The Muck of Complacency
I spent a couple of summers working on a farm in north Mississippi while I was in college. We grew several different crops on the farm. I can say with certainty that rice was my least favorite. Every morning we would gather and plan the day’s tasks, and often I was assigned to go to the rice paddy. I always had to put on rubber boots, usually had to take a shovel, and always knew it was going to make for a long, hot day. The rice was flooded and I was nearly always standing in ankle deep water that came up quite a bit higher when my weight caused me to sink four inches in the mud.
Complacency has a way of creeping into our lives and our church when we are distracted or tired. Before long, the things that were once a pleasure and brought us joy become cumbersome and taxing. Like a farmer bogged down in the mud, it seems to an inordinate amount of energy to accomplish the simplest of tasks. I feel like many Christians and churches find themselves, on some level, struggling to climb out of the mud of complacency right now. It’s easy to see the contributing factors. The events of the past two years and the uncertainty of the future are probably the easiest to identify. We can get in a cycle of tending to only our own interests, prioritizing safety over ministry, and worldly cares over spiritual concerns. What should we do if we find ourselves in the muck of complacency? We are struggling to serve the Lord, but it seems strangely cumbersome and difficult…
The current malaise permeating so much of church life reminds me of the indictment the Lord Jesus leveled at the Ephesian church in Revelation 2:1-6. This church was commended for faithfulness, sound doctrine and endurance, but beginning in verse 4 we read, “but I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first,” Revelation 2:4-5a, CSB. When I look at my own struggle with complacency, first I have to see it for what it is, waning love for the Lord and His glory. Then I must repent! Genuine repentance will require renewed obedience in the areas where I have been neglectful: prayer, discipleship, evangelism, personal and corporate worship, and consecration. You may feel weak and this might seem impossible, but remember: “He gives strength to the faint and strengthens the powerless. Youths may become faint and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on the wings like eagles; they will run and not become weary, they will walk and not faint,” Isaiah 40:29-31, CSB.