“. . . always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).
WE CAN’T GROW STRONG WITHOUT USING THE MEANS GOD HAS PROVIDED TO THAT END, BUT WE MUSTN’T FORGET WHAT THE END IS. The “trees” are sometimes so interesting, we lose sight of the “forest.” We can become so caught up in the activities of spiritual growth that we begin enjoying them alone, just for their own sake. As strange as it may seem, we can lose touch with God while busying ourselves with the deeds of the devotional life.
Everyone is familiar with the concept of the “professional student,” the individual who enjoys college life so much that he just keeps going to school indefinitely, never moving on to the life that college was supposed to prepare him for. There is a similar phenomenon in the religious life. Sometimes we see people who are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” But before we criticize them, we need to ask to what extent we ourselves have “moved on.” After all our spiritual activity, do we really have a more concentrated focus on God Himself?
One of the hardest things in life to learn is balance. But here is an area where balance is truly needed. The devil would like to see us become obsessed with religion and forget about God, so we must acquire the ability to engage in — and even enjoy — the things that lead us to God without making idols of these things. All these activities, as pleasant as they are, are a means to a great End. We must constantly bring our minds back to that End.
This is hard for all of us, but it’s especially hard when we’re just starting out in the Christian life. Compared to the emptiness of the world, life in Christ offers so many things to enjoy: worship, study, prayer, relationships, and many more. The challenge is to keep moving toward God Himself and not get sidetracked by these preliminary enjoyments, no matter how pleasant and essential they are. These can’t be neglected (spiritual “experts,” take note), but neither can they be allowed to become the main attraction.
“Beginners in the faith often develop a kind of spiritual avarice. They can’t get enough of God. They can’t attend enough services to satisfy them. They join study groups. They read book after book. They spend much time on these things rather than getting down to the basics of living a spiritual life” (John of the Cross).