I often hear about a fellow follower of Jesus who has decided it is no longer worth it to continue. My reaction is always sadness and often surprise. But when I know the person well I usually see it coming. A song from the group Casting Crowns gives a clue to the heartbreaking process. Today’s song in the iPod Devotional series is a song from the CD “The Altar and the Door”. The tune is called “Slow Fade” and the lyrics struck a chord with my heart:
It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It's a slow fade, it's a slow fade
I don’t become overweight in a day. I didn’t get out of shape in a day. And I do not become spiritually lifeless in a day. It is a slow fade. Sometimes the spiritual fade is the hardest to see. Having trouble buttoning the jeans pretty clearly reveals the dietary issues. Puffing after a flight of stairs is a good sign of conditioning lapses. But the spiritual fade can be easy to overlook. C.S.Lewis wrote in the Screwtape Letters that “the safest road to hell is the gradual one - the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
How can I avoid the slow fade? One way is not allowing my road to be without signposts and milestones. Those signposts and milestones are found in God’s Word and I must keep them in my sight daily. Avoiding spending time in His Word is the surest way to begin my personal slow fade. A passage from the Gospel of John and it presented another way to monitor the slow fade.
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15, NLT)
Jesus is saying that He is the true vine and if I am joined to Him I will produce fruit. It does not say I might produce fruit. It does not say I could produce fruit if my circumstances are right. Doesn’t say I will occasionally bear fruit. Jesus says that if I remain in Him I will produce fruit. A gardener knows that a vine may not produce for a season because of disease or bad conditions. But if that vine continues to be barren it is worthless and must be removed.
How do you produce the fruit that Jesus is describing? If I was speaking Christianeze I would say that you must abide in Jesus. I would wager (with a promise to tithe on all winnings) that the majority of churchgoers could not give a cogent definition of what it means to abide. The simplest explanation I have heard is that our relationship with Christ is an unbroken connection. It is not a one-time or yearly or monthly or even weekly synchronization with Jesus. It is a daily and even moment by moment awareness of our connection to Christ. That connection to Him allows the fruit of the spirit to be a part of who I am. Paul describes what can be ours in his letter to the Galatians.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
By remaining in an unbroken connection with Christ we can begin to take on His character and produce that kind of fruit. And realizing that the only way to produce this fruit is being connected to Christ can help stop the slow fade.
The lyrics of the song Slow Fade contain another valuable truth. We are always closer to the slow fade than we realize and we are not as strong as we imagine.
I have experienced the slow fade more times than I would like to admit. I did not crumble in a day. If (or when) it happens again it will not be in a day. And Jesus has provided a way that I do not need to suffer the slow fade. My role is to stay connected.