An Acute Fever

“In some people, religion exists as a dull habit, in others as an acute fever. Religion as a dull habit is not that for which Christ lived and died.”  (Thomas Kelly)

Many of us know the feeling of the dull habit—going through the motions, checking the boxes, doing what is expected, showing up, doing our duty. Things get done, numbers get counted, money is given and people seem generally satisfied, but our hearts lie elsewhere. The shine is gone.

We generally get to such places in increments. Baby steps. Lots of them.

A Testament of DevotionNone of us set out to become spiritually bored or religiously dull. We didn’t say “Yes” to Jesus with any intention of settling into complacency or apathy. It just creeps up on us, and overtakes us.

Some lay the blame at their “stage of life.” The college student identifies distractions and academic demands. The young married points to marital adjustments and the need to create a home. The young family finds an excuse in the energy-sapping rigors of parenting. In middle-age we find ourselves preoccupied with career advancement and retirement planning. And in retirement we have limited resources, more health issues, and diminishing energy.

Spiritual dullness is not the fruit of our circumstances but the product of our distraction.

What would it take for our faith to become an acute fever (once again)? For faith to be a fire in our soul?

If dull habits emerge from distraction, then fire comes from focus—a different focus, a renewed focus, a higher focus.

Thomas Kelly suggests “holy and complete obedience, joyful self-renunciation, and sensitive listening.” Surely we can hear the words of Christ echoing in those phrases (see John 15:1-12).

Typically, we seek to cure an acute fever. It’s dangerous to over-heat. “All things—even faith—in moderation,” we say. “Nothing too radical, please.” “Settle down,” our well-meaning (but misguided) friends suggest. And as our spiritual fever subsides, dull habits develop.

This week, may Christ initiate a resurgence within us, among us, and between us. Dull habits neither honor the Cross nor nourish our souls. Let’s lean into a whole new level of “holy and complete obedience, joyful self-renunciation, and sensitive listening”—beginning now.

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7 Responses to An Acute Fever

  1. Tim Ross says:

    David, this is a great book (just read it in the Spiritual Reading class w/Jan Johnson). I love his concept of “simultaneity”…living in the present moment, working with the situations we encounter, and being constantly aware of God’s presence. This changes so many situations in our eyes when we put them in God’s eyes. Spiritual dullness really does creep up on us. It’s too easy to become involved at church doing different tasks but barely connected with God. I find that the two most basic disciplines of study/meditation on God’s word and attentive prayer are vital on a daily basis. Without them, I am barely attached to the Vine giving me His lifeblood.

    • David Timms says:

      Tim, I’m glad you’ve gotten to read Kelly. It is a fine series of essays. I love that concept of simultaneity, too. Blessings!

      • Tim Ross says:

        Today I didn’t do too well. I’m behind on my reading and I let the pressures of classwork cause irritation and anger toward family members. Please pray for me to stay present with Christ and free from worry, fret, and fear.

      • David Timms says:

        As Kelly would say, “Spend little time in self-recrimination. Instead, start again, immediately.” Praying for you, my friend.

  2. Phil McKinley says:

    Fortunately, I have been surrounded by people with an acute fever my whole life. I think they believe that what they believe is really real! They helped me understand this, and I have a similar faith. Regular reading, good teaching, and godly leaders can foster this fever.

  3. Janet and Ian says:

    I think so much has to do with who we choose to spend time with. If we spend time with ‘fevered’ people we find our love for Jesus heats up until we too are fevered. If we spend time with those afflicted by the disease of negativity, doubt, self-pity and cynicism we can all too easily ‘catch’ these spiritual sicknesses. What a delight it is when we see others catch our fever, the look of revelation on their faces when Jesus is made real to them, their whole demeanor changes. Just think how ‘fevered’ we will be in heaven!!

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