The first indication of a problem was after one of our recent rainstorms. A small branch had fallen on my driveway. As I picked it up I noticed that all the pine needles on it were already brown. When I looked up at the nearby large tree I was surprised to see other limbs beginning to have a similar unhealthy appearance.
After making that initial observation, I’ve been purposefully examining the status of the tree every time I walk out to our mailbox. I’ve been amazed at how quickly it has shed its needles, become barren, and has completely transformed from life to death. There’s no doubt that it’s going to have to be cut down and removed.
As believers, we need to watch out for any signs that our spiritual lives are beginning to wither. When we see those indications, we should take it very seriously.
I believe the Bible teaches that we can not only fall into an unhealthy condition of unfruitfulness and hindered fellowship with God, but that it’s possible for someone to go so far as to actually die spiritually.
While there are numerous passages of Scripture which support such a view, consider Jesus’ teaching in which He compared Himself to a vine and His followers to branches (John 15:1-8). I believe Jesus is talking about true believers, because He refers to them as “branches in Me” — those who have a real connection with Christ.
His main point is our need to “abide” in Him, a word that indicates remaining, staying, and dwelling. He goes on to say that if such a branch doesn’t abide in Him and doesn’t bear fruit, it is cast out, withers, and is thrown into the fire to be burned.
It’s the same analogy Jesus uses elsewhere to describe the eternal fate of those who have never put their faith in Him for salvation.
I’m not trying to scare anyone or suggest that believers have to walk on pins and needles out of fear of losing their salvation. But we shouldn’t deceive ourselves into evaluating our standing with God based totally on some experience we may have had many years ago.
That experience was an important moment, but it was just the beginning. What matters is whether or not we’re still “abiding” in Christ and connected to the vine in a real relationship now. It’s important that we not only received new life in Christ at some point in our past, but that we still have it today.
The good news is if we see those signs of a withering spiritual life, we don’t have to continue on that downward course.
I don’t think there’s any hope for the dead tree next to my driveway. It’s at the point where it needs to be cut down before it falls on its own. But there’s always hope for us, no matter how far along we may have sunk into our spiritual malady.
God still loves us, and He’s ready to reconnect with us if we’re willing.
Jesus is not only the life-giver but the life-restorer. The One who raised Lazarus from the dead can raise us up to new spiritual life.
If you’ve allowed your connection with Christ to get broken, don’t downplay the gravity of your condition. You will not only miss out on the blessings of His fellowship and the privilege of serving Him, but you’re putting your soul at risk.
But neither should you sink in hopelessness. Your first love is still reaching out to you if you’ll just take His hand. Renewing that connection will restore you to spiritual life and health.
The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.