Spiritual Apathy: Finding It and Fighting It
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Romans 12:9-13, ESV)
Last week, I went to speak at the local university where I live. In the weeks leading up to that night, I was praying over what the Lord wanted me to say. These people attend a college chock-full of calculating minds and scientific brains, all ready to disprove God, faith, and the Bible. Some of them are exchange students, young adults that left their countries to experience America and are testing Christianity after childhoods spent in different religions. Some grew up across America, church kids through-and-through. They grew up in Sunday school and knew the Bible. Some were most likely skeptical and questioning. Even more were probably just going through the motions and trying to check a “God-box” to satisfy some idea of an obligation.
So one question was constantly ringing in my head as I prepared to speak to them: What on earth could I say that would reach them? What could I tell them that they didn’t already know? How could I
stir them up to feel renewed in their faith and want to take that faith out to their campus?
That’s when Jesus pointed it out to me: When I was in college, why was my relationship with Him not as strong? Why did I feel spiritually dead and dry? Why did I have this weird policy that this season of my life was too hard to get real with Jesus and that I’d wait until after graduation to pursue it?
Because I was apathetic. I had lost all my passion for Jesus and didn’t even realize it. I was lukewarm and complacent. I had allowed my priorities to become misaligned.
Spiritual apathy is tricky. It’s hard to pinpoint, yet it’s something we battle daily. It’s the precursor to sin because it dulls our hearts to desire righteousness. And in the church today, especially among my generation of college and post-undergrad peers, it runs rampant.
So it’s no wonder that after my message, when I opened the meeting up to prayer, dozens of students came down to have their apathy broken off of them. Everyone I prayed for said the same thing, “You spoke directly to me.”
So I have to ask: Am I speaking directly to you right now? Do you feel like you see Jesus through this thin film of apathy? Do you feel held back from diving in and making Him real for yourself? Have you been putting off pursuing Him because it feels like it’s not a “good time or season” to press past religion and build a thriving relationship with Jesus?
If you have, that’s good. As I said, spiritual apathy can be tricky because it takes root in places we can’t even see, so identifying it’s there is the first step to unrooting it. Now that you see it and recognize it, we need to talk about how you can get rid of it and keep it from sprouting up again.
Read our key verse again. There’s a lot in there, but wrapped right up in the middle is this, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”
Sure, it doesn’t say “Do not be apathetic,” in plain English, but it does tell us to not be slothful in zeal, which is essentially the same thing; “zeal” being passion, the opposite of apathy. Instead, Paul writes to be fervent in spirit and to serve the Lord.
So according to the Word of God, the way to fight off apathy and the way to reignite your passion for Jesus is to do the very thing that apathy is trying to put you off of: dive into the spirit. Serve the Lord. Read the Bible. Pray. Worship. Get into Godly community. And when I say that, I don’t mean joke around and create God-cliques. I mean get into a community that can see apathy on you and is not afraid to point it out.
The best way to fight apathy is to strong-arm it into submission. You have to push past the desire to delve into your selfishness and instead, dive into Jesus. Apathy gives you an excuse to sin, which leads to unrighteousness, guilt, shame, and condemnation. We have to face our unenthusiasm for Jesus every day, and the more we face it, the easier it becomes second nature to serve the Lord and please Him.
The antidote for spiritual apathy is a faithful and diligent routine of devoting time to Jesus and serving Him. That looks different for everyone, but that’s good. It means that your apathy isn’t holding you back from your calling. It means that your emotions aren’t holding you back from Jesus.
If I’m talking directly to you today, then pray this prayer. Not in your head. You need to say it out loud! Face your apathy, fight it, and be more aware of it when it starts to creep in again.
Thank you for showing me the areas of my life that I’ve grown spiritually apathetic. Continue to lay your hand on places that I have lost my passion for you. I come against any spirit of apathy that would cause my zeal to be dampened in the name of Jesus. I break any power of hell that has tried to numb me from my Savior and blind me from my calling in the name of Jesus. Holy Spirit, I ask that you would continue to call my attention to the areas that you need to work in and where I need to stir myself up again. I recommit my attention and devotion to you, Jesus. Show me where I can continue to serve you and excite my Spirit again.
I love you. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.