Lutheran Church Extension Fund

Spiritual failure is sneaky failure

Monthly theme: Intentionality

Reading time: two minutes

Most failure is “sneaky failure.”

No football player sets his sights on the all-time record for fumbles. It just happens. Bad habits. Not paying attention. Out of position. Laziness. You look around after the last game: all-time record. It sneaks up on you.

No professional church worker deliberately says, “By the time I retire, I’m planning to not believe in God anymore,” but church workers who report that it has happened to them are a growing area of concern for research on worker wellness.

It happens. Church workers have been known to shipwreck their faith. Just not intentionally.

Paul wrote to a young pastor, “Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith” (1 Timothy 1:18-19).

We don’t need research on this. We know why and how it happens.

Our loving Father gathers us by grace into His family of faith. God provides every gift needed for certainty and growth in faith. His good Spirit is constantly at work in us and for us.

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 90:1).

“That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither” (Psalm 1:3).

I suppose it’s possible that someone walking in God’s grace could experience a sudden, tragic calamity that could cause shipwreck of the faith. I suspect that spiritual failure is more often the “sneaky” kind.

Paul warned his young friend that it’s a failure to “fight the battle well.”

Armies cut off from their supply lines lose the battle.

Luther’s word for intentional discipline in Word and Sacrament is “receptivity.” I like that! Planted by streams of living water, under the shelter of the Most High means that God is the supplier of all we need. He alone feeds and sustains faith: daily, weekly, always.

An intentional spiritual wellness plan is nothing more than doing what comes naturally for a tree planted by streams of water: we drink up what God has provided in Word and Sacrament, avoiding the slow, debilitating, withering that comes from drought.

Spiritual failure won’t come to those who are daily, humbly, receptively, thirstily in the Word of God.

Life and health and joy are given by grace to those who respond to the Word as the Spirit leads, who pray without ceasing, turning every thought and emotion into thanks, praise, petition, confession.

Those in mutual conversation and consolation with family members, peers, a confessor, and friends in the body of Christ dwell in the shelter of the Most High.

What a great place to be.

“Fight the battle well.” Receive and welcome God’s good gifts every day.

Thanks for reading.