Paul, when talking about the Christian life, used the analogy of an athlete running a race. But many Christians seem to treat the race of life as being more of a 100m dash than a marathon. Too often those who come to Christ start off full of enthusiasm for the Christian life but al too soon begin to backslide or at least cool off in their ardour for Christ. The question arises as how sustainable is a full-on Christian lifestyle is without risking burnout? It is a bit like those who at the beginning of a major marathon race sprint ahead to escape the crowd but are nowhere after a mile or so. One of the problems with the modern church is that most of the new believers are coming to faith in newer expressions of the church where there is often disdain for traditions which are interpreted as “man-made rules.” Disciplined prayer and Bible reading eschewed in favour of waiting until the “Spirit leads,” which occurs increasingly infrequently. Paul refers to the training of the athlete and the discipline required, these days there seems to be the assumption prevalent that evidence of baptism of the Holy Spirit renders study superfluous. I do not think that Paul would agree with that sentiment. Even so when you study the history of revivals the intensity of the revival rarely continues at the highest level for more than a few months, a year or two at the most. While some seem to backslide there is also the problem of burnout, especially with those in leadership positions. It is easy to dismiss this when it affects others with excuses like having a lack of faith, working in their own strength, etc. The problem is that either that we are equally guilty of the same excuses, or we are guilty of doing a fraction of the effort for serving God as the victims of burnout. We hear of men of God who go around the world teaching the Word of God but neglect their own family back home. They may not have intended to do this but their engagements diary just overflowed before they realised it. Even in the Church we tend to measure success in worldly terms or at least tangible terms (numbers preached to, or those becoming Christians) rather than spending quality time with the family and raising godly children. Yet one of Paul’s criteria for appointment to leadership in the Church is raising up their children in the Lord. If a believer is caught up in some project there is a danger of spiritual summit fever. Summit fever is where mountaineers are so obsessed with reaching the summit that they ignore dangers rather that turning back when conditions deteriorate, often resulting in fatal results. In focussing on the job in hand we neglect others and in so doing weaken other people’s faith who should be closer to us. The fact is that if we believe that God loves us and cares about us then we should be able to live in His will in a sustainable way that lasts a lifetime rather than do things that either harm us or those around us.
David Rose, 2016.