Sandy Little is the pastor at Gateway Baptist Church in Clinton, Iowa.
“Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” (Hebrews 2:1-4)
Out on a river in Texas, two young men were fishing, just on a small john boat. They turned off the motor obviously, and they were enjoying their afternoon on a nice sunny day. They were talking and catching fish, and they threw some small ones back, and they would throw some keepers in the boat. They were enjoying themselves to the point that they had not realized just how far they’d drifted from where they had started from up river.
They got to looking around, and before long they saw the rapids begin to pick up just a little ways farther down the river, and they saw they were headed toward the rocks. Suddenly they realized the danger and tried to start the motor, but they couldn’t. By the time they got the motor started, they had already hit some rocks and the boat turned over in the raging rapids. Both of those young men drowned in the river that day, because while they relaxing and enjoying themselves, while they weren’t paying attention, they had no idea just how far they had drifted.
I want to talk to you about one topic, one question tonight. That question is, “Are you drifting?” In our text, verse 1, the Bible says, “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.” That word ‘slip’ if you get out your Strong’s Concordance or Bible dictionary and do a word study, you will find out that that is talking about drifting away.
I may not know who you are. I don’t know how long you have been saved, how many years you have been in church, but along the way we have been taught some things. We have been taught some things by some great men of God, praise the Lord. Ladies have been taught some great things by other ladies of the faith. All of us, we have been taught some things along the way, things that we should hold on to dearly and hold on to tightly. God’s Word says we ought to give the more earnest heed, paying careful attention, not getting distracted or apathetic, staying watchful, lest at any time those things that we have learned that we need to pass down to the next generation we allow to drift away.
More than any other point in time in history, now is the time that we ought to hold onto those things with great purpose and pass them on to the next generation. We need to pass them on to our own children and grandchildren. We need to pass them on to the young people and the young preacherboys of our churches. We need to pass them on to the new converts and young Christians in our ministries.
You see, the danger of drifting is not just limited to the physical realm. Hebrews 2:1 is a warning against spiritual drifting, and that is the sad state of many Christians today. Especially this year, where we are in this world with Coronavirus and quarantine and lock down. Many churches have been told they can’t even assemble, trampling on the First Amendment. Many other churches have opened and they are meeting, but most of their people are still staying at home instead of coming to the house of God. People have been given the opportunity to kind of slip away, and I’m convinced a lot of them don’t even realize it.
Again, our job as pastors and leaders and laymen is to encourage one another and kind of wrap our arms around folks and keep them drawn in, so that they might not drift away, you see. Many states are beginning to open and “allowing” churches to have church, which is an oxymoronic statement. The government never did have permission to tell churches that they had to close, nor should they have permission to tell churches that they can open. This is God’s church, and it is not to be opened or closed by the government!
But at any rate, during this time people have got comfortable with being out of church. They have got comfortable sitting in their living rooms in their easy chairs sitting in their pajamas drinking coffee and watching church services online. We have got to be careful that we not let that continue. They quickly and easily became spectators instead of participants, and then when they finally do come to the church, some of them want to sit off in the back and watch everybody else have church instead of being a part of God’s church.
Praise God, I told our folks yesterday morning that we are going to have a teacher’s meeting Saturday whether the governor opens the state back up or not because when we go back to having church with all of our crowd, we are going to hit the ground running in Sunday School! We have got to be diligent that we don’t let those things slip that we have learned before all of this happened.
Drifting Requires NO Effort At All
Let me remind you of some things about drifting. First off, remind yourself that drifting requires no effort whatsoever. Those young men were in that boat, talking to each other and enjoying their day catching fish, throwing some back and putting some in the boat. All day long, they were catching fish. It required no effort on their part to drift downriver, and that happens to us spiritually. It requires no effort to drift. Going to church, being faithful to church, getting involved and serving the Lord, those are things that are purposeful that keep us from drifting away and drifting into danger.
God warns us that “...we ought to give the more earnest heed..” We need to pay careful attention and take a look at ourselves and our spiritual condition. We need to look at our church attendance and our service to the Lord at church. Maybe it’s a Sunday School class or bus route or Junior Church or nursery or choir or serving as an usher. Are we being faithful? Are we taking our responsibilities seriously and doing our best to please the Lord?
Friend, I want you to ask yourself right now. “Am I drifting?” Drifting takes place with no effort at all, and it usually happens without notice.
drifting is an unconscious process
The second thing is this: drifting is an unconscious process. Again, those boys didn’t know they were drifting. All they knew was we are out here on this river, it is just us, it is a beautiful day, and we are catching fish and enjoying ourselves. It was totally unconscious to them. They didn’t make a choice that they didn’t care or it wasn’t important. They didn’t even realize it was happening.
I remember when we lived down in Center, Texas and worked with Brother Dodson. One day we got a boat from my brother and took it out on the river not far from Center. It was a ski boat, not a fishing boat. If it floats in water, bless God, it will catch some fish! We were out there, and we were all fishing. We were enjoying our day my wife, myself, and our five kids, just enjoying a day on the river. It was fun to take that boat every once in a while and run it up the river just as fast as it would go, and then run it back down the river and then just kind of park and fish.
Well, the boys wanted to fish, and so we did. We stopped, and the boys started fishing. Before too long, I noticed over here on the bank is a tree that has got some huge limbs hanging down, and we were slowly drifting that direction. I thought, “We will give it a few more minutes and then turn the motor on and back this thing up and get back out in the middle of the water.” But we were fishing and having so much fun I didn’t pay attention and kind of forgot about that. Before too long, my boy’s got a branch hitting him upside of the head, and he said, “Dad, I am getting hit in the head!” I looked his direction, and there was a branch sticking out that could have poked a hole in the boat! I wasn’t paying attention, and I didn’t realize we were so close to disaster.
Drifting is unconscious, and you don’t know it until you find yourself in trouble, and then you have to figure out how to get yourself out of the trouble and hope you still have time to do it.
Drifting always takes you downstream
Thirdly, we never, ever drift upstream or drift against the tide. The current is carrying you along without you knowing it. We always drift downstream. We always drift with the tide. Again, to tie this into something spiritual, we have got to be purposeful about our living and guard ourselves against drifting along, because drifting will always carry you downstream.
Listen, church is about to open their doors again. You need to purpose now that you are going to be in church. There are folks who go to Walmart and the grocery store and the drug store and the home improvement store. They’ll stand around and talk to somebody they haven’t seen in a while, glad to get out of the house, taking their time to catch up and not worried about a thing. But when it comes time to go to church, they are hiding and scared to go out of the house! Do you think Walmart has some germ exterminator that kills all the virus floating around with hundreds of people going in and out, but the same people sitting in church are going to kill you with some plague? I guess coronavirus is only contagious at church? Now we don’t think that, but why do we act like we do?
Folks, you need to purpose that you’re going to be in church this Sunday and worship with your church family. It is not, “Well, I think we might go to church this week, maybe, if the weather’s okay, and if we haven’t heard of anybody catching a cold within 100 miles.” You know, I purposed for our church, Brother Ballard, that when we come back to church as a group, I am cutting off our Facebook feed. I am not going to let people use that as an excuse to stay home. “Well, we did it for seven weeks and got used to staying home, and we can just continue….” No, it is time to come back to church! We might start it back up sometime in the future, maybe a few months down the road, but listen, Sunday we are cutting Facebook. Facebook can take a break for a little while. because I want to see the faces of my people. I want my people to see one another.
Again, as much as we have afforded them a great opportunity to stay connected to the church and the preaching, we have got to cut that connection and say, “Okay, it is time to come back to church!” because some have unconsciously drifted down the way. They probably didn’t even notice they were drifting, but they’ve already been carried a long way downstream from where they started. Nobody decided, “This is a good time to just quit going to church.” But we got used to staying at home and looking at a screen. We got used to not fellowshipping with our church and being a part of what’s going on. We got used to not serving in our ministries at the local church, and now we’re used to that. It happened while we didn’t realize it, and we’ve drifted a long way. We never drift upstream, friend.
“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.” (II Peter 1:5-7) There are some things that we can do to keep from drifting. Second Peter 3:18 tells us to grow in grace. How many Christians during this lockdown, that were once faithful at reading their Bibles, faithful at prayer and had a good, strong, solid devotional life, and again, how many of those that served in Sunday School classes and Junior Churches, how many have kind of slipped away now? How many folks have kind of let those things go? It is time to put it in high gear and get back to doing those things that we have let slip.
the further you drift, the faster you go
The next thing about drifting is this: the further you drift downstream, the faster you tend to go. The dangers increase with the speed that you are drifting downstream. Usually you can’t see the danger until it’s too late to avoid it. That is how many Christians find themselves wrecked. People that were once faithful and serving, these preachers have seen it. Somebody got saved, God began to do a work in their lives, they became faithful to come to church, faithful to get involved serving the Lord and doing whatever work in the church they were doing. All of a sudden you find them gone this Wednesday, and then they are gone Sunday night. Pretty soon they are missing on Sunday morning too, and before too long, you can’t find them at church anymore. Something happened to cause them to begin to drift downstream, and they did not realize it, and the further downstream it went the faster it progressed downhill.
That is why, folks, you have got to stay close to your preacher. Stay close to your pastor. Stay close to the Lord. The Lord and your preacher will help keep you from drifting into dangerous places. As we move further and further from the Lord, we care less and less about the things God commands us to do. Again, how can you explain someone that was totally sold out and on fire for God, and two years later, the FBI can’t find them because they drifted away. They didn’t care. They drifted faster. Then they got tied into something that eventually killed them spiritually.
Drifting is dangerous to others around you, not just you
The next thing about drifting is this: not only is drifting dangerous to the person drifting, it is dangerous to other people. How many times have we heard about cruise ships whose engines have stalled out in the ocean and they are just set adrift. Before too long they begin to drift toward a port? Well, they can’t steer their ship, so they are a danger to the other ships around them. They endanger people that are standing on the banks waiting to tie the boat in. Drifting is dangerous to other people.
Listen to me, the people that are most likely to be harmed by Christians, churches, and preachers that are drifting are the lost. Somebody will use you as their excuse to never get saved. Parents who just drift are soon going to lose the golden opportunity to teach their children. “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4) The word “bring” that is an action word. That means that you have got to put something into it. I am so weary and tired of seeing our children in good homes with Godly parents turn out for the devil. Somewhere that has got to stop. Parents have got to parent their children. My goodness we can’t just let our children do the things that they want to do, what they are being influenced to do. Every once in awhile you are going to have to tell Junior “no” and hurt his feelings! It is for their own benefit. Don’t let your children drift. Don’t drift in parenting. Don’t give up your responsibility of parenting your child to someone else. It is your job, Dad, to lead your homes. It is your job to be the man of the house, and where there is no man of the house, then men you step up and you raise that child to the glory of God.
I thank God for my mother. My mom and dad divorced when I was 12. She remarried, and in that span of time, for four or five years, she was without a husband but she did her best. We weren’t in church. We weren’t saved people, but she did everything that she could within her power to make sure that she raised two good boys. After she got saved, she tried to raise us to be Godly boys. Many are tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine because they do not understand that while they drift they are a danger to other people.
Drifting ends in shipwreck
Lastly about drifting, it ends in shipwreck. Drifting ends in shipwreck. We see marriages shipwrecked because they were drifting in their relationship, and they end up in the shipwreck of divorce. We see children destroyed because parents allowed them to drift in worldliness and wrong friends, and they end up in shipwreck of rebellion. For those who drift spiritually through their own neglect, there is not going to be any escape from that judgment. Look back in our text in Hebrews chapter 2. “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;” (Hebrews 2:1-3)
God is a just God. If God brought judgment down on people in the past because they drifted, God is a just God, and He is going to hold us accountable as well. Tonight, my question is this: “Are you drifting?” Maybe you haven’t even realized it. It’s time to take a good look at yourself, and if you are drifting away from your relationship with God and His Word, get anchored right now. If you are drifting away from your church and your preacher and your service to God, realize it and get it corrected now.
How do you feel about Sunday coming? I am excited about church. I went visiting my people and door knocking. Nobody ran me off. As a matter of fact, we have gotten to see people saved. There are many people asking questions about death and eternity, heaven and hell right now. They need us to step up to our responsibility to the Great Commission and take the message to them.
God doesn’t want us to drift. I am excited about being with the people of God. I am excited about my relationship with God. The government can’t quarantine that. I am excited about what God is going to do in days to come, but we cannot drift. If you are drifting tonight, let me call you in. Come to shore and take a breather and then get back out there and with purpose and drive instead of drift, going in the direction that God commands.