“Drift is always away.”
I heard this quote at a pastor’s conference several years ago in a message by a man I deeply respect, David Powlison. He’s an author and Christian counselor, and on this occasion he was sharing things he’d learned about how to have an effective quiet time. You might think such a message would be unnecessary in a room full of pastors. Not so. Pastors are often very busy people and can struggle, like anyone else, to spend adequate time alone with God.
Powlison was putting his finger on the pulse of a very real hindrance to a healthy devotional life, one that affects many Christians (likely the majority), but a hindrance most of us fail to see.
The problem of Drift.
In this next installment of “Perfect Peace – Hope for the Weary Soul” we’re going to look at the topic of drift more closely. Here’s why: You drift. I drift. All God’s people drift (I’m tempted to ask you to repeat this three times, just to help it sink in). And we don’t just drift occasionally. It’s fair to say, because of Adam’s Fall, we are all prone to drift.
The Bible often uses the metaphor of “sheep” to describe what people are like. The prophet Isaiah said this about that: “All we like sheep have gone astray. Everyone has turned to his own way” (Isa. 53:6)
It’s the nature of sheep to stray, to drift. We don’t have to intend to, or mean to, or even want to. We just do it. It’s in our nature. Some of you are experiencing drift right now (you’re being tempted to drift away from what I’m saying to think of other things). The big problem with drift–as David Powlison pointed out–drift is always away. That’s the direction drift takes us. Away from God. Away from the things of God. And away from the things God wants us to focus on.
Drift encourages us to turn to our own way instead. To do our own thing, our way. I agree with Powlison, drift is a major hindrance to a healthy devotional life and a hindrance to experiencing Perfect Peace, which we’ve already learned only comes to those who “keep their minds stayed on Him” (Isa 26:3).
I’m reminded of this joke I heard about a pastor in the 1800′s. Most of his parishioners were farmers, and he used to ride out to visit them on his horse. One day a farmer said, “Pastor, no wonder you have a close walk with God. You get to spend hours and hours every day in prayer and meditation. If I could do that, I’d have a close walk with God too.”
The pastor replied, “You know, keeping your mind on God is a lot harder than it looks. In fact, I’ll give you this horse if you can get your mind quiet and focused on the Lord for just five minutes.” The farmer instantly replied, “Five minutes? You’re on.” He closed his eyes and began to pray. Two minutes later, he looked up and said, “Will you throw in the saddle too?”
Drift is always away.
What Powlison said next at that pastor’s conference was also profound. “No one drifts into an excellent walk with God. We have to be intentional about it.” He went on to cite one example after another of powerful men and women of God in Christian history, who all had this in common: They were intentional and deliberate in their pursuit of God, and they spent time alone with God; not just occasionally, but every day.
And the reason why we need to seek God every day is because the force of drift is with us every day, whether we realize it or not. It greets us as soon as we awake in the morning. I was pondering this reality once when the Lord gave me a picture, a perfect way to illustrate this dilemma.
I live in Florida. One thing you see all over the place, in almost every town, are boats and docks and marinas. Florida is surrounded by water on three sides, and inland you find dozens of lakes and rivers crisscrossing the state. If you drive by a marina in my town you see boats of every shape and size. Massive yachts, cabin cruisers, sailboats and even little fishing boats.
But there’s one thing all of these boats have in common. One powerful reality that links them together. And because it exists, there is one practice every boat owner is completely committed to, something they wouldn’t even think of neglecting, something they do every time they pull into the dock, without exception.
They tie the boat up.
Why do they do this? Because they know, drift is real. It’s a force that exists whether they like it or not. They know exactly what would happen if they forgot to tie their boat up even once. As soon as they walked away, their boat would begin to drift. By the next time they returned, it would be gone for good. Can you imagine the nightmare in every harbor if most of the boat owners failed to recognize the reality of drift?
But I think that’s exactly what most Christians do. We fail to recognize the reality of drift. But I don’t any longer. I’ve accepted it as a fact of life in this fallen world, and I strongly encourage you to do the same. Recognizing and accepting the presence of drift in my own heart has kept my motivation to seek God every day pretty high. I’m convinced I need to “tie up,” not just every now and then, but every day. Because drift is there every day.
And “drift is always away.” For our closing prayer this time, I thought of the lyrics to a hymn I dearly love, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. Really, one verse in particular.
Oh to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
(NOTE: To read the other posts in this devotional feature of my blog, select “Perfect Peace – Hope for the Weary Soul” in the Category section.)