Question: "How can I overcome spiritual apathy?"
Answer: Spiritual apathy, coldness, or indifference can affect even the most sincere Christian at one time or another. Human emotions being as fickle as they are, feelings of apathy or disinterest can sometimes replace the fervor we once felt for the things of God. Overcoming such apathy is necessary for continuing our walk with God.
The one who realizes he is spiritually apathetic needs to, first of all, make sure he is a true believer in Jesus Christ (see 1 John 5:13; Romans 8:16). If he knows that he is a true believer in Christ, he needs to then ask himself this question: “What caused me to lose my love and passion for the Lord?”
One cause of spiritual apathy is sin in the believer’s life. When David sinned, he felt separated from God (Psalm 51:11). As he confessed his sin to God, David prayed for God to “renew a steadfast spirit” within him (verse 10), and he had this request: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (verse 12). A believer who feels spiritually apathetic should confess any known sin and ask for God’s cleansing and renewal.
Another cause of spiritual apathy is allowing dead orthodoxy to replace a true love for the Lord. A Christian is to be marked by his love for and obedience of Jesus (John 14:21), but it is possible to obey without love. It is possible to cling to the truth and serve God yet do so in a loveless, lifeless fashion. Such mechanical service is not pleasing to God. This was the Lord’s condemnation of the Ephesian church in Revelation 2:4: “You have forsaken the love you had at first.” When Paul wrote to the same church around AD 60, he commended them for their love (Ephesians 1:15–16), but now, some thirty years later, they had left their first love. Their passion had waned. Why? Perhaps the Ephesians had begun to take for granted what they had in Christ. Living for Christ was no longer a daily adventure; it was becoming “boring,” and they were losing sight of their eternal purpose. The church at Ephesus knew the teachings of Christ, but they were not living in His power. In so doing they lost their vibrant love and passion for Christ.
What’s the solution, then, for turning spiritual apathy into a renewed love and passion for Jesus Christ? The word to the spiritually apathetic Ephesian church was, “Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (Revelation 2:4). The spiritually apathetic person needs to remember, repent, and renew.
First, the spiritually apathetic person needs to remember; that is, he should think back to the time when he sensed the warmth and closeness of Christ’s presence. He should realize that he can return to that state of fellowship. Then he needs to repent; that is, he needs to see his spiritual apathy as sin and confess that sin to God (1 John 1:9). Finally, he needs to renew; that is, he must cultivate a renewed commitment to the Lord—not just serving the Lord, but knowing Him, praising Him, and fellowshipping with Him. He should start again, if he has discontinued it, daily Bible reading and prayer. He should let the indwelling Holy Spirit empower him so his life will display the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). And he should fellowship with a Bible-believing local church (Hebrews 10:25).
Satan loves apathy. We must stay alert to the temptations of the old nature, the world, and the evil one. We must never lose the sense that God is always with us and in us. “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). As we begin to worship and praise the Lord and let Christ control our lives each day, we will rediscover a life of adventure filled with joy and eternal purpose. We will wonder how we ever became spiritually apathetic in the first place.