For this reason, we must pay attention all the more to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away. Hebrews 2:1
What is Spiritual Drift
Everyone grows out of, or slowly moves away from, interests, habits, and hobbies in their lives over time. An eight-year-old who loves playing with building blocks or dolls will eventually trade in their stuffed giraffes for make-up or a game console by the time they are twelve. The star high-school athlete will eventually trade their sports ambitions in for a business endeavor. People change, their interests change, they drift in and out of various likes, dislikes, and pastimes. What once was, may no longer be in three of four years. Is this a bad quality?
In relation to pastimes and trivial matters, I would say no. But in relation to the Gospel and the Christian faith, I would say absolutely. In fact, I would argue that every Christian has or will experience spiritual drift at some point in their Christian lives. Interestingly, the believers to whom the letter of Hebrews is addressed apparently were at risk of the very same danger! In Hebrews 2:1 the author of Hebrews warns his audience against drifting away from the Gospel. For them, this message was not only timely but necessary to protect them from a terrible fate.
You see, the audience of this letter was under immense persecution from the Roman government, as the letter was likely written during the reign of Emperor Nero. Due to this persecution, these believers were tempted not only to drift away from the Gospel and all that they had been taught, but were tempted to abandon the faith and apostatize! Consequently, the author of Hebrews, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes these storm-tossed believers a timely warning against spiritual drifting.
Look with me at verse one of chapter two. Perhaps the most interesting feature of this verse is its use of nautical terms. The idea given here is that of a boat that has slowly drifted out to sea. A boat that someone failed to tie to the dock, and consequently has been pulled out to sea by the undercurrent or the tide.
Imagine if you would, a young couple or family on a beach vacation. The wife perhaps decides she wants to catch some rays and a nap, while her husband is lounging on a yellow inner tube a few yards from the shore. They both quickly and comfortably fall asleep under the suns warm light. An hour later the wife wakes up and drowsily looks about for her husband and is unable to find him. She becomes frantic and begins to search harder, and eventually notices a yellow speck on the horizon. Her unconscious husband has drifted out to sea as a result of his negligence.
This is perhaps what is most startling about drifting. It is often unintentional. Few believers deliberately untie themselves from the heavenly harbor of the Gospel, rather they unintentionally and slowly drift away from it as a result of spiritual apathy and negligence. This is a very real danger that you and I face every day. It comes in the form of being too busy for Bible study, prayer, or poor Church attendance. Missing these important aspects of the Christian life are usually not deliberate acts, rather they are simply the result of negligence, that results in a slow yet steady drift away from the Gospel and the things of God.
The Antidote to Drifting
For the believers addressed in the book of Hebrews, it was likely their hardships and persecutions that led to them neglecting the Gospel. This is ironic as the Gospel and the teaching they had heard was the very cure they needed in their situation! Not in the sense that the Gospel would remove the persecution, but in that the Gospel was the anchor they needed to weather the storm they were in. Likewise, we might also drift away when storms, trials, and persecutions assail us. Even though the very thing we are drifting away from is what we most desperately need in life’s hardest situations!
This is precisely why the author of Hebrews exhorts his listeners to pay attention to what they have heard! And what is it that these believers have heard? The Gospel! The antidote to drifting and negligence in the Christian Life is Gospel alertness and intentionality. When troubles come, and they will, the answer is not to lift our eyes off the Gospel. Instead, we are to place our gaze directly on the cross!
To further the nautical picture painted by this verse, when storms assail, we must tie ourselves to the Gospel like a boat to a dock so that we do not drift away. By doing so we can avoid spiritual drift no matter what we face in the stormy seas of life. Take heart brothers and sisters, pay attention to the Gospel, and tie yourself to it.