My high school experience was a roller coaster of spirituality. Various retreats and missions trip experiences left me with a spiritual high, a mountain top experience of my faith. But as most of you know, a spiritual high quickly wanes when routine is restored to life and we are no longer in intense spiritual environments/experiences. Now having worked for YouthWorks for the previous two summers, I stand on the other side of the scenario. I methodically create those mission trip experiences that incite spiritual highs in teenagers, only to see them off Friday morning unaware of how they will respond back home.
Unfortunately, most of these teenagers will quickly fall back into old routine, stagnant faith, and unchallenged spirituality. Though the “spiritual high” was a nice experience, it ultimately doesn’t lead to life change.
This leaves me wondering how we can better prepare ourselves and others in the wake of a spiritual high. Here are a few thoughts to consider:
1. Is this just based on emotion?
Unfortunately, spiritual highs are often based solely on emotion, one of several reasons why they don’t last. Nothing based on emotion will stand. Only things that are based on Jesus Christ and God’s glory will be able to stand when faith gets difficult. Matthew 7:24-27 says:
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
Similarly, Matthew 13:5-8 says:
“Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
While not perfectly applicable, the passages do make a point: faith built on anything other than following Jesus while collapse. Only faith with Christ as it’s foundation (the rock, the good soil) will not stand the test of time and trials.
2. Do I have real, godly grief about my sins, or am I just upset about the consequence of my sin?
Coming home from a mission trip experience of out of a spiritual high usually comes with the determination to change, repent, and live a life oriented to pleasing God. But the determination wanes along with the spiritual high and we fall into old patterns of sin.
2 Corinthians 7 says that “Godly grief leads to repentance, while worldly grief leads to death.” Worldly grief is being upset about the consequence or inconvenience of your sin; Godly grief is being upset that you have stolen from God’s glory. If we only have worldly grief, nothing will change because we aren’t really upset about sin. That’s why it leads to death, because the consequence of sin is death (Romans 6:23). But Godly grief leads to repentance, the turning away from your sin.
3. Am I anticipating temptation?
Satan isn’t interested in you when you are lukewarm. When you are lukewarm, you are going to do little benefit for the Kingdom of God; you’re no threat to him then. Rather, Jesus says in Revelation 3 “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
But Satan is interested in you when you are on fire; that is when you can do some serious damage to his reign. It only makes sense that we should anticipate temptation following a mountain-top experience. It’s worth noting that that was true even of Christ! Jesus was tempted immediately following his baptism and the beginning of his ministry.
Matthew 3:16-4:1 says:
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
He had just received the approval of His Father, who said, “This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” So we know temptation often happens directly after a high spiritual experience.
Avoiding a let down to a spiritual high is as much questioning exactly what your experience really is as it is anticipating and preparing for routine life.