Rebellious children sap the energies of parents, leaving them with no will, no time, and no strength for outside interests or ministries. The question before the class today, students, is: "What depletes your energies for God?"

As usual, I'll get us started. At the end, leave your own contributions to the list. Our hope is that someone will see himself in this and learn that a certain practice has been robbing them of their service to the Lord and will return to the Father. Luke 15:18 comes to mind. "I will arise and go to my Father."

Here are my top ten energy-depleters:

10. Compromise.

You're doing something displeasing to the Lord and you know it. The guilt lingers and weighs you down. When you try to read your Bible, pray, or worship, the fog is so thick you could cut it. God seems far away, and you know without being told it's because you moved. You're being torn down the middle and it's a miserable feeling.

Isaiah 59:1-2 comes to mind. "Your sins have separated you." Confess them and move back closer.

9. Nay-sayers.

The discouragers around you are constantly pointing out that you cannot do this, you are not the Christian you ought to be, the Bible cannot be understood, your prayers never go beyond the ceiling, and your pitiful offering amounts to nothing. To make matters worse, sometimes that negative voice hounding us is our own. You lose heart and want to give up.

Psalms 103:1-5 comes to mind. "Bless the Lord, O my soul." Speak to yourself words of faith. Believe your faith and doubt your doubts.

8. Nit-pickers.

A family member, a colleague in the office, or a so-called friend has taken it as their personal calling to remind you of your failures in living up to the standards you claim. Your clothes do not match, you need a haircut, why do you waste your time on those books or that writer or that church, why aren't you exercising more, you're putting on weight, and I don't think you're right for this. Of course, he tells you this for your own good. You leave your friend's presence feeling worthless and hopeless.

Philippians 4:8 comes to mind. "Whatsoever things are true, think on these things." Choose where your mind will land and come to rest and what it will feed upon.

7. Time-wasters.

A few years ago, we would have named television as the biggest time-waster. It still is for many, but these days, the tube has lots of competition: the computer, computer games, the telephone, worthless reading materials, shopping, mall-crawling, and such. Each person has his own battlefield in this regard. But it's not just the time; the problem is that it robs you of your energy for God or doing good or relating to other people.

Luke 18:1 comes to mind. "We ought always to pray and not to lose heart." The old hymn told us to "Take Time to Be Holy." It takes time.

6. Starvation.

When you're really hungry, instead of pausing for dinner, you gulp down a soft drink and a bag of chips. Now, you have stopped the hunger but you're starving your body. A few minutes later, your wife or mother calls you to dinner. You beg off; you're not hungry. You dare not admit what you just did. That foolish scenario happens spiritually, too.

Try this experiment. After watching two hours of television--especially sitcoms of the type the networks are running these nights--get up and go get your Bible and read a couple of chapters. You'll have to make yourself do it. After a steady diet of mental junk food, you have no appetite for real nourishment.

Matthew 4:4 comes to mind. "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." And Psalms 34:8 "O taste and see that the Lord is good." You need to feed your soul if you expect to have any energy for God.

5. Fatigue.

You're doing good work; you're just doing so much of it that you're exhausted. When tired, you get irritable and are no fun to be around. You end up having to force yourself to do your spiritual activities. It's not an admission of weakness to confess you have physical limitations, that you need 8 hours of sleep at night and maybe a little rest in the daytime and a vacation once in a while.

Mark 6:31 comes to mind. "Come ye apart and rest for a while." And Matthew 11:28-30 "Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden."

4. Depression.

You are a Christian, one who believes your Bible and has the Holy Spirit, so how could you be depressed? Ever say that to yourself? The roots of depression (mental, emotional, whatever) are many and complex. You might need to remind yourself that some of the finest Christians ever to walk the planet have battled depression. You have good company. Those believers made the same discovery you have made, that sometimes you just have to get up and go on with your day while depressed, that you don't dare give in to it. Missionary leader and inspirational writer Elisabeth Elliot has said that when she's depressed, her method for dealing with it is: "Do the next thing." She does not make a long list of tasks to accomplish that day, but does the next thing before her, then she looks around and decides what is next, and so forth.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 comes to mind. "Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines... yet I will exult in the Lord." Praise Him anyway.

3. Rebellion.

Compromise is one thing; you rationalize a sin and turn a blind eye toward a practice you know is not wise and is hindering your spiritual life. But rebellion is another matter altogether. In rebellion, you drop all pretense about wanting to do the right thing. You enthrone your self and devote your life to pleasing only you. This really gets scary when you're in the Lord's service and draw a paycheck from a church or religious organization and yet are in rebellion against the Lord. I've been there; I know. People are looking to you for spiritual direction and expecting to hear God's voice through you, but what they are receiving is shallowness and staleness, negativism and putdowns, all bubbling up from the acid eating away at your soul.

Revelation 3:4-5 comes to mind. "I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember... and repent." The prodigal son story of Luke 15 applies.

2. Laziness.

Sloth. Idleness. Lethargy. Listlessness. Dullness. Slackness. Find yourself in any of these? You just can't make yourself get up and do anything spiritual such as reading the Bible or praying meaningfully or volunteering for a service project. You "just don't feel like it." Sound familiar? There's a law of physics you may be familiar with. Inertia is the tendency of an object at rest to remain there, and a moving object to continue moving. Now, it takes energy to get the object moving and it takes energy to stop it once it's in motion. Like priming a pump, we use energy to get energy. This pertains, whether speaking of the physical or the spiritual.

Proverbs 6:6-11 comes to mind. "How long wilt thou sleep, O thou sluggard?" Wake up. Get up.

1. Satan. The enemy himself.

You wondered if we would get to that? The unholy trinity of the world-the-flesh-and-the-devil are always at work to discourage believers from living the life Christ commands and we profess. The devil has had longer to study human nature than we, so he knows methods we have yet to discover. He uses detours, overloads, and even good works to keep us from doing the best things. He uses our diversions to sap our time, people to sap our joy, and work to sap our energies. Our time gone, our spirits depleted, and our energies sapped, we decide not to read our Bible tonight, to skip on our prayer time, and to get our rest tomorrow by sleeping late and skipping church. Chalk up another victory for the roaring lion who walks about.

1 Peter 5:6-9 comes to mind. You know what it says. "We are not ignorant of his devices." 2 Corinthians 2:11

Now... take a moment and give us your energy-for-God sappers. What have you found that depletes your desire to get up and serve the Lord?

Dr. Joe McKeever is a Preacher, Cartoonist, and the Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. Visit him at joemckeever.com/mt. Used with permission.