If you were to come to Ann and I’s home towns of Greenock and Port Glasgow and looked across the wide estuary of the River Clyde you would see the wreck of the ship pictured above.
I can just about remember what happened being reported in the local news. It was the 27 January 1974 and the MV Captayannis was anchored in the Clyde with a cargo of sugar for one of Greenock’s sugar refineries. A fierce January storm whipped up the river and the ship dragged its anchor and began to drift. Despite the efforts of the crew once the ship started to drift it couldn’t be stopped, it drifted onto a sandbank and listed over to its port side. She still lies on her side where she was shipwrecked.
It’s not just ships that are endangered by drifting.
The writer of the book of Hebrews issued a very serious warning to some Jewish Christians he was concerned about.
We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. Hebrews 2:1
The writer of Hebrews is warning this church that some of them may be drifting into danger spiritually. What happens when we drift spiritually? The same thing that happened to that sugar boat in the Clyde. Paul in 1 Timothy talks about people whose “faith has been shipwrecked.” 1:19
These people just like the crew of the Captayannis couldn’t stop the drift of their faith and so it was eventually, shipwrecked, and destroyed. What a tragedy.
CS Lewis has something very insightful to say about drifting spiritually.
If you have once accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayers and religious readings and church-going are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed. As a matter of fact, if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?
CS Lewis says that most people who lose their faith don’t do so because of a moment of decision when they suddenly decide it’s not true. Rather, he says they drift from their faith by neglecting the spiritual practices that keep it alive and healthy. They drift from worship, they drift from prayer, they drift from fellowship with other believers. They drift and drift till their faith is as lost as that ship on the sandbank in the Clyde.
30 years of pastoral experience tells me CS Lewis was right. I am not sure I ever had an encounter with someone who came and told me they were turning their back on Christ because they didn’t believe it anymore but I have seen so many once strong believers drift away from Jesus.
I suspect that the lockdowns were responsible for some of this drift, people got out of the habit of meeting fellow believers, spending time in prayer and reading God’s word and they have just continued to drift away.
Let me put it personally to you.
Are you drifting away from Jesus? How do you know if you are drifting spiritually?
Well, ask yourself these questions.
- Have I drifted away from prayer? Do I no longer have regular time alone with God?
- Have I drifted away from reading and thinking about God’s Word? Does my bible remain unopened for weeks and my bible app rarely activated?
- Am I back doing most of my preCovid activities, but I have drifted from Sunday worship and fellowship with other believers in a small group? Have I missed more worship services than I have attended in the last 6 months?
If you have answered any of those questions in the affirmative, you are drifting.
This has been a hard blog post to write, in fact, I’ve written and rewritten it several times worrying I have been too negative or that I will upset people. However, ultimately a big part of my role as pastor is to look after the spiritual health of our church. Just like we were warned of the dangers of COVID for our physical health I need to warn us of the danger of drifting spiritually for our spiritual health. I haven’t written this to put a guilt trip on anyone or because I am worried about falling attendances or drops in giving, I am worried about people’s eternal destinies.
The writer of Hebrews follows up his warning about the danger of drifting with this stark and serious warning about where it ultimately leads
4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age 6 and who have fallen way, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. Hebrews 6
That passage is full of difficulties of understanding but one thing is crystal clear, the next stage from “drifting away” is “falling away” and you don’t want this to happen to you and the way to stop it happening, is to stop drifting spiritually.
I am aware that I can’t cajole, anyone back to Jesus who has been drifting. All I can do is warn of the danger and pray that the Holy Spirit draws people back. That’s what I am doing, maybe you would join me?