Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17
Atrophy is what sets in when we fail to use various muscles in our body. The old line "Use it or lose it" is tied in with this notion of atrophy. For unless we keep using the muscles we have, they will weaken to the point of being unable to aid us in walking or moving (or thinking). When one reads in the New Testament of lame people being told by Christ or one of the apostles to walk, the real marvel is not just that they walked but that they immediately walked really well: "walking and jumping and praising God" (Acts 3:8). For it is a well-known fact that when we do not use certain muscles, it takes a long time for those muscles to again function as they should.
What is true of our bodies is equally true of our spirits. When I hear of a formerly active church member who now is uninvolved in any Christian fellowship I often ponder the spiritual atrophy that has likely taken place in their life. Like riding a bicycle – once learned, never forgotten – these individuals could see their spiritual condition turn around fairly quickly, should they come to have that desire. But the longer their non-involvement continues, the harder it will be to "get back in the saddle."
One tried and proven aid to helping any of us avoid spiritual atrophy is the company that we keep. The Proverbs 27:17 verse quoted above has become a foundational text for many Christian organizations. They make use of this verse because it is a graphic reminder of how God can use another person to help keep us sharp – to help keep us spiritually going in the right direction. Many years ago I headed up an early morning men's ministry to which a number of men from my past came (a real estate agent, an attorney I had used a lot, etc). I was pleased to no end to hear the real estate agent quoting Bible verses and spending time in God's word. It was a period of true spiritual growth in this fellow's life. But when the course ended, he lost the accountability of that group and with that began to drift. Some years later I learned that he had become unfaithful to his wife and they had divorced. I was so saddened by that news. I don't believe that would have happened if he had continued in relationships of deep accountability intended to keep him spiritually sharp.
Are you drifting? Is spiritual atrophy setting into your life? Then be warned: don't continue drifting! Repent and return. Come back to Christ and seek out others who will aid you in keeping your "hand to the plow." For "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).