The Virus of Complacency (12-3-17)

Success is pursued by everyone, but only achieved by few. When it is strongly desired, it becomes the fuel that ignites a person’s motivation, focus, and dedication. Anyone who has been blessed to taste the sweet victory of success will be consistent in revealing first the several failures they encountered prior to reaching their goal. Yet despite the several challenges and stumbles along the road, that zeal for reaching their mark did not allow their hope to flame out. Instead of allowing the setbacks to create discouragement in them, they wisely transformed those failures into lessons that guided their journey onward toward victory. Although it is undeniable that to triumph by defying all the odds against one’s favor is amazing, there is a silent threat that lurks in the shadows of success that any victor must beware. American author Augustine “Og” Mandino said concerning this danger, “I will not allow yesterday’s success to lull me into today’s complacency, for this is the great foundation of failure.” Complacency is defined as “self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies” (Merrian-Webster Online Dictionary). Thus, it is important to realize that success is often threatened by complacency because it invites stagnation. Stagnation gives birth to a spirit of conformism and gives death to the spirit of diligence. This virus is especially dangerous when it becomes present in a person’s spiritual life. As he sought to encourage the persecuted brethren during the first century, the inspired Peter exhorted “beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2nd Peter 3:17-18, emphasis added). Without a doubt, God consistently encourages His children to “strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24, emphasis added). Both, Peter and Luke, illuminate the worth of constant spiritual growth, but also reveal that salvation can be lost due to negligence. One must understand that complacency is a unique form of negligence. It is unique because it stems from arrogance and self-reliance founded on personal achievements. James, too, warns he who is self-assured (based on previous success) that his plans will not always go accordingly. He makes manifest that this complacent thought makes him unaware that “now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (James 4:16, emphasis added). This gains strength when it is revealed that the culprit is ignoring that life is “a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14b). The inspired writer illustrates with this very probable change of events why assuring tomorrow is foolish and complacent. He who concludes that his success is permanent in this world has allowed it to blind him from reality. He begins to be lulled by the melody of conformism, and his growth becomes stunned. His complacent attitude causes his guard to come down and his “pride goes before destruction” tragically creating “a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). For this reason, the apostle Paul wisely promulgates “brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). It is wonderful to perceive the humility and meekness of this great servant of the Lord’s. It is a verified fact that Paul had zealously labored for God and His people more than any of his contemporaries. Perhaps, this zeal was a product of his mighty desire to amend for his regrettable persecution of the church. Anyone could make the argument that by the time he had written this epistle to the Philippians, Paul had already made enough amends for his actions of the past with the amount of suffering he had endured for the sake of the church (Acts 14:19-22, 2nd Corinthians 11:22-33). Yet, we read in Paul’s own words that there was still much road left for him to travel and that making amends was not the absolute reason he worked so arduously. He begins by clarifying that what he does first is forget the past. Remember that a trait of complacency is dwelling on past achievements. In the case of the apostle, had he remained focused on his wicked actions he would have been consumed by shame and guilt; however, had he believed that his debt to Christ was fully paid then his true reward would have eluded him. Paul did not allow his past decisions (good and bad) to shorten his vision, but instead adhered to his own advice of “in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature” (1st Corinthians 14:20b). Peter echoes Paul’s counsel as he encourages every Christian to be “as newborn babes, [who] desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1st Peter 2:2, emphasis added and addition mine). The imagery implemented by the Holy Spirit indisputably rejects any thoughts of complacency since it is a well known fact that the curiosity and hunger of a child are essential to his survival. It is how he learns to walk, speak, and process thoughts thoroughly. If the child were to become complacent in always being carried in the arms of the parent, then the consequences would result in an underdeveloped child. Hence the caution expressed by the Holy Spirit in this analogy against becoming complacent with this world. A disciple of Christ will never find satisfaction in this world because the desire he strives after is “that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple” (Psalm 27:4, emphasis added). The poet continues to demonstrate that his curiosity makes him “long for Your salvation, o Lord, and Your law is my delight” thus eliminating the virus of complacency (Psalm 119:174, emphasis added). Indeed his thirst could not be quenched in this world for “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You” (Psalm 73:25). Therefore it is important to understand that complacency is a dangerous virus that stuns spiritual growth, but also that the cure for this virus is the diligent study and practice of God’s word (2nd Timothy 2:15).

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