Principle Scriptures: Matthew 13:25-26; Hosea 13:6; Romans 13; Revelation 3:1-6; 14-18
Is this you: But don’t blame me. I didn’t do anything. I go to church, the pastor preaches, I go home. That’s what Christianity is to me now. Perhaps you may have a problem with apathy?
Apathy is a disease caused by being overwhelmed with all the stresses and struggles in live even in ministry to the point of shrugging our shoulders and giving up, but still going through the motions. Or it is the lack of wiliness to move forward in your spiritual formation and even discouraging others to do so too!
Apathy or Indifference or Laziness is the opposite of God’s call for you. Apathy is thinking the greatness is in the past. The vine becomes withered and there is no desire to impact ones self with Christ. Apathy destroys passion and devotion. When there is no effort to impact others, the church will stagnate, and eventually die. Laziness is a fear of change, because it requires one to grow beyond his/her comfort level. Resisting change becomes the prerequisite of an unwilling and unyielding heart to the Lord, or the energy to follow Christ; all it leaves is excuses. So, the diseases of apathy, gossip, pride, legalism, and slander–the list can go on and on–will take the place of enthusiasm!
If you are not helping or a part of a solution to grow in Christ and help others do so too, then you are in apathy!
Another symptom of apathy is thinking the greatness is in the past, and the past is then worshipped and adored. All views and passions to Christ are rooted in the past and the vine is now withered. It is our human nature to consider comfort and security a primary concern. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as it does not make us complacent and take us away from the goals and reasons we are in the pulpit, or in leadership. If we are too comfortable, we become apathetic, not wanting to stretch ourselves in our personal walk. This, then, becomes a slippery slope of not desiring to stretch the congregation, or being afraid of making any challenges that may offend someone’s pride. This disease will produce no growth, no serious discipleship, no serious Bible studies, no serious teaching in the pulpit, just basic stuff to please and police people.
Believing something does not mean you live it. Faith must be real and invoke a response from within you. It cannot be just academic! People then, as people today, differentiate people by their words, and more importantly, their actions. What do your actions say about what is in your heart? For the Jew, confession about God was the essential aspect of what it meant to be a Jew (Duet. 6:4; Mark 12:29). To confess one thing and do another was what Proverbs and the Jew would heartily say was a fool! Thus, our faith will produce our actions, but our actions will not produce faith. We only respond with our faith to His work and His call.
The cure is to Wake Up! We need to be on guard for stressful and overwhelming situations, for pride, and for being too comfortable in our positions. When we are not growing, and not on our guard, then we will venture into the land of apathy, and that is one place that will not grow any fruit or give any glory to the Lord.
Enthusiasm is you key to stay focused (Matt: 5:16; Rom. 12:11; Gal. 6:9; Colossians 3:23; 4:7-8) Enthusiasm is interest and passion working together with a goal. This will enable us to overcome disappointments and setbacks, so we can be positive, optimistic, and keep up our interest, attitude, and zeal, even when things are harsh. Enthusiasm is the fuel that empowers the Christian, his/her testimony, and gives him/her the love for the call that he/she has been given. Enthusiasm is the pipe through which flows the earnest endeavor of our work and service. Along with this passion will come the natural desire that we do our best for God’s glory.
When someone becomes a Christian or when a church is started and grows, one of the primary growing factors is enthusiasm. This is a result of the joy and vigor that its new members have, and then spread to their friends and neighbors. They see the joy of serving the Lord, and the growth they are experiencing must be shared with those around them. So, they do this, and the new Christian is responsible for most of the new converts that cause the church to grow. When a new church is started, and it’s members lack enthusiasm, it will wither quickly; they will give up, and close. There are many other factors that cause a church to grow or to die, but a big factor in it all is enthusiasm. Without enthusiasm, it is an uphill battle that cannot be won.
Somewhere on our Christian journey, many forget what it is all about. We can forget what is important, and the reason and purpose of our relationship with Him. Pastors sometimes think that since our call is a tangible, unyielding, permanent position, we do not need more training or time with our Lord; therefore, the main thing is neglected. We think we are protected, and since we are pastors, then the knowledge and intense training we have gained will carry us through the ministry.
But it does not. We lose site of our call because we lose site of the main thing, just as so many regular (we are all ministers together) Christians do. And, we need to keep the main thing the main thing, our main thing being our personal, growing relationship with Christ. Church politics and countless crises have replaced prayer and devotions, so we have dried up and burned out. When we realize it, it is to late, as we have fallen off the path our Lord had for us. The passion has been lost.
Enthusiasm plays a big part in our personal spiritual growth; without it, we are not motivated to read our Bible or spend time in prayer. We exercise our spiritual disciplines out of obligation, we become dry, and become unable to absorb what we are to learn. Or, we give it up and use all kinds of excuses, such as lack of time or fatigue. When our spiritual lives suffer, so does our ability to relate our Christian experience to others, and we become ineffective leaders and partakers in the building of the Kingdom of God.
When the leaders are not experiencing the wonders of the spiritual life and the Christian experience, the ineffectiveness trickles down to the rest of the body and spreads like malignant cancer. We, as fallen human beings, are always looking for excuses not to put forth the necessary effort for spiritual growth. I know I can get that way, and every pastor I have ever met sometimes feels that way. Just as we make excuses for not eating right or exercising, perhaps endangering our health, not exercising the spiritual life will endanger our spiritual health, and infect the rest of the congregation because it is tempting and contagious.
The principles of the Gospel must impact us so we are influenced and energized by them. If we are not excited, the message will drop off and fall flat. The learner, the hearer will not desire something irrelevant or unexciting. If they see no excitement in us, why would they want to be a part of it? The nature of the Christian life is the joy and excitement of being in Christ above all else, and this should be our greatest motivation. Consequently, the excitement of our growth becomes contagious to those around us. This is influence. Being in Christ means living our lives for Him with passion, at all times and in all places. This is influence.
Encouragement is the fruit of the mature walk of the Christian life. It empowers us to uplift each other, not put them down. It is the immature and ungodly individual that constantly puts down his/her fellow Christian, and a despicable and repulsive Christian who does it to the unbeliever. This is often the reason for the horrible reputation we Christians have in society.
Can you imagine Christ putting people down with insults so He could uplift Himself? Absolutely not! When we are called to model His character, and are created in the image of God, then we are to model that essence and attribute of our Lord. We are never to be critical, condescending, or belligerent to others, for this is a slap in the face of our Lord, a misrepresentation of how we are to be as His people to the world. We cannot excite, energize, or influence people by arrogance. There is nothing worse in the church than an arrogant leader. If Christ, as God and Creator of the universe, lived a life without arrogance, then how can we take that kind of attitude, unless we are greater than He?
The effective Christian, especially a leader, will not be a force of personality and power plays. We cannot be power-seeking controllers of the lives of others when it is the Lord who is in control. As a church, we must be relationship oriented, centered on building and mentoring others for Christ. The effective Church must ask this question, what is more important, my career and desire for control, or the discipleship of the people?
If your desire is self-seeking, then you are not a true leader of God’s people. You need to get out and get help. You must re-boot yourself with God’s purpose, not your own. Our true accomplishments are in the faith we build, not in the numbers we attract. The Encourager is powered by the Spirit, filled with enthusiasm, and knows the difference between being a relationship-builder and being a self-seeker.
Out of gratitude will come the desire to please God, and the desire to please will synergistically combine with the passion to produce the love of His call to fuel our eagerness and passion. When we love the Lord, then we are attentive to the needs and expectations of the people around us. Thus, our service is coming out of our love of doing it instead of out of an obligation. This is much like the person who loves his/her hobby and spends a majority of his/her time and desire on it, versus the person forced to do something he/she does not like to do.
The one temptation that all will fail at is the loss of hope! When you have the hope of Christ in you, you will persevere and be triumphant! Never lose your confidence of who you are in Christ! We can look to God for our help (Heb. 4:15). We can admit we have a problem; we do have a sinful nature and will cave into sin (1 Cor. 10:13; Gal. 5:17). Thus, we have to admit our need and seek help from Him and others (Gal. 6:1-5). We need to set boundaries for our desires so we will not deliberately seek sin out. Then, we will be victorious! We will persevere and be approved because the trials we go through will enable us to be poured out to God (Gal. 2:20-21). We will be able to come to the place where our will is emptied, our desires are set aside, and His will is at work in us. To refinish a fine piece of furniture, it first needs to be stripped of the old finish; we need to have the finish of our self stripped, so His finish will shine through us!
Our hope: “`Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.” (Jeremiah 33:6)
2001 R.J. Krejcir www.intothyword.org