Abandoning The Religious Rat Race

By January 31, 2016 No Comments

Recently I was told that a pastor I knew years ago had walked into the woods, pulled out a gun and killed himself. The man was known in his community as a busy, sincere and hard working pastor, but behind the scenes he had struggled with self-doubts, emotional and mental fatigue.

1853046Sometimes there’s a short step between spiritual service and a religious treadmill and that short step makes all the difference. Real love motivates authentic service while religious laws power the religious treadmill. Desire leads the first but duty drives the latter. It’s the difference between a tiring sense of “ought-to” and thrilling sense of “want-to.”

Are you on the religious treadmill? Get off. You may find it gratifying in the short run but over the long haul it’ll drain you. Driven religious fervor becomes a one-night stand repeated over and over and over again. There may be a shallow gratification in one-night stands, but nobody would ever mistake it for genuine intimacy.

God offers you much more than that. He wants you to experience Him as a soothing rhythm of grace. However, to know that kind of intimacy, you must stop any religious hyperventilating you’ve mistaken for a grace walk, calm down, and do what is born from the expression of Christ within you. God doesn’t need you to break the three-minute mile for Him. He just wants you to enjoy Him, knowing that everything else in your life will flow out of that.

The fact remains, however, that a religious rat race is a tick that slowly sucks the lifeblood out of our intimacy with God.  God didn’t invite you to be His maid, but His bride. Of course you will serve Him, but is to be the natural expression of your love for Him. Otherwise, it becomes a stumbling block in your grace walk.

Well meaning believers often find themselves in a place which can be compared to the man adrift at sea in a life raft. Because he is dying of thirst, he begins to drink the seawater around him. The salt water causes him to become increasingly thirsty and his thirst causes him to drink more seawater. This vicious cycle will ultimately bring death.

This will be the fate of anybody who believes that doing more is the remedy for his thirst.  Sometimes the answer to our deepest need is met when we understand that the best way to advance may be to retreat, remembering that God’s ways are not our ways.

Blaise Pascal said, “The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.” It isn’t frenzy, but faith that facilitates intimacy.

Don’t allow yourself to be pressured by the religious machinery so prevalent in modern Christian culture. It’s not that you are to become spiritually passive. Christ within you will see to it that no such thing happens.  On the other hand, you are free to step away from any demand to do more than His Spirit is leading you to do.

Don’t let other people manipulate you into doing what they think you need to do. That’s not their call. That matter rests between you and the Holy Spirit. To stand on this fact sometimes requires that you be willing to accept the disapproval of others who try to pressure you into doing what they think is right for you.

Jesus didn’t come to help us be religious superstars. Far from it, He came to deliver us from empty religion, even orthodox, time honored religion. Jesus came to bring us into intimacy with God through Himself. In His earthly days, as in our day, those most offended by Him have been the religionists who have built their reputation around keeping their golden idols polished to a brighter shine than anybody else in town.

The idols are their own particular rules of the religious road-race that must be observed as they speed down the highway they call “Christian living.” Their display case is filled with the specific idols that most easily fit their own personality and temperament. They judge everybody else by whether or not they live up to their own personal standards. People are incidental. What matters is how you are behaving.

The fact is that even Jesus wasn’t a good churchman by the standards of the religionists of His day. He didn’t live up to what they thought He ought to be. To them, He had no convictions. He appeared to compromise the purity and integrity of their values by doing things like healing people on the Sabbath, by eating with the crooks (Publicans) and party-animals (sinners) of His day. He was a friend of the hookers and homeless. He didn’t separate Himself far enough from the riffraff, as every good churchman knew one should do. Consequently, He lost His testimony with the Pharisees, an incidental matter which didn’t seem to bother him at all. Jesus cared more about relationships than reputation. He still does.

A legitimate grace walk gently flows like water along a riverbank, refreshing all who happen to stumble upon our banks. It isn’t a flash flood of activity that honors God. He doesn’t lead us that way, but instead He has chosen to make “[us] lie down in green pastures. He leads [us] beside the still waters [where] He restores [our] soul” (Psalm 23).

Get off the religious treadmill and just put your eyes on Him. He will do “the rest” in you.  Do the things God asks but don’t confuse His voice with the demanding voice of dead religion.


This article came from my book, The Grace Walk Devotional, available at

Steve McVey

Author Steve McVey

More posts by Steve McVey