Is your faith stuck on a plateau? Find out why the plateau may be one of the most dangerous terrains of all.
INTRO – ARE YOU STUCK ON A PLATEAU?
Morning. My name is David Sorn, and I’m the Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
As we conclude our “ATV: All Terrain Venture’ series today about the different terrains we face a Christians, let’s take a little quiz to see if you’re on our final terrain…the plateau.
The terrain where your faith kind of stalls out.
You love Jesus…you’re thankful for him…but your faith feels stuck in this “shrug your shoulders” sort of plateau.
So here’s the quiz:
If you feel like you’re NOT in a deep dark valley (like we talked about last week), but you feel like you would answer “yes to the majority of following questions…chances are you are on the plateau:
Is your faith no longer contagious to the people around you?
Do you feel unmotivated by your faith?
Do you still show up to church or house groups semi-regularly, but maybe lack the passion to meet w/ God in prayer every day?
Can you not remember the last time you were so thankful to Jesus that you just dropped to your knees?
Do you feel like God isn’t using you a whole lot anymore?
When you hear the Gospel explained (that Jesus died for your sins), does it not really do anything for you anymore?
Has this message been the most boring part of your week so far
If many of those things describe you, you might be on a plateau.
You still like Jesus…but you are neither on fire for Him nor in the darkest valley…just kind of…blah.
THERE IS A ‘GOOD VERSION’ OF THE PLATEAU – THE PLAIN
The main point of this series has been to show that God is going to bring you to mountains, valleys, and all sorts of terrains on your venture with him.
They’re all a part of his plan to grow you.
This is his plan for you:
(Romans 8:29) – NIV
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
And he conforms you into that image (in different sorts of ways) by taking you to different sorts of terrains.
But as you well know, not all of life is mountain peaks and dark valleys.
In fact, most of life is somewhere in between.
Many have said, 99% of life is just…ordinary.
It may be that it’s harder for us to believe this nowadays, but it’s true.
People rarely Instagram their life on the plateau.
They instragram a whole lot of mountains, and sometimes the valleys…but rarely the ordinary.
But many times, God just has you in a period of “ordinary,” simply because it’s not time for you to be on the mountaintop or in the valley yet.
Actually, I wouldn’t even call this a plateau…because I think, spiritually, it’s a different category.
Let’s call it…the plain.
The terrain that’s just simply an often grassy flat area.
Sometimes God is giving you a rest from the valley on the plain…or preparing you for the mountain by building you on the plain
You’re connecting with Him every day, but at the same time you’re not feeling these mountaintop emotions.
You’re walking forward…it’s just that life is rather “ordinary”
And that’s okay!
You don’t have to think something’s wrong just because you’re not emotionally on the mountain all the time!
We have to be careful to not judge the effectiveness of our relationship with Christ by the experiences we’re having or the emotions we’re feeling.
One of the main points of this series is that the goal of your faith walk isn’t an experience (or a terrain), but the goal is just to seek God, wherever He has you
God’s #1 purpose isn’t to make you happy and give you feel good emotions.
Above all things, He’s committed to conforming you like his Son.
And sometimes He’ll do that by taking you to the valley
And other times, He’ll do that by having you in an ordinary “plain” (see the pun?!) season for a little while.
A marriage is actually a really good parallel example.
You can’t measure the success of a marriage simply by the feelings you have for the other person that week.
Feelings are a factor, for sure, but not all that significant of one.
In marriage, just like your relationship with God, sometimes you have mountaintops, sometimes valleys, and a whole lot of plains in the middle.
But those plains (where you neither feel infatuated or infuriated) aren’t necessarily bad
You judge a marriage, not just by feelings, but by larger storyline questions
You judge it with questions like:
Are we closer than we were a year ago?
Are we serving each other more than we were a year ago?
Are we talking more?
Am I acting more like Christ to you than I was last year?
And you can ask similar questions of your relationship with God
Are you closer…or talking more…or more surrendered than you were a year ago?
And it’s very possible that you could be closer to God…even if the whole last year wasn’t a mountaintop, but instead, consisted of a bunch of mini plains.
THE DANGEROUS PLATEAU
But maybe you’re thinking, “Okay…so if my faith doesn’t feel very exciting (maybe even a bit blah) right now…then that’s a good thing??!”
And here is where “terrain diagnostics” are really important.
If you feel like this might be you, you’re going to have to decide today: “Am I on a plain OR a plateau”
A plateau is the period of our spiritual walk where (unlike the plain) we stop surrendering to God’s “conforming work” in our lives.
We stop putting in real effort towards the relationship.
We still show up here or there…and we also don’t feel like we’re in the valley...honestly we don’t feel much of anything.
This is what I would call the plateau.
And it’s different from the plain.
And the main difference is:
On the plain, you’re still connecting with God but just aren’t having mountaintop experiences or feelings.
But on the plateau, you stopped connecting with God on a daily, serious basis…and life feels…blah.
The “feelings” are quite similar, but the reasons for them are quite different.
The plateau is SO dangerous because it’s not really flat
Let me explain.
If you look at a plateau in nature, it’s flat, but if you actually walk on it, it’s not really flat.
I’m a runner…and let me tell you one of the worst cities in the world to run in: My home town of Blaine.
As a distance runner, you want to run hills once in a while to build your cardio and strength.
I challenge anyone to find me a hill in Blaine! (that’s over 10 feet…someone’s going to say…my driveway…or the hill the builder made in my backyard J)
And yet, when I go out on a run, I, like a running nerd, wear a GPS watch.
And when I get home and plug it in to my computer to consume all my stats and data…
I always see that the terrain, although not really noticed by my eye, is constantly going up and down.
Granted, it’s a foot, or 2 or 3 feet, but it IS moving.
That’s what real plateaus look like too.
And it is definitely what spiritual plateaus are like.
I’ve said to you…pleaded w/ you… from this stage, many times, you are either growing closer to God…or farther away from Him.
There is no such thing as being frozen in the middle.
Because…all of us are naturally sinful.
And so, like a car whose wheels aren’t aligned properly, unchecked, we will always drift towards sin.
When we’re not living in daily surrender to the Holy Spirit, we’re always walking backwards/downhill away from God.
The dangerous part is…it’s often just one step at a time
And so you look at your life, and you try and gauge what terrain you’re on, you might just say, “Everything’s kind of flat…probably just a “plain” season…”
But the plain is confused all the time…for the plateau, and the plateau is dangerous, because it’s not really flat.
And unchecked…you’ll always descend, ever so slowly, back into a valley.
And it’s dangerous because 1 step in the wrong direction for 300 days…is 300 steps backwards and downwards!
HOW TO GET OFF #1: ADMIT YOUR SIN
And so if you feel…it’s possible that you might be on the plateau…
If that’s you, how do you get off the plateau?
I want to give you 3 principles this morning (not 3 easy steps)…3 principles for this.
And remember, the goal isn’t the terrain…the goal is a closer relationship to Jesus.
How to get off the Plateau
#1: Admit your sin
You’re not going to get closer to Jesus unless you first admit there is sin involved in your plateauing.
Maybe that feels like too much?
“hmm, SIN, I don’t know”
Listen, if my marriage has stalled out, and I want to fix it, I have to admit that my mistakes have played a role in its plateauing.
And if my relationship with Christ has stalled out, since it cannot be his fault, I have to start with repentance.
You cannot get off the plateau until you admit you’re on a descent into a valley…and long-term, this isn’t headed anywhere good.
The older I get, the more I feel like America is absolutely FULL of plateaued Christians.
It’s a big part of the reason Christianity is declining in America.
I think even this church has too many plateaued Christians.
Too many of us…come…every other week…once a month…or just when we’re on the volunteer schedule.
God is no longer our passion, just an obligation that we signed up for in Planning Center once a month.
When Jesus speaks to John in Revelation…he is absolutely insistent that we guard against this type of “slow walk backwards” (and it is backwards…it’s not stable!)
Look at the words of Christ!
(Revelation 2:4-5) – NIV
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
(Revelation 3:15-16) - NIV
15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
For too many of us, coming here to worship God…or picking up your Bible every day…or actually stopping to talk with God has become priority #2, or 3, or worse.
We keep telling ourselves, “It’s fine though. At least I’m not doing X, Y, or Z. At least I’m at church today! Or listening to this podcast!”
And we say, “Besides, I’ve been soo busy. I know I’m going to get my faith going again when things slow down at work, or w/ my kids’ schedule…or after graduation”
And see, this is precisely “the sin” that we just need to call out.
That’s a plateau. That’s plateau-talk.
You’ve lost your first love!
Say it out loud, “I have an idol and it’s ___ (my schedule, my family, my work)”
“I’m worshipping, I’m putting something else first, that isn’t named Jesus Christ”
And because of that…my faith has plateaued…or in reality…it takes another step backwards every day.
Because remember, the plateau is not flat.
And if unchecked…you’re drifting backward…not forward.
I’ve been in ministry for 12 years now, and watched too many (too many!) people take a step backwards every day…lying to themselves that their plateau was truly flat.
It’s hard to see with clarity when you’re on the plateau
But when your faith stalls out…when you subtract a daily relationship with Jesus…sin will start driving instead
Romans 8 says when you stop letting the Spirit drive you daily, the flesh will drive you daily.
And it never drives you off the road immediately…you just start drifting.
And in the last 12 years…I’ve watched as so many people didn’t think it was a big deal when they stopped reading their Bible every day like they used to.
And it didn’t seem like a big deal when they quit House Groups.
And it didn’t seem like a big deal when they stopped coming to church every week…or coming at all.
I doesn’t seem like a big deal because each step was just one step removed from the one before it.
And now, today, they’re in the valley.
Asking questions like, “Is God even real? Did I make it up?”
Their friends are thinking, “What happened to them?!”
But they’re thinking, “what are you talking about?!”
Because to them, life doesn’t seem any different from last week…or even the week before.
We covered this when we were in 1 Samuel…it’s like the life of Saul…it’s a slow, slow fade.
We need to confess our sin…
As the theologian John Owen once said:
“Always be killing sin or it will be killing you” – John Owen
Sin is anything that takes us away from our father, God. ANYTHING!
You can’t get off the plateau, until you confess: “My sin tricked me into thinking this was harmless plain, when in reality, I’ve been walking backwards from you Jesus.”
You’ve got to start there.
HOW TO GET OFF #2: SEEK JESUS
Okay, second principle on how to get off the plateau.
How to get off the Plateau
#1: Admit your sin
#2: Seek Jesus
What do I mean by this…because this is a rather general statement.
It’s general, but by the time I finish this section, I want you to write down something specific for YOU…where God is leading YOU.
If your marriage has plateaued, you start by admitting to your spouse, “Hey, we’re plateaued…we’ve stalled out…and I think I’m part of the problem.”
And then, you can’t just sit there and stare at each other and say, “We’re fixed!”
You have to start pursuing one another.
Even if you don’t feel anything at first.
This is the advice any good marriage counselor will give you, but few couples really take it to heart.
But it’s true.
I know a guy in our church that just went through a really long drought (a serious plateau) in his faith.
God felt pretty lifeless to him for 4 years.
But now, he’s in an amazing season in His life with God
And so I asked Him, “What happened? How’d you get off the plateau?”
He said, “I never stopped trusting Him. I trusted the process. I sought after Him. I kept trying to read the Bible, to pray, show up to House Groups, volunteer, and kept coming to church
And even though his heart might have been walking backward…he kept moving his feet forward…and in seeking Jesus…God pulled him out.
And if you feel like that’s not working for you…don’t be afraid to seek Him in a fresh way.
Let me explain.
The plateau is actually a pretty common phenomenon in a lot of other disciplines…particularly music and sports.
When learning an instrument, musicians often will learn a lot right away, but then hit a plateau where they’re not growing as a musician anymore.
The same is true with athletes.
They can go the gym regularly, but if they keep doing the same routine and exercises, their bodies will get used to the exercise, and their muscle growth or physical fitness will actually plateau.
And so a physical trainer will tell you that you have to mix it up
This part of why you see groups like Crossfit being so popular.
If you’re on a spiritual plateau…it IS the cornerstone disciplines that will get you out (you’re not going to get close to God by not praying or reading the Bible…just like you’re not going to get physically fit by watching Netflix and eating a gallon of birthday cake ice cream),
…but you can change up how you do those essential disciplines .
If you’re on the plateau…don’t be afraid to start exercising your spiritual muscles differently or changing up your spiritual routine.
Praying at bedtime not working because you say, “Dear Jesus…zzzzzzzzz”
Then try your commute…or during your kids’ naptime.
Can’t get yourself to read the Bible?
Try at bedtime…or through an audio Bible in the car or while you wash dishes…or use a reading plan on the YouVersion App
This thing will take time!
Let me ask you a question:
If your faith has been plateaued for a year now, and you’ve walked a step backwards for 365 days, are you willing to walk a step forward for the next 365 days?
Is it okay if it takes that long?
Will it be okay if God’s path for you to get out, is a step by step, daily journey of walking with him and NOT a plane ride to the mountain?
If your marriage is completely broken because of apathy and disinterest, you can’t just go on a cruise and bury 5 years of daily steps backwards.
You admit your part in it and you just start seeking and pursuing each other again.
But that’s a difficult journey back…in a marriage…or in a relationship with God.
If you’re coming to an awareness that you’re on a spiritual plateau, you’re going to soon realize that your heart, towards Jesus, is probably, honestly, a little cold.
And what will get you back to a strong relationship with Him again is not you just saying, “There’s nothing I’d rather to than just sit and spend time with Jesus”
Listen, I’ve been there.
It doesn’t work like that.
Because that’s not how you feel.
When your marriage is hanging by a thread, you’re not going to say, “Honey, let’s just hold hands and stare into each other’s eyes for 20 minutes”
No, one of you is going to rip out the other’s eyes first.
When you wake up one day, or today, and realize you’ve been walking backwards on the plateau, what gets you started in actually seeking Him again…IS DUTY. It’s trust.
We say, “I’m in a covenant”
This God said, “He would never leave me or forsake me”
And I told Him, “I will follow you…no matter what comes…no matter where you take me…and I trust following Him is best.”
Friends, don’t just wait for your feelings to turn around first.
Too many relationships fail because of that exact reason.
Guys say, “Yeah, I know I should buy her roses, but I don’t feel like buying her roses…so they never do”
And women say, “And I don’t want his roses if he’s just doing it because it’s his ‘duty’”
And yet, buy her roses.
It’s our duty…our trust in the process…that gets things going again.
It always starts that way
There are going to be times in your life when you don’t feel like coming here (or to your House Group)…you’d rather just sleep in…or get some stuff done at home.
Your heart isn’t in it.
But that’s where you let duty…trust in the process…lead your feet here anyway.
Because you know…that if you don’t operate that way…your heart will just keep you walking backwards.
And so you seek Him DESPITE your feelings.
HOW TO GET OFF #3: PREACH THE GOSPEL TO YOURSELF
Then…once you start moving towards him again…then you need the third principle to get you off of the plateau
How to get off the Plateau
#1: Admit your sin
#2: Seek Jesus
#3: Preach the Gospel to yourself
“The Gospel” is the central message of Christianity.
That we are incredibly sinful, but Jesus, God’s perfect Son, came to earth for us anyway, and died in our place…taking our punishment.
And if we put our faith in Him and believe in that, we can have a relationship with Him, and be completely forgiven.
See, once you’ve put down the “I’m waiting for my feelings to turn around first” card…and you just start walking back…because you KNOW it’s the best thing for your life…
Once you’re there and you’ve started to move again…don’t make the opposite mistake
Don’t stay stuck in duty.
“I just should show up at church… I’m supposed to read my Bible. Here I am…talking to God because it’s the “right thing” to do…“Hey God…how are you”
There are far too many Eeyore Christians out there
Long-term…if you want to passionately follow after Jesus…you want to RUN with Him…you gotta fall in love again.
And so, you preach the Gospel to yourself.
Preach it…and preach it loud and clear.
“God, I was a mess…and You sent your Son for me”
He DIED (He died!!) on a cross for me…for ME!
Listen, he loves you!
You haven’t surprised Him with your idolatry or your apathy.
He knew it…and he said, “I still want them”
“Her!! Right there. ANd yep, Him! I’m going to die for them! I love them! Yes, I’ve seen what they do! Yes, it looks like they don’t care…I love them! Can’t stop thinking about them! Yes, I know the cross will hurt…I love them!”
You preach that to yourself every day.
Sometimes you’re going to have to start with confession and seeking Him because of DUTY.
But if you keep preaching the Gospel to yourself.
You keep remembering His love…
You keep connecting with your Savior every day!
And if you keep doing that….Before you know it…you’ll be showing up with roses.
Not…because it’s your duty…but BECAUSE YOU JUST CAN’T HELP YOURSELF…you’re so in love.
God is that amazing.
Duty gets you started again
But it’s love…love that’ll fly you off the plateau.
Wake up with me.
Come alive with me.
Jesus is calling you back.
We’re going to meet Him in worship now…and tell Him we need Him.
Will you tell Him?
Tell Him you want to come back.
Please…don’t just sing.
Surrender…Let the Lord lead you back to Him.
He loves you so much.
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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