Bible-believing, Christ-treasuring, God-fearing Christians are prone to unintentional functional athiesm when life gets full.
Many of us know what “at capacity” feels like. There are those seasons when the to-do list seems endless: financial pressures, household tasks, family dynamics, car maintenance, church responsibilities, job demands, and more.
When life gets full, it’s tempting for the Christian to de-prioritize the ordinary means of grace. Our brains might be buzzing with all the important things that demand our attention, that we forget or neglect our relationship with the Lord.
Less Bible, less prayer, less devotion to Christ. Instead of loving God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind (Luke 10:27), our energies gravitate towards the tasks before us. The tyranny of the urgent often elevates important things to become ultimate things. To us, our task list becomes so big that our God becomes very small.
And though our doctrinal convictions haven’t changed, there is a change of priority in our hearts. The pressures of our current season have the potential to squeeze out the vitality of our faith in Christ. The furthest end of this can have the same result as the seed sown among the thorns: the cares of the world choke out the word (Mark 4:7,18-19) in a permanent sense. But at the very least, there can a degree of temporary functional athiesm.
The Christian can be functionally atheistic when we live as if Christ’s person and work has no bearing on our lives. In the busyness of a full season, we drift to self-sufficiency. There are things to do, and little time to do it, so we get going. But instead of walking by the Spirit, we actually live our lives according to the strong arm of the flesh.
Flesh vs. Spirit
We ought to chuckle at how much we depend on the strong arm of the flesh (cf. 2 Chron 32:8, Jer 17:5), because the Bible and personal experience show us how feeble it is. It’s quite strange that we would rely on our own mere strength, wisdom, and ability, when there are inexhaustible storehouses of grace (2 Cor 12:9), wisdom (James 1:5), and power (Phil 2:13) offered to us as we trust and walk with the Triune God.
As a well known Christian author has written, when we are too busy to pray, it actually means we are too busy not to pray. The mounting pressures ought to remind us how needy we really are for God to give us life and breath and everything (Acts 17:25).
Jesus Lived Life To The Full
If anyone knew capacity, it was Jesus in his earthly ministry. He would teach and perform miracles all day long, going late into the evening, to then rise very early the next morning to pray in a desolate place (cf. Mark 1:32-35). For Jesus, life was full – full of ministry, full of journeying, full of obedience, and often full of opposition from his own people.
Jesus knows what it is to be busy and in many ways at capacity. Some have pondered whether Christ’s whole life of sacrificial outpouring may have resulted in physically noticeable aging: “So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” (John 8:57). He was in his early thirties, but maybe as a “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:3) he experienced physical aging to appear older than he really was. Perhaps you can relate.
Yet Jesus is different than you and I. He always lived every moment Coram Deo, in dependence of his Heavenly Father who had sent him and loved him. He was sustained in wearying days with food his disciples knew nothing about – doing the will of his Father (John 4:32-34).
Jesus Christ lived a full life, carrying the greatest burdens imaginable. But more than that, his ultimate burden was to bear the sins of his people on the cross. It was there that Christ felt the fullness of God’s wrath against sin and exhausted it entirely. By his righteous wrath-bearing crucifixion in the place of sinners, he has made full atonement for all who trust in him. It is in this way that weary people weighed down with guilt can find true peace with God.
From His Fullness, Grace Upon Grace
Looking to this Jesus, we find “from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16).
Here are 3 simple reminders for you and I in the full seasons, where we feel at capacity and prone to wander from the God we love:
1. Jesus Understands Your Load (Heb. 4:14) He is able to sympathize with you from his place in heaven now, since it wasn’t all that long ago that he experienced the same hardships on earth. You might not feel like others understand the weight you are carrying, but Jesus does, and is warmly sympathizing with you now.
2. Jesus Has Finished What You Never Could (Heb. 1:3b) Our most ultimate challenge before us is not getting our tasks accomplished, but getting right before God. After making purification for sins, Jesus sat down at the right hand of God. That means in the midst of a really busy season with lots to do, we can breathe a happy sigh of relief – the most important work has been completed by Jesus on our behalf. Thankfully, even our sin of self-sufficient functional athiesm was paid for on the cross.
3. Jesus Is With You (Matt. 28:20, Is. 41:10) We might forget or neglect our relationship with Christ, but what mercy it is that he never forgets about us. He is with you and his power is made perfect in your weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). Your load of responsibility may not change, but you can roll the weight onto his strong shoulders. For he is your God, he will strengthen you, he will help you, he will uphold you with his righteous nail-scarred right hand.