Life is not always plain sailing, even when you know God – there are unexpected challenges, things you hadn’t planned for, didn’t expect, weren’t prepared for. Like the story of Israel there can be an ebb and flow to our story. A hotness and coldness. One minute they were all in and there’s times of great commitment, celebration and advance, the next we know is they’ve retreated to the comfort of their homes. One minute they’re praising and celebrating the God who called them and made them his people, the next they’re questioning what God is up to.
After 70 years in exile, Israel on the prophetic promise of God returned to the land that he had given them. But when they got there life wasn’t as straightforward as they had imagined it might be, it didn’t turn out as they expected. Life was tough. For one thing, there weren’t that many of them compared to the thousands who went into exile. Not only that, they were surrounded by their enemies, and there was suffering. The rebuilt temple didn’t compare to Solomon’s, and the land that they occupied was small in relation to what was before, a mere 20 x 30 miles. And they began to question God. What was God doing? Was this really for real?
Many have been there, maybe you are there now, you’ve had a dream, a prophetic word, but now you have your questions. Where are you God? This is not what I expected, what are you doing? Disillusionment and despondency have set in.
There were three things that didn’t help Israel, that stalled their progress and will stall yours if you don’t recognise them and deal with them, complacency, compromise and cynicism.
Complacency – is indifference, being casual, a take it or leave it attitude, don’t care, burying your head in the sand, self-centred, being satisfied with things as they are, and the rejection of things that might be. It’s ok, it’s good enough…. A surrendering to Que Sera Sera, a signing off.
The dictionary definines it as: a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc..
More to the point, “complacent satisfaction is the killer of dreams…” and when you lose your dreams it results in small, cramped, narrow living that revolves around yourself.
Whoever we are, we are made for something bigger than ourselves, the loss of the big picture results in living a small life.
Complacency saps energy, dulls attitudes and drains the brain! It produces fear of the unknown and a mistrust of the untried and causes us to abhor anything new. Is that you?
The seeds of it are there in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Haggai, but it’s full blown in Malachi.
Compromise is a shaking of hands on something, the dealing in two halves, to have a foot in both camps, to want the best of both worlds, anything for a quiet life.
Again when reading Israel’s history we discover they frequently compromised. Two and a half tribes chose to settle East of the Jordan – ‘we like it here;’ and those that go in comprise their lives by making agreements with those in the land.
Following the return from exile the temptation to compromise came under the guise of cooperation. Ezra 4:2 – “let us build with you, for we worship your God just as you do…” The enemy does not like advance. These people had been put there by Israel’s conquerors many years before, they were the forefathers of the Samaritans and had a blended worship, melding the worship of the one true God with allegiance to others. Yes there was some truth in it, they worshipped God as they did, BUT they worshipped many others too.
If the enemy can’t win one way, he will try another… There were mixed marriages, lending money and charging interest, and while Nehemiah is away they give Tobiah the Ammonite a room in the Temple!
Not only that, they withdrew to their homes.
Where are you compromising? Who/what have you given a room to?
Cynicism – when things don’t turn out as we thought, we doubt, we become dubious of everything, everyone, and it gives a feeling of superiority. Maybe we had a word, a prophecy and it’s not worked out as we imagined, now we judge and are critical of everything. Everything is questioned.
It’s there in Israel’s story, there was weeping (Ezra 3:12). Their enemies still existed, it wasn’t exactly a land flowing with milk and honey, and the land they occupied was only 20 x 30 miles, what was God doing? Was it real? Was this restoration, the restored kingdom of David?
Step over into Malachi where he writes about the time Nehemiah returned to Babylon..
Their question, their concern: what’s the point? It’s not worked out as we imagined. Mal. 1:13; 3:14, “It’s too hard to serve the LORD… What’s the use of serving God?” They are turning up their noses at God’s commands and giving Him stolen, defiled, cheap offerings.
Cynicism can eat away at you and devour your faith and consume your relationships – a cynical person is not easy to live with! Yes, cynicism might be a safety net to protect you if things don’t turn out the way you’d hoped for, but it will keep you totally checked out as far as God’s purpose is concerned. You’ll live safe, but sad.
Here’s, an interesting fact: research, published in the journal Neurology, found that people with high levels of “cynical distrust” were three times more likely to develop dementia than those with low levels of cynicism. The fact is we don’t intend to become cynical, it develops over time through a series of failed expectations, which then leads to apathy and dejection, followed by a sense of hopelessness.
There have been times in my life when when things haven’t worked out as I thought, words/prophecies, seemingly unanswered prayers and I’ve found myself becoming cynical, I’ve found myself doubting the Word, the gifts, people etc… And then there’s stuff on the internet that will feed it.
It follows the path of unresolved disappointment – do you have any?
Beth Moore says, “Cynicism is carnality that thinks it’s smart.” And what a dangerous smartness it is. Cynicism is a killer to the life of faith. We were made for faith. Think of Hebrews 11! We are called to faith!
Listen, nobody plans on losing their first love, on going cold, on becoming complacent, compromising, or being a cynic. They don’t give us advance warning, they never announce their arrival, they simply creep up on us, and so we don’t see them coming. It doesn’t matter who we are, there’s always a danger spiritual drift. We need to fight against them. We can simply redouble our efforts, try harder and fail, again and again, but that’s not the answer.
How do we overcome complacency, compromise and cynicism?
• By having a true fear of God
• By being aware that we have an enemy – the world, the flesh and the devil.
• By being honest with God – this is where I am, it’s in recognising it….
• That it’s not in us to do it, it’s in coming to the end of ourselves – who will deliver me from this body of death?
• Looking away unto Jesus – thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord
• Depending on the Holy Spirit – be filled!
• Recognising difficulties, challenges, temptations will arise – don’t get caught out
• God wants to grow his people, bring them to maturity – and God will not do it for us.