Pursuing Depth in a Surface World
We used to play a game called “limbo” where two people would hold a long stick starting at a reasonable height and one person would try to bend their body to walk underneath it without touching it. We would say, “How lowwww can you goooo?” Every time a person made it through without touching the bar, it would be lowered closer to the ground. Whoever could bend, tweak and contort their body at the lowest level won the prize. Alas, I unfortunately, did not inherit the limber genes to beat out my friends in limbo, but it was always a fun game to play.
When it comes to our faith, the saying may not be how low can one go, but perhaps how deep. One of my favorite quotes is from the late priest Henri Nouwen who said this:
“The more you are called to speak for God’s love, the more you will need to deepen the knowledge of that love in your heart. The further the outward journey takes you, the deeper the inward journey must be. Only when the roots are deep can your fruits be abundant.”
As Christians, we are all called to speak for God’s love through the living of our lives. Therefore, we are all called to deepen the knowledge of that love, digging a deeper well in our inward journey, which will then lead to abundant fruits in our lives and the ministry the Lord is breathing through us. Richard Foster, in his book Spiritual Maturity also reiterates the need for depth in our spirituality:
“Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”
What does it mean to go deep? It’s not like we walk around asking each other, “So how deep are you today?” It’s a bit of an ambiguous term and difficult to define.
When we turn to the Bible, the Apostle Paul puts this concept of spiritual depth in terms of maturity. In Ephesians 4, he says:
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Here, Paul gives us some clues into how we can pursue depth in our lives and faith, rather than settle for being surface people being tossed back and forth by the waves of other teachings and ideas. He says depth, or spiritual maturity will come as a result of:
- Pursuing unity and peace within the Body of Christ (verse 13a). This means working together and collaborating with brothers and sisters from other ministries and churches who may be different that you. Wherever there is division or dissension, or even apathy, God can’t glorify Himself to the world. Unity and peace are so important and we must pursue it at any cost!
- Increasing knowledge of the Son of God (verse 13b). Our knowledge of God increases as we spend time reading His Word and asking God to reveal Himself to us. Listening to sermons and reading Christian books can augment this process, but nothing can be a substitute for reading God’s Word for ourselves. Just as we would study a subject like economics to understand better the principles of supply and demand, so too must we study God’s Word to better understand who Jesus is and why he was sent to die for us. Increasing our knowledge increases our love for Him.
- Speaking the Truth in love (verse 15a). As we continue to seek to know God personally through his Word, His Truth–and how to live it out–becomes more clear. We have a responsibility to one another in our Christian community to hold each other to account and help keep each other on track. Often we are offended when people try and speak into areas of our lives that are not in line with God’s Word or we are scared to offend others by speaking the Truth in love to them. But Paul says this is a key element of spiritual growth and building each other up in our faith.
If you were to prayerfully evaluate your own level of spiritual depth through the principals above, where would you be at? Be honest with yourself and before God. Allow him to chisel the rough spots, discipline you where you need it, and remove the things hindering you from going deeper. The following are things God has called me to do at various points of my life to help me go deeper in my walk with Him :
- go to bed earlier so I can wake up earlier to spend time with God
- reduce the number of hours of tv and/or techno-surfing
- be regular in my attendance at church and small group meetings
- build intentional friendships with other Christians
- develop regular times of prayer, confession and repentance
Don’t settle for superficiality. Seek to go deep…to be a deep person in this surface world. It starts with your own evaluation of yourself and being willing to have the courage to ask God to help you to go deeper in your faith. It is from that deep place where you will experience all the fulness of God and the wonderful riches of Christ!
Father, forgive me for being content with comfort. Help me to see the value in growing and becoming more mature in my faith by pursuing peace in my community, increasing my knowledge of You, and speaking the Truth in love whenever necessary. Keep me lingering on the surface of life. I long to go deeper with You Lord. Help me, by Your great power, grace and strength. Amen.