Church of God, New World Ministries

Avoiding Spiritual Lethargy

The Old Testament is a chronicle of human failures and successes. The accounts are in case history. They point out where and why some failed and how others succeeded.

God caused these examples to be cataloged for us. Now we must remember that Jesus Christ (or the God of the Old Testament) was on the scene when these men lived. He knew why and where they made mistakes.

Christ recognized their particular human weakness which we all struggle against. But Christ has something further in mind. Christ knew He was going to call out of this world thousands of human beings.

This vanguard of pioneers would have a great purpose: “To be trained to one day assume high positions of authority and responsibility in His Kingdom.” This is where you and I come in. Each of us can be a part of the advance unit of believers. (Enroll today in our mini-series, “God’s Master Plan of Salvation”).

New Testament believers have the same weaknesses as the people of the Old Testament. So, Jesus Christ saw to it that these case histories were preserved for us. Christ stripped human nature bare – so we could probe its weaknesses and not fall into it clutches.

We read in I Cor. 10:11-12, “Now in these events our ancestors stand as examples to us, warning us not to crave after evil things as they did. Now these things which happened to our ancestors are illustrations of the way in which God works, and they were written to be a warning to us who are the heirs of the ages which have gone before us. So let the man who feels sure of his standing today be careful that he “does not fall tomorrow(Phillips translation).

Let’s take a look at six human kings in the Old Testament and see why they failed. These kings of Judah had everything going for them. They launched into their careers with great trust and faith in God.

Each would have been considered a pillar member of God’s Church today. All of them certainly had a zealous “first love.”

But they found themselves a spiritual shipwreck at the end of their lives. They became spiritually weak. They began to make mistakes. They threw away their faith. They died in disgrace.

These examples are important to us! Because large numbers are spiritually weak in God’s Church today. Many are making mistakes and sinning. Some are on the verge of throwing away their faith. A few may die in spiritual disgrace.

Does this apply to you?

As we read through each king’s life – apply the principles to yourself. Ask yourself, “Am I guilty of this weakness?” Because you can be sure of this: If you have problems in any of these areas – you are becoming spiritually lethargic!!

Asa – The Faithless King

Asa’s life is recorded in II Chronicles, chapters 14-16. Read it in its entirety (as you should the other king’s lives also).

Asa began his career with a “bang.  With great zeal, he destroyed all the worship places of the pagan gods. Asa rooted immorality out of Judah. The “queers” and homosexuals were among the first to be punished.

Judah was becoming spiritually clean. Asa was prospering, greatness was around the corner. He proved his loyalty to God.

Asa was able to lick his problems. When Zerah the Ethiopian rattled his military muscles, Asa stood firm. One million men in battle gear faced him. Chariots galore kicked up dust. Zerah was threatening Judah with obliteration.

Problems? Yes. But here was Asa’s attitude:

“Asa cried unto the Lord his God, and said, Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name, we go against this multitude’ (II Chron. 14:11).

God answered that prayer. Zerah was destroyed. So was his army. So were his armaments.

For thirty-five long years, Asa was faithful. But then he made a “mistake.”

However, before we see what happened – remember this! Asa’s “problems” were building up for years. It merely manifested itself when a trial came. No doubt, Asa was steadily losing contact with his Creator over a period of months and years. He had forgotten God. When a sudden trial came, he failed.

Now came the telltale problem that exposed his Laodicean attitude. “In the six and thirtieth year of the reign of Asa, Baasha king of Israel came up against Judah, and built Ramah, to the intent that he might let none go out or come in to Asa king of Judah.

“Then Asa brought out silver and gold out of the treasures of the house of the Lord and of the king’s house, and sent to Ben-hadad king of Syria, that dwelt at Damascus, saying, there is a league between me and thee” (II Chron. 16:1-3).

His weakness exposed its ugly head. Asa was trapped. If he had only been close to God, he would have known what to do. But Asa was caught off guard. He had drifted away! And not only that, he never found his way back to the right road.

Asa never repented. He raged out at the messenger God sent to show him what to do. He even clapped the seer into prison. Asa was so mad he took it out on the general populace.

The rocky road to disaster continued. In the thirty-ninth year of his reign he fell sick. But still – no repentance!

Asa was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the Eternal, but to the physicians. And Asa slept with his fathers, and died in the one and fortieth years of his reign” (II Chron. 16:12-13).

Asa had two years to repent and quit trusting in doctors. But he never made it.

Asa’s basic problem was a longstanding spiritual laxness. It became evident when political pressures came. It could be clearly seen when he became ill. Asa was not much different than some of God’s people today.

Imagine yourself! Think back to the time when you first came into God’s Church.  You probably would have given up wife, brother, sister, job or even your own life. But now you may no longer have that burning zeal and deep faith.

And why? For this simple reason. Prayer time has gone by the wayside. Bible study has been curtailed. Fasting has been neglected. Meditation has been forgotten. Contact with God is thread-bare.

Is this you? If so, the slightest problem is going to snap that weak thread of faith. It happened to Asa. It can happen to you!

Joash – The Drifter King

Joash was a “drifter” by nature. He did fine as long as someone was around to prod him. But out on his own – he drifted into disaster.

Again, note the parallel.

Are you one who must be constantly prodded by God’s ministers, constantly visited, constantly corrected – and almost cajoled into obeying God?

Joash had this problem. It caused his downfall.

“And Joash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (II Chron. 24:2).  But Jehoiada died – and Joash fell.

“Now after the death of Jehoiada came the princes of Judah, and made obeisance to the king. Then the king hearkened unto them. And they left the house of the Lord God of their fathers, and served groves and idols: and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their trespass” (II Chron. 24:17-18).

Rather fickle – but very familiar. Sounds like Satan and his demons trying to put thoughts into our minds. Trying to make us turn away from God. And some listen!

But again, we have the familiar problem. Joash did fine at first, but finally failed. He drifted away from God. Joash murdered Jehoiada’s son when he rebuked him for his mistake. Next, a small band of Syrians conquered Judah. Then, Joash became diseased. Finally, his own servants murdered him. Joash died in ignominy.

Is this happening to you? Let this be a warning!!!

Amaziah – The Dabbler King

The tragedy of Amaziah is almost a jugular vein comedy. Amaziah had a peculiar weakness. He, like many people in the world – and in God’s Church-- was a religious hobbyist.

Here is the story of his weakness.

“Now it came to pass, after that Amaziah was come from the slaughter of the Edomites, that he brought the gods of the children of Seir, and set them up to be his gods and bowed down himself before them, and burned incense unto them” (II Chron.  25:14).

But it didn’t get through to Amaziah. So Amaziah was a “religious dabbler.” How else can you explain his head-scratching actions?

The sad thing is this. Many in God’s Church today have the same identical problem!

Some see – as we all should – the vanity of this world’s religions. God lays bare the error-permeated doctrines that exist. He lavishly reveals His Truth. And yet, some of God’s people begin to dabble in this world’s ideas. Some listen to other preachers. A few allow representative of other false religions to darken their door. Some read magazines and articles slanted against this Work – or against God’s Truth on race, religion, politics or medicine.

Doubts begin to creep in. Some become skeptical of the way this Work is handled. Others begin to idolize physical possessions – after living a lifetime of experience which proved that these by themselves do not bring happiness! But they once again “trust” in these things. These “gods of the people.”

God has set the utter debacle of Amaziah as a witness against us. It blinks the neon sign. “Human nature tends to worship vain and false gods.” We can see Amaziah’s mistake. Can we take the beam of idolatry out of our own eyes? God help you to see – before it’s too late!

Uzziah -The Presumptuous King

The story of Uzziah is found in II Chronicle 26.

“He sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper” (II Chron 26:5). With God’s power, he destroyed the Philistines, then the Arabians, then the Mehunims. The Ammonites became subservient to Uzziah. Judah’s border stretched to Egypt. The nation began to abound in livestock. Agriculture soared. Uzziah was carving out a tremendous empire! “And his name spread far abroad: for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong” (II Chron. 26:15).

But at the pinnacle of his career – he fell! But why did he fall?

The answer: “But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction” (II Chron. 26:16).

Uzziah had been around a long time. Perhaps nearly 50 years. He might have been called a “pioneer member” in God’s Church today. But he drifted into a proud attitude. Here was the consequence of losing contact with God.

The priests withstood Uzziah. They told him: “It appertained not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the Lord. But to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honor from the Lord God.

“Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the Lord from beside the incense altar” (II Chron. 26:18-19).

Uzziah didn’t agree with the way things were done. He probably knew these priests and their problems. Who were they to tell him what to do! – he probably thought. But how did he get that way?

By being spiritually lax. By forgetting God. By losing contact with him. And that’s what happens to some of God’s people today. They don’t like the ministers to tell them what to do. Their old opinions concerning childrearing or church government or some pet doctrine creep in.

It doesn’t matter what the manifestation is. The underlying problem is: They don’t agree with God. Why? Because they haven’t been “listening” to God “talking” to them through Bible study. They haven’t told God what a rotten mess they are through prayer. Is this you?

Have you lost the humbleness and meekness you had when you were baptized? You knew then (or should have known) your own insignificance. Do you feel you “know the ropes” now? Better change! There isn’t much time left!

Josiah – The Hard-Headed King

Josiah was a bit different. He wasn’t exactly rebellious. He just lacked wisdom. But his lack of wisdom caused his death!

His life story in found in II Chronicles, chapters 34, 35.

Josiah was just a child when he became king. At the tender age of sixteen he began to seek God. When he was age twenty, he destroyed all the worship places of the false religions in Judah – personally supervising the whole operation. At age twenty-six, he began to repair the House of God. It was then that the book of the law was found. After reading it, he saw where he needed to change. And he repented, and changed.

Later, we read this of Josiah: “And the king stood in his place, and made a covenant, before the Eternal, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book” (II Chron. 34:31).

Sound familiar?

It is!

We promised God the same thing when we were baptized. We gave God, as it were, “our word” – to obey Him all the way. We said that we wanted to be taught in every way. To obey everything. He said.  (Today, God speaks through the Bible and through His ministry.) We were teachable (and still should be) -even in “little” things. Like obeying speed laws, learning to dress properly, learning to deal with other people properly.

But now have we grown “older” in the church? Have we become a little bit careless? Josiah did. And he died because of his childish foolishness. The tragedy of Josiah’s death is that it happened over a matter that didn’t concern him. The tragedy is Josiah didn’t have a reprobate attitude, he was just hard-headed.

This is what occurred:

“After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Necho king of Egypt came up to fight against Carchemish by Euphrates: and Josiah went out against him. But he sent ambassadors to him, saying, what have I to do with thee, thou king of Judah? I come not against thee this day, but against the house where with I have war: for God commanded me to make haste: forbear thee from meddling with God, who is with me, that he destroy thee not” (II Chron. 35:20-21).

But Josiah didn’t heed. Josiah came down to Megiddo and fought with Necho. He was wounded and later died. What is the lesson for us?

Josiah was like the church member who put his foot in his mouth. He constantly gets in trouble with neighbors, in-laws, school and medical authorities. Like some members who try to preach to others – where they have no business preaching to them. But they won’t “forbear from meddling.” Is this you?

When the subject is discussed in articles and sermons, do you see it applies to you? If not, you’re headed for trouble – like Josiah.

Solomon – The Worldly King

Solomon typifies the Christian who has once again become enmeshed in the cares of this world. The person in God’s Church who finds himself in this Laodicean condition: “And the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:19).

But Solomon would also have been a model Christian – one who would be considered as having great zeal in God’s Church today. Notice his godly attitude.

“I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people whom thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.

“Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people” (I Kings 3:7-9).

But Solomon grew old and he lost his childlike attitude (Mark 10:14)! He got entangled with what this world offers. Read the book of Ecclesiastes. It’s his own confession. The last thing we read of Solomon is: “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father” (I Kings 11:4).

Perhaps the tragedy of Solomon was the greatest. He started so far up the ladder – and tumbled so far down. Everything was in his favor. But he let it all slip away from him. How do you measure up?

Are you letting the things of this world turn you away from God? Are you so concerned with the physical things around you, that you don’t have time for God? If you are too busy to study, pray and meditate – you are too busy! Take time out for God first, then do everything else.

Is some physical thing getting more attention and interest than God? Better watch out! You’re slipping spiritually. Are you beginning to lust after things you shouldn’t have or even think about? There’s only one problem. You’ve gone off away from God. He isn’t real to you anymore. You need to get a grip on your mind. Don’t slip. Don’t be like Solomon in his old age. Be like Solomon when he began.

It isn’t enough just to begin obeying God.  He shows throughout his Word that it is more important how we end our life than how we begin it. We read in Revelation 2:26: “To him that overcomes and keeps my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations.”

We must be diligent to the end of our life.

The apostle Paul calls the Christian life a race. In a mile race, it isn’t so much the man who slips away from the starting point in a burst of speed, as it is the man who breaks the tape. To start first is fine. But to come in first is the deciding factor.

He wrote in I Cor. 9:24-27: “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain. And every man that strives for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.”

“I therefore so run not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beats the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway!” The apostle Paul realized he could lose out in the end.

Have you been letting down? Have you started out with a burst of spiritual speed only to sink down in the mire of spiritual lethargy? It’s time to wake up. You could lose out!

Ezekiel gives us this dire warning. “But when the righteous turns away from his righteousness, and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All his righteousness that he has done shall not be mentioned: for in his trespass that he has trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die” (Ezk. 18:24)!

This is a frightening warning! It we end our life in a state of disobedience, God will forget our righteousness.

Let’s heed that warning. Let’s conquer the weaknesses that are beginning to overtake us. Cry out to God Almighty to supply the desire, strength, zeal to continue to overcome. Begin to pray fervently. Study with drive. Meditate. Fast when necessary.

Let’s be Christians of Ezekiel 18:21-22: “But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he has committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he has committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him. In his righteousness that he hath done he shall live!”

 
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