Avoiding Spiritual Complacency

We all know someone who thinks that the world revolves around them. Woe to the woman who meets the man who thinks he is God’s gift to women and is hideous! Woe to the man at work who is forced to work with the guy who believes the office could not continue without him! We understand that this is arrogance, and that this is not right, but how did these people get to this point? Some may be delusional, but by in large this arrogance is born from a feeling of complacency.

Complacency is defined by Webster as “self-satisfaction accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.” This attitude is clearly prevalent in many people and even groups of people today. Could we not use the United States as an example, who is the lone superpower of the world yet watched helplessly as thousands of its own died because of a small group of terrorists? Complacency is a great danger, for disappointment and suffering almost inevitably come with it.

When we examine the Scriptures, we see that one of the chief attitudes that have led to apostasy from God has been complacency. Complacent attitudes have even led to the origin of sin on Earth, with Eve being tempted in the Garden by Satan (Genesis 3:3-7). God had given her and Adam anything they would need, leading no doubt to a feeling of complacency. And who was there to exploit that complacency? Satan!

The history of Israel is full of examples of complacent attitudes and the inevitable apostasy to follow. Let us read a synopsis of the period of the Judges in Judges 2:10-23:

And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel. Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals, and they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the LORD to anger. So they forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtaroth. And the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He gave them into the hands of plunderers who plundered them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies around them, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. Wherever they went, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had spoken and as the LORD had sworn to them, so that they were severely distressed. Then the LORD raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them. And yet they did not listen to their judges, for they played the harlot after other gods and bowed themselves down to them. They turned aside quickly from the way in which their fathers had walked in obeying the commandments of the LORD; they did not do as their fathers. And when the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge and delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed and afflicted them. But it came about when the judge died, that they would turn back and act more corruptly than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them and bow down to them; they did not abandon their practices or their stubborn ways. So the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He said,
“Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not listened to My voice, I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, in order to test Israel by them, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk in it as their fathers did, or not.”
So the LORD allowed those nations to remain, not driving them out quickly; and He did not give them into the hand of Joshua.

When all was well in Israel, the people became complacent, and were easily led astray to follow other gods. Suffering came about, and they would turn back to God, who would deliver them. Peace returned, and so did complacency. This is the story of the people during the time of the Judges, but really is the story of the whole history of Israel. The same complacency set in under the kingdom of Israel, who forsook God to follow the Baals, even with the prophets Elijah, Elisha, Amos, Hosea, and others (cf. especially 1 Kings 18-19). Judah also would eventually follow in the same path (cf. 2 Kings 21). The wrath of God was upon them for their activity, and both nations were led into exile.

With Jesus’ arrival, we would hope that attitudes would change. Alas, this is not the case. The church at Corinth was rebuked severely by Paul for not chastising a member living in an incestuous relationship– in fact, the Corinthians even boasted in this (1 Corinthians 5)! Complacency led to the introduction and even the embracing of sin and evil among God’s people!

This attitude of complacency is even more prevalent later on in the history of the church, for it is seen in two churches of the Revelation: Ephesus and Laodicea. The church in Ephesus, while commended for their adherence to truth and rebuke of false doctrine, had “left their first love” (Revelation 2:4). We can see how easy it would be to fall into this complacency, for we can see that the Ephesians felt comfortable knowing that they had fought for the truth and maintained it, yet meanwhile they lost their first love. How grievous it is to win truth and lose Jesus!

The church in Laodicea was even more troubled. Let us read what Christ says to it in Revelation 3:14-22:

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God, says this: I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say,
‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’
and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Let us hear indeed! The church exhibits a clear complacency: “we have need of nothing,” they say, yet it is this church that lacks a single positive comment from its Shepherd. The error of complacency is very great. How, then, shall we avoid complacency in spiritual things? There are three ways:

  1. Remember who you’re fighting against! Satan is always present; therefore, remember the words of Peter in 1 Peter 5:8:

    Be of sober spirit; be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

    Satan can and most certainly will attack when you are not aware of your own deficiencies.

  2. Examine yourself! Paul writes about this to the church in Corinth, 2 Corinthians 13:5:

    Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you– unless indeed you fail the test?

    Self-examination spiritually is one of the best ways to prevent complacency– as long as the examination is honest. Do not attempt to delude yourself into thinking that a deficiency of yours is not important or non-existent. You can fool yourself, but you cannot fool either God or Satan. The latter will tempt you, and then you must answer to the former. Woe to the one who is tempted and falls due to complacency!

  3. Immerse yourself in spiritual things! Paul exhorts Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15:

    Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

    The KJV renders “be diligent” as “study,” and the idea of constantly reading and studying the words of God is certainly a major part in avoiding complacency. To “be diligent,” however, is more than to just study– it means to be a hard and focused worker! If you work hard in the field of the Lord, studying and exhorting and doing His will, you will have no time to become complacent and to be tempted!

    The spiritual path of a man can be summed up in the following: if you’re not striving upward, you’re falling away. There is no stopping on the path to Heaven, for you either continue to walk the narrow way or fall back into eventual apostasy. Why is this? Complacency! The church in Laodicea felt that it no longer needed to strive, for they had need of nothing, they said. What was Jesus’ response? Remember this, and always be diligent to be presented approved to God!

It would take a hard rejection for “God’s gift to women” to recognize his deplorable nature. It takes a pink slip for the one who believes the office cannot function without him to put him back into place. It took 5,000 deaths for America to realize that it is not impregnable. God had to deliver the Jews into the hands of the Assyrians and Babylonians for them to realize their own fault, and even after all of this, many rejected the Messiah, leading to their own destruction in 70 CE. It took a scathing rebuke by Paul for the church in Corinth to realize its error in fellowshipping with an immoral man, and we do not know what if anything it would take the Ephesians to turn back to their first love and the Laodiceans to repent. What will it take for you to recognize your complacency, and to make your life right with God? We urge you to heed the words of Paul in Acts 17:30-31:

“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”


Avoiding Spiritual Complacency

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