Imagine, if you will, a pair of 10 or 12 year old boys happen upon an old rowboat washed up on the shore of a river. There are no oars, but the boys decide to push it out into the river and go for a ride. While drifting along they joke around and tell each other tales of adventure as riverboat captains, or pirates, or brave explorers. After a while they begin to hear a sound; faint at first, growing louder. Their eyes grow wide when they recognize it: THE RAPIDS! If the decrepit old boat goes into those, it will surely break up and they could drown. They paddle frantically with their hands and manage to get the boat close enough to shore to jump out into water shallow enough to walk safely to shore. They watch from the shore as the boat is tossed by the white water, beaten against the boulders and smashed to bits. What started out as pure fun nearly ended in disaster. This story serves as a metaphor for life.
The Danger of Drifting
15 The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps.
16 The wise fear the Lord and shun evil, but a fool is hotheaded and yet feels secure. (Proverbs 14:15-16)
The passage we read reveals that the wise look to the future to avoid ruin. Put another way: Drifting is foolish. In countless arenas of life–marriage, family, vocation, finances, just to name a few–we need a clear destination and navigation plan if we expect to be successful. God provides both.
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight. (Prov. 3:6)
The Signs of Drifting
For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, 3 how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, (Hebrews 2:1-3)
Regularly gathering in the house of the Lord with brothers and sisters in Christ provides an “anchor” of support and accountability. But skipping church in order to pursue other interests is an obvious sign that a believer has begun to drift away from God. Less apparent are the men and women who attend but mentally skip the worship service. The act of attending means nothing unless we make a deliberate decision to receive God’s Word and apply it to our life. As the writer of Hebrews warned, if we do not pay attention to what we have heard, we will drift away from it (2:1).
However, Sunday morning is not the only time for receiving a steady diet of nourishing principles and encouragement from the Bible. We should be in its pages every day, reading and meditating for ourselves. When our interest in what God has to say wanes, we’re already slipping out into troublesome waters. The only way to keep our way pure is by following His Word.
9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word. (Psalms 119:9)
If Bible reading is neglected, a prayer life has usually faded as well. Prayer is the way believers communicate with the Navigator. If we stop talking with Him, the God who once seemed so close soon feels far away. That chasm in our spirit is one more sign that we’re far from shore and safety.
Many a captain have guided his ship through a narrow channel. The crew members are intensely focused on their tasks because drifting means disaster. Life is full of narrow channels to navigate. We cannot afford to drift away from God and His Word. Only He can bring us safely through.
The Consequences of Drifting
12 Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God 13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12-13)
Spiritual drifting: the gradual wandering away from God and His will, takes place when a believer ceases to steer toward the Lord. Like an unpowered boat set loose upon the waters, he or she makes a slow and lazy glide away from good practices like disciplined obedience, regular Bible study, prayer, and assembling with fellow Christians as the currents and eddies of life take him or her where they will. There are consequences for casting yourself into uncertain and dangerous waters.
A life adrift is outside of God’s will and therefore, for believers, is sin. The Holy Spirit pricks a believer’s conscience to send a message when he is off course, but the drifter is prone to ignore such warnings. If a Christian continually excuses his wandering ways and denies sin, then his conscience gradually numbs. A person who becomes desensitized to wrongdoing has paved the way for more sinful behavior with less guilt. Can you imagine a more dangerous situation?
As the drifting believer’s conscience becomes anesthetized, her spiritual ears are also deadened, truth cannot gain entrance because she has invited wrong attitudes and philosophies into her thinking process. What’s more, her heart hardens to the things of God. Shrinking away from testimonies about divine power, grace, and mercy, she avoids situations that might reawaken the conscience and stir her spirit to repentance.
People drift from God in search of more: more freedom, choices, and pleasure. But since the consequences are a hard heart, a numb conscience, and dead ears, what they end up with is less. The drifting believer sacrifices the victorious life in Christ for an existence devoid of permanent satisfaction.
Getting Back on Course
17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:17-18)
No matter how far away from God you have drifted, you’re always welcome back. That’s the lesson from Jesus’ parable about the prodigal son: the foolish young man who followed a pleasure-filled path to ruin before returning to his father and finding redemption (Luke 15:11-32). Perhaps ruin has not yet come to you, or someone you know, but you know that the heart has grown cool to the things of God. Whatever your drifting story, make this the day that you point this boat back to the Lord.
As with any sin, the first motion toward getting back on course is to acknowledge having slipped away from the Lord, then confession and repentance; which is like turning one’s boat in the opposite direction and paddling toward God with all your strength! If you’re wondering exactly how to do that, I suggest this strategy: before stepping out of bed, give yourself to God by acknowledging, “I surrender my entire life to You, Lord, for this day.” When something comes up that runs counter to His plan and you consider pursuing it, the Holy Spirit reminds that you are not your own. Only God’s way will do.
Every day we choose whether to row or drift. As for me, I choose to vigorously pursue God.
Peter gives a warning to be on guard against attitudes and ideologies that would carry you away from truth (2 Peter 3:17). Instead, choose to paddle your lifeboat toward the Lord by meditating on Scripture, praying, and living obediently. Practicing the spiritual disciplines keeps a heart warm toward God.
17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, (2 Peter 3:17)
I hope you will paddle diligently as you go through the week ahead.
Some of this material originated from the
In Touch Ministries daily devotional magazine.