Sunday, November 16, 2014

Complacency - Zephaniah 1:10-14

Zephaniah 1:10-14
10        "On that day," declares the LORD, "a cry will go up from the Fish Gate, wailing from the New Quarter, and a loud crash from the hills.
11        Wail, you who live in the market district; all your merchants will be wiped out, all who trade with silver will be ruined.
12        At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dregs, who think, 'The LORD will do nothing, either good or bad.'
13        Their wealth will be plundered, their houses demolished. They will build houses but not live in them; they will plant vineyards but not drink the wine.
14        "The great day of the LORD is near-- near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the LORD will be bitter, the shouting of the warrior there.

         I know you have sometimes become complacent.  We all do.  Believe me, I know complacency as well as anyone.

We might become complacent about the elections, or work, or homework. 

Sometimes we become complacent about our spirituality, and our relationship with God, and that becomes a very dangerous time for us.

Sometimes Christians entertain such thoughts such as;
Don’t get too concerned…
Let’s keep things as they are…
Let someone else take care of it…
Or – I just don’t care. 

When life is good, easy, and comfortable. God becomes a God of last resort.

When we are in need, we usually take God more seriously. But when we are comfortable, and at ease, and prosperous, it is easier to become complacent about God and his kingdom.

A "stagnant, indifferent, complacent Christian" is an abomination to Christ. Christians such as this call upon the God for a self-righteous satisfaction. The complacent Christian calls upon God for help in times of trouble. But the complacent Christian has no intention of making Jesus the lord of life, the purpose of life, the way of life.

Our Lord said in the New Testament book of Revelation that He would rather a person be cold, utterly without profession of any sort of faith, rather than medium, lukewarm, "moderate."  He looked at an entire church and said, “You are neither hot nor cold, so I spit you out of my mouth!”
Being settled in complacency leaves us weak in the work we have to do for God. 

When I went to Haiti several years ago, I was told this local folk story:

A certain man wanted to sell his house for $2,000. Another man wanted very badly to buy it, but because he was poor, he couldn’t afford the full price. After much bargaining, the owner agreed to sell the house for half the original price with just one stipulation: he would retain ownership of one small nail protruding from just over the door.

After several years, the original owner wanted the house back, but the new owner was unwilling to sell. So first the owner went out found the corpse of a dead dog, and hung it from the nail he still owned. Soon the house became unlivable and the family was forced to sell the house to the owner of the nail.

The Haitian pastor’s conclusion: "If we leave the Devil with even one small peg in our life, he will return to hang his rotting garbage on it, making our life unfit for Christ to live in."

Complacency is that Peg!
Any old thing can hang on the peg of complacency – anything that can move us to become lukewarm to God.

Complacency lowers your determination to be obedient to God.

Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, told a story about a goose who was wounded and who landed in a barnyard with some chickens.

He played with the chickens and ate with the chickens.

After a while that goose thought he was a chicken.

One day a flight of geese came over, migrating to their home. They gave a honk up there in the sky, and he heard it.

The philosopher said, "Something stirred within the breast of this goose. Something called him to the skies. He began to flap the wings he hadn’t used, and he rose a few feet into the air. Then he stopped, and he settled back again into the mud of the barnyard. He heard the cry, but he settled for less."

Complacency settles for less than what God intended us to be!

Zephaniah has a harsh word to say about the person who has become spiritually complacent.  In our Old Testament lesson, Zephaniah said that God would search the city and “punish the men who are settled in complacency, who say in their heart, ’The LORD will not do good, nor will He do evil.’”

Zephaniah opens his book with a statement about who he is.  He gives his credential.  It’s like hanging one’s diploma in the office, or business license in the store.
Zephaniah starts his book with, “The word of the LORD that came to Zephaniah son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah.”

Not that is important because it gave Zephaniah a credential.  Hezekiah had been a king.  And he was a great king, and he was king when the nation was excited and committed to God.

But in Zephaniah’s time, almost everyone was complacent about God.  God was no longer worshipped.  The nation cared very little for God or the things about God.

But Zephaniah had heard stories about his great great granddaddy.  King Hezekiah.   The Old Testament book of II Kings says this:
5  Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.
6  He held fast to the LORD and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the LORD had given Moses.
7  And the LORD was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook. (II Kings 18:5-7).

Hezekiah lived a life as far from being complacent about God as possible.

He was on fire for God.

Contrast Hezekiah’s day to Zephaniah’s day, and they are worlds apart.

So Zephaniah preaches a very harsh message to the complacent people of his day.

Zephaniah says, beginning in chapter 1, verse 12:
12 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dregs, who think, 'The LORD will do nothing, either good or bad.'
13 Their wealth will be plundered, their houses demolished. They will build houses but not live in them; they will plant vineyards but not drink the wine.
14 "The great day of the LORD is near-- near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the LORD will be bitter, the shouting of the warrior there.
15 That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness,
16 a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the corner towers.
17 I will bring distress on the people and they will walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD. Their blood will be poured out like dust and their flesh like dung.

Wow!  God does not tolerate complacency.

Now, we are all subject to becoming complacent.

Our souls become tired.  Our spirits become fatigued. 

We find ourselves thinking that the poor are all around us, someone else can take care of them.

There are lonely people in the church we could call on, but we don’t.

There are people in our neighborhood we could invite to come to church, but we ignore them.

But God does not tolerate complacency.  He expects us to work and he expects of us excellent things.

Sometimes, it could even be the very church that leads us to become complacent.

I remember when I was a kid, I went to a private school and every day we had a Chapel service.  We had prayers, read scripture, had a little sermon.  And sang hymns.  And one day we sang ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS.

    This is not a common hymn any longer.  It used to be rather popular, but a lot of people have never heard it.  We sang it at the beginning of today’s worship, but it is not in our hymnal, it was in the supplemental hymnbook we use.

Because it was written in 1865, many people think this is about the Civil War, but no – it was not even written in this country, but in England.  And it was written in haste by a minister who was trying to get children to move to their Sunday School classes.  The children, being children, would run and get distracted as they moved from the sanctuary to their class rooms, so the pastor gave them a flag and some banners and a big cross to carry and he wrote this hymn:
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
Forward into battle see His banners go!

      In spite of the militaristic language, it was not really about earthly warfare, but the struggles of good and evil – and its main purpose was to get the kids to march to Sunday School.
      Now when I was a kid, and when we went to Chapel in our private school, we sang that song one day.
      And you can’t sing that song without getting into the rhythm – or at least we as children couldn’t.  So we were singing.  We sang loudly.
      And we started marching!
      We weren’t going anywhere, but we marching in place.
      And we were getting into it!
      And the feet were marching, and the bodies were swaying, and the we had that little chapel rocking.
      Onward Christian Soldiers, marching as to war!
      And it was great until the minister made us stop.
      And then he said we lacked dignity.
      So he made us stop singing.
And he picked another hymn.
And we didn’t know that hymn.
And we didn’t like hymn.
Blah, blah, blah blah God.
Blah blah blah blah the Lord.
It was awful.
Passion for the Lord is natural.
If you’ve lost it, its time to get it back.
This is not the time to be complacent, but to be excited and committed to God.

Copyright 2014

Dr. Maynard Pittendreigh