You’ve asked me to take a shot at explaining why spiritual growth is so minimal in your life. Having observed you for many years, I think I’m in a position to give a plausible answer.
You seem to live in a state that I call “over-the-next-hill commitment”. That is, your commitment to Christ is ever approaching, but never arrives. It is always on the horizon of your thinking, visible enough to console you, but never actually where you are. It’s always over the next hill – once the job slows down, once the kids are more settled, once the financial situation is stable. You speak frequently of what you plan to do, hope to do, seek to do for Christ, but seldom of what you are actually doing.
The busyness of life, the demands of work, the increasing family responsibilities forever push the promised commitment out by another few yards. Your problem is that you cannot see that your commitment to Christ is meant to happen within this busyness, not apart from it. Somewhere you have picked up the idea that busyness exempts you, in that moment, from commitment.
This is also why you do not change. You have adjusted your conscience to see no wrongdoing in perpetual postponement of serious service to Christ, when the postponement is due to some other good thing: family commitments, the urgency of solving problems at work, pressing home repairs or medical problems. You seem to think that you are alone in having these demands press home on you.
What you seem not to notice is that other people have the same duties and demands. They have them in equal measure, and in similar intensity. And yet many of these other believers retain active service in the body of Christ, regular attendance, and oversee ministries. You either do not ask the question of how they manage, or if you do, you assume their burden must be more tolerable than your own. It apparently does not occur to you that they are simply more disciplined, and embrace more cost than you do.
Jesus addressed this very problem. “Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:59–62)
The problem with these men was not burials or farewells. Their problem was their inability to see that worldly concerns must be managed in orbit around Christ. Pressing or urgent matters do not get to displace Him, or push Him aside. And therein lies the mindset that must change in you.
Stop dividing life into sacred and secular. You have to view the busyness, the problems, and the workload as a providential demand for you to increase your fruitfulness. God does not add these things to your plate to give you an excuse to side-line your work for Christ. He brings these things into your life to both test your priorities and to train you to be a more efficient soldier. Managing multiple responsibilities on multiple fronts is the very essence of a faithful steward.
Work more. Not necessarily longer, but smarter. Not necessarily harder, but more efficiently than you have. Embrace all the tasks, spiritual and temporal, as do-now tasks.
Jake, there is no other life in which you can be committed to Christ and earn rewards. The time is now, in this moment, amidst all your problems and trials. You will not get a do-over. That moment of uninterrupted smoothness conducive to commitment to Christ is never coming. Instead, the years are slipping by while you remain far less useful to Christ than you could be. Now is always the moment to work for Christ.
Your pastor and friend,