.

God, I long for you in the same way.


I am thirsty for God. I am thirsty for the living God.

When can I go and meet with him?


My tears have been my food

day and night.

All day long people say to me,

“Where is your God?”


When I remember what has happened,

I tell God all my troubles.

I remember how I used to walk to the house of God.

The Mighty One guarded my steps.

We shouted with joy and praised God

as we went along with the joyful crowd.


My spirit, why are you so sad?

Why are you so upset deep down inside me?

Put your hope in God.

Once again I will have reason to praise him.

He is my Savior and my God.


My spirit is very sad deep down inside me.

So I will remember you here where the Jordan River begins.

I will remember you here on the Hermon mountains

and on Mount Mizar.


You have sent wave upon wave of trouble over me.

It roars down on me like a waterfall.

All your waves and breakers have rolled over me.


During the day the Lord sends his love to me.

During the night I sing about him.

I say a prayer to the God who gives me life.


I say to God my Rock,

“Why have you forgotten me?

Why must I go around in sorrow?

Why am I treated so badly by my enemies?”


My body suffers deadly pain

as my enemies make fun of me.

All day long they say to me,

“Where is your God?”


My spirit, why are you so sad?

Why are you so upset deep down inside me?

Put your hope in God.

Once again I will have reason to praise him.

He is my Savior and my God.



What has a season of a flourishing faith looked like in your life?


What has a season of stagnant faith look like in your life?


What does it mean to be stagnant? What does the word Stagnant mean?

  • Stagnant: Having no current or flow, showing no activity; dull and sluggish. Not changing or growing, without life. Characterized by the lack of development, advancement, or progressive movement.

  • Inactive, lifeless, slack, lethargic, flat, dry.


If you were to choose a number between 1-10 to define the current state of your faith, 1 being flourishing and faithful, 10 being stagnant and distant, what would you choose?


Three Approaches that Guarantee a Stagnant Faith

  1. Self-Sufficiency - the New Year, New Me Approach

  • Oftentimes, we set out with the best intentions with our faith. We are going to read the whole Bible this year, pray every day, volunteer at church, and show-up to every Monday night group this semester. I can do this faith thing with my strength and focus, no problem.

  • And then, we miss a day of reading Scripture.

  • A day goes by without praying.

  • We have an assignment due Tuesday morning and can’t come out on Monday.

  • Then we realize, I can’t do this myself. I can’t do this in my own power. I don’t have the time, the energy, the ability to motivate and hold myself accountable to actually do this faith thing.

  • So then, we stop. We failed our goal so what’s to say that we can really even pick it back up successfully again?

  • Like our New Year's Resolutions, they fall to the wayside. Faith becomes a secondary thing that we’ve tried for a few weeks here or there, but never commit ourselves to. We never commit because we are pretty confident we are going to fail, that we are going to have questions, that we aren’t even sure what we are reading, so what’s the point?

  1. Passivity - the Netflix Approach

  • I am going to sit back, tell Netflix that I am in fact still watching, and allow for God to change me.

  • We take a position that puts the onus entirely on God to change us. To make us more faithful followers of Jesus. To make us better pray-ers, worshippers, and Bible readers.

  • I don’t think I need to tell you what is wrong with this approach, but it is often one that we take. We think, “If I go to Church on Sunday, I am a good Christian and should have a flourishing faith.” But the problem is that Sunday church or Monday study is not all that is needed to know God in your life!

  1. Unredeemable - the ‘I’m too Broken for God’ Approach

  • This approach says, whether internally or aloud, that you are too sinful, too outside of the reach of God’s forgiveness and grace. And because of that, why change the way I am living now? Why give up my pornographic addiction, my pride, my anger, my sleeping around?

  • What is the point of repenting and changing my life if I don’t believe that God can actually redeem me and change me for the better?

  • The problem with this approach, again I don’t think needs naming. But, I’ll do it anyway. When we see ourselves as broken, horrible, unredeemable people we can never get to a place of flourishing faith. Instead, a flourishing faith begins when we acknowledge and confess our brokenness and receive the gift of grace from Christ. When we recognize we cannot do it on our own, and that we need God to get through, past, or over whatever it is we find ourselves in.

  • Like the Psalmist, we need to call out to God!


Which of these approaches do you most resonate with? Is there another default approach that you’ve taken in your life?


The Goodness of a Stagnant Faith

  • I think it is also important for our series and this evening to name something.

  • A stagnant season of faith isn’t all bad, or even really bad at all. In fact, faith becomes faith when we are in a place of stagnation. When we feel like we cannot see or hear God.

  • Allow it

  • Rest in it

  • Trust in it

The Bible is filled with voices of faithful followers of Christ calling out to God in their dry and stagnant seasons. Psalm 42, which we began our study with is a perfect example. We are going to read it again together.


The Psalms: The Chorus of Stagnant Believers

  • The whole of Scripture speaks to us, but the Psalms speak for us.

  • They are our language to bring before and share with God.


Read Psalm 42

As the deer pants for streams of water,

so my soul pants for you, my God.


My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

When can I go and meet with God?


My tears have been my food

day and night,

while people say to me all day long,

“Where is your God?”


These things I remember

as I pour out my soul:

how I used to go to the house of God

under the protection of the Mighty One[d]

with shouts of joy and praise

among the festive throng.


Why, my soul, are you downcast?

Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God,

for I will yet praise him,

my Savior and my God.


My soul is downcast within me;

therefore I will remember you

from the land of the Jordan,

the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.


Deep calls to deep

in the roar of your waterfalls;

all your waves and breakers

have swept over me.


By day the Lord directs his love,

at night his song is with me—

a prayer to the God of my life.


I say to God my Rock,

“Why have you forgotten me?

Why must I go about mourning,

oppressed by the enemy?”


My bones suffer mortal agony

as my foes taunt me,

saying to me all day long,

“Where is your God?”


Why, my soul, are you downcast?

Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God,

for I will yet praise him,

my Savior and my God.


Abiding with Christ in the Stangnant Places

  • As we've read with the Psalmist, there is beauty in the truth that we all experience moments of crying out to God, distance from Him, wondering about His existence and compassion for us.

  • There are moments where we feel so unmoved by God that we question the whole Chrisitianity thing to begin with.

  • Yet, what Psalm 42 shows us is two things:

  1. Everyone experiences a stagnant faith - Even those who wrote the very words of Scripture, and in this context most likely David -- someone known for a deep, intimate, 'one after God's own heart' relationship with God. Even he experiences stagnancy.

  2. Stagnancy is not the end of faith, but the beginning. As the Pslam flows, we see his anger, confusion, and pain calling out to God. Yet, all throughout his stagnant, dry, distance from God is always remembers and trusts and puts his hope in God. No matter how far he may feel, the truth of the salvation and love of God is unchanging and unshifting.

  • The Psalmist chooses to abide in Christ. To find rest in the truth of who God says He is.

  • This doesn't magically mean that they have a flourishing faith, or that they are no longer stagnant. But instead is a faithful choosing to have faith despite the stagnant season.

  • And amidst the stagnant season, understanding that this is an opportunity to express our emotions and find that final trust and hope in a God who will never leave nor forsake us.

Prayer






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