Do you remember the day you got saved? For me, it was in a junior church service at my grandfather’s church in Salinas, California. I love how the psalmist in Psalms 40 describes the changes that took place in his life after salvation. I love to watch this same fire burn inside of new converts; church is exciting to them, the Bible is alive, their relationship with God is fresh and vibrant. For me this time in my life came as a teenager when I started walking with God for myself. I remember the hunger I had for God and the fire that was burning in my heart for God.
Something happens to most Christians a few years after they have been saved or walking with God. The newness wears off. Their Christian life no longer has the same thrill and excitement it once had. For lack of a better word, it becomes somewhat of a drudgery. It is at this point that your Christianity goes from desire to duty. You no longer go to church because you love God and want to, but rather you go because it is what is expected of you. You are no longer excited about your Sunday school class or bus route; you are just doing your duty.
Now do not misunderstand me, duty is not a bad thing. In fact, when the desire is not there you should keep serving God because it is your duty. Ecclesiastes 12:13 tells us, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” In Romans 12:1, the apostle Paul reminds us that a life of sacrifice and service to God is just the right thing to do, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” When the desire to live for God is not there, it is still our duty to live for God!
However, if we allow our Christianity to remain simply our duty it will not be long before you have a religion with no relationship with God. When the relationship is missing you are missing out on the sweetness and joy of the Christian life. If your whole Christianity is based off of duty with no relationship with Christ, you will develop a clock-in clock-out Christianity. It will become about how long and straight we plow rather than the One we are plowing long and straight for.
Where are you in your Christian walk today? Do you have religion or a relationship with the Father? Are you just doing your duty or do you have a desire for God? I fear my generation is dropping off and falling out not because of the duties of the the Christian life but rather because they never developed their own relationship with God that drives their duty.
The apostle Paul, having planted churches and seen new converts all over the known world, was well aware of this danger. I believe it is with this in mind that he writes to the church in Philippi and gives them four things to take their Christian life from the place of duty back to the place of desire.
1. Make your walk with God priority.
Paul writes in Philippians 3:7-10, “ But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;”
If you do not make your walk with God priority in your life, you will not have a walk with God. If you do not have a walk with God, you will have an empty Christian life. Making your walk with God a priority means you are going to have to set a time every day that is protected form interruption. Making your walk with God priority means you may have to give up some other things that are not important. You cannot have a fervent Christian life without a fervent walk with God. Make it a priority!
2. Remember what God has done for you in the past.
In verse 7 of chapter 3, you find Paul recollecting how God had worked in his life in the past, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.” Paul was taking a trip down memory lane of where God had brought him from. I fear we do not stop to remember God’s working in our life enough. The psalmist writes in Psalms 77:11-12, “I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.” When was the last time you stopped and reflected on all God has done in your life? I go back often to that place in my life where I started walking with God and fell in love with God. That memory stirs the fires all over again!
3. Keep spiritual goals before you.
Paul wrote in verse 13 of chapter 3, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,” Paul kept spiritual goals in front of him. These were goals that were out of his reach that he had to rely on God for. How often do we allow ourselves to feel like we have arrived in the Christian life? It is here that we will spiritually stagnate! What spiritual goals are you reaching for and praying for today? What is it you have in front of you that you need God for? Paul saw the importance and necessity of keeping spiritual goals before him.
4. Don’t quit.
Lastly, in verse 14, Paul writes, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” When your Christian walk goes from desire to duty — don’t quit! When the “newness” wears off is when many Christians quit, but the only difference between the successful Christian and the dropout is one quit when the other just kept going. The great Baptist missionary William Carey, faced with many difficulties and hardships, just kept going when many would have quit. He wrote these words, “I can plod.” He later wrote “I can persevere to any definite pursuit.” He was saying whatever happens I can just keep going. When you get to the place where you lose your excitement in your Christian life, you need to check your heart, but, in the meanwhile, just keep going.
There are many duties of the Christian life, but if your Christian life is all duty and no desire, you have a religion and are missing the sweetness of a relationship with the Father.