In Bible study we have been studying Amos. I must admit, this is a book that I would never have thought to study in any detail, as Amos' story isn't one of the more well-known (or, in my view, compelling) ones. However, in studying this book, it has highlighted what I would argue is one of the biggest issues in modern (western) Christianity: complacency.
Let's set the stage for Amos' season of prophecy:
In the time that the Lord spoke to Amos to prophesy to Israel, the nation was highly prosperous, as were its surrounding nations. Much of its population consisted of wealthy people, and for the most part, people's lives were comfortable. But they had forgotten about God: they'd offer sacrifices in the temple as they would supposed to, but the temple was not the holy place that it was supposed to be. They offered sacrifices to other gods as well, and they had neglected the parts of the law that required them to care for the poor and needy in their society. Things were great, but by breaking their covenant with God, things weren't going to go great for long for Israel. However, they seemed not to be aware of this -- they went on living life as usual, as if nothing was wrong in their relationship with God: they were complacent.
Unfortunately, too often, this description of Israel can apply to us: we float along in life, everything going well, but our lives aren't built with Christ as its foundation, and things will soon crumble. Israel had the problem that they thought that since they weren't doing things that were as evil as the surrounding nations, that they were alright. And we do the same sometimes, treating our relationship with God like a formula, instead of as a life lived out of a heart that is totally captivated by our Savior.
We tell ourselves because we read the Bible more than those around us, or because we spend more time in prayer than they, or we're not committing the same sins that they do, that we are okay, that this is our righteousness. We seem to forget that every day we should be pressing on toward the prize, that it is by the grace of God alone that we have been saved, that we cannot boast in anything but the cross on which Christ was crucified. We become comfortable with where we are, we become complacent.
Complacency is a dangerous thing. It isolates us. It lulls us to sleep, allowing us to settle where we are. We settle, comfortable in our seats, so much so, that we don't notice ourselves gradually slipping. Complacency is like falling asleep on a raft near the shore that is unsecured by a rope, we don't notice how far away we have drifted until we are far far away from the shore. We gently float away into pride, into greed, into a multitude of sin.
So how do we combat complacency?
1. We find others who will hold us accountable and push us to grow in God
"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken." Eccl 4:9-12
Sometimes we become complacent because we surround ourselves with people who aren't pushing us in our walk with Christ, who aren't challenging us to give even more of ourselves to God. And this is not to say that you shouldn't have friends who are "younger" than you in Christ, but it is to say that you should have at least one or two people who are either walking alongside you encouraging you to keep the faith, or ahead of you, helping to pull you along.
2. We ask God to make us uncomfortable.
"We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's." Romans 14:7-8
This is a tough thing to pray for, because who wants to not be comfortable? But when we are comfortable, it is hard to truly understand the needs of our brothers and sisters, of the stranger and the widow and the orphan. And if it is hard to understand their needs, how can we truly serve them? In his walk on earth, Jesus has already told us that the road that leads to life is hard and narrow (Matt 7:14). We were not meant to live lives of comfort as followers of Christ. Asking God to make us uncomfortable requires us to humble ourselves, to squash our pride.
3. We remind ourselves that we are sinners saved by grace.
"For by grace your have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God - not the result of works so that no one may boast." Ephesians 2:8
It may seem like a simple thing to do, but when we compare our righteousness to that of others (or their lack of it), we are actually disregarding the grace that has saved us from sin. We are ignoring the fact that our righteousness is through the same Jesus that died us when we were still sinners (Romans 5:8)
"For our sake he made him to be sin that knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5:21
Have you noticed any areas in your life in which you are complacent? How do you combat complacency?
Be blessed and shine uncomfortably!