“Complacency is the forerunner of mediocrity. You can never work too hard on attitudes, effort and technique.” -Coach Don Meyer- former college basketball coach (over 900 victories)
Although I’ve never been a coach, I would bet that one of their hardest jobs is to guard their team against complacency. It is one of the few things that can destroy a team from within. In my experience a team that enjoys too much success or endures too much failure can be a breeding ground for complacency. On any team you will find guys who are just “happy to be here.” They’ve made it to the NFL and they’re just happy to get a check and wear the cool sweat suits. Sometimes they are the guys who have been All-Pro and sometimes they are the guys who bounce from team to team, never really finding a home. In either case, they have been smitten by complacency. Like a slithery snake, complacency sneaks into our consciousness and gradually changes our attitudes, which in turn changes our actions.
En route to an undefeated season in 2007, coach Bill Belichick’s warning to the Patriots grew stronger and stronger with each victory. “Don’t allow success to make you complacent. We haven’t arrived,” he would say in so many words. “We have a long road ahead of us with many perils.” He wanted to be sure that we kept the same total commitment and dedication to winning whether we lost every game or won every game.
If you’ve ever been on a long road trip, you know about one of the most important buttons on the vehicle (besides the passenger eject button): Cruise Control! There’s nothing better than setting that speed and taking your foot off the accelerator to rest those aching ankles. Not too fast, not too slow. Turn up the volume, zone out and enjoy the ride. It’s just the opposite in life. And it’s actually dangerous in the Christian life.
According to Revelations 3, Jesus sincerely dislikes complacency. Through the inspired writings of the Apostle John on the Island of Patmos, Jesus tells the church of Laodicea “ I know the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were one or the other!”
God knows our hearts. Our good works do not fool him. He knows if we are in cruise control, keeping up with the flow of traffic but not pressing the gas. Jesus calls the Laodiceans “lukewarm.” In essence, he calls them useless. You can’t cook or clean with lukewarm water and it offers you no refreshment on a hot day. What purpose does it serve? Jesus wants his followers to lead people to Himself. What message does a cruise controlling Christian send? Because of this He says “I will spit you out of my mouth.” I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be spit out of anyone’s mouth. Have you become lackadaisical in pursuing holiness, or prayer or Bible study? Have you compromised truth for the prevailing “wisdom” of the culture? Are you emotionally apathetic to things of God? Have you forgotten the awesomeness of his grace and the wretchedness of your soul? I know have at times. Complacency doesn’t grow overnight. Revelations says the Laodiceans had become wealthy and self-sufficient but spiritually they were blind, naked and poor. I pray that I never allow worldly success to take the place of the hunger I should have for Christ. There are many of us who Christ is about to spit out of his mouth and the sad thing is, we don’t even know it. Many times our worldly riches give us a false sense of security. If all we have to our name are a bunch of “things’, we truly are poor, wretched, pitiful and blind before a holy God.
Be encouraged. There is a remedy. Jesus says in verse 18, “Buy gold from Me and become rich. Buy white garments for your nakedness and ointment for your eyes so that you can see.” Finally he says, “Be diligent and turn from your indifference.” WHY? Because I LOVE YOU. If I did not, I would just let you go. In other words, “ I have eternal spiritual treasures that I want you to have. Through me, you can have a right relationship with your Creator. Through me, your present and future can be secure. So turn back to me, your first love.”
You see, we naturally become complacent. We become busy with our jobs, consumed with family matters, and bound to our ambitions. But worse than busyness, some of us feel like we have “arrived.” Truth be told our complacency is evidence that the burning need we once felt for Him has faded and we are content with where we are: saved and going to heaven. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a great thing, but there is so much more. Just as I know and love my wife more now than when we first met, we should know and love Christ more now than when we first believed.
Like a marriage, or an NFL season, there will be ebbs and flows in our Christian life. The fire may not always be raging, but there should always be coals smoldering waiting to be stoked. Complacency is cancerous, quenching not only your fire but also that of those around you. That’s why coach Belichick gave his message so fervently. We must be earnest, repent and chase Jesus diligently and purposefully whether we are on the mountaintops or valleys of life.
The letter to the Laodiceans ends with a familiar verse. Jesus says, “Here I am I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him and he with me. (Verse 20)”
If you are in a season of complacency, understand that Jesus is knocking and has been knocking. I don’t know how long he will knock but I do know that His sheep hear his voice and will eventually open the door and let Him in. He promises to dine with us in intimacy and ongoing fellowship, here and throughout eternity. Jesus is the one who can jumpstart us out of our complacency. We just have to let him in.
Further Reading: Revelation 3