“A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest, Then your [spiritual] poverty will come as a robber” (Proverbs 24:33-34 NASB).
Brad and Debbie Sweeney
The prospective bride of Christ presently lives in “the best of times.” It is an unparalleled era of clearer Scriptural understanding of the Creator and His divine plan in which to place our complete faith. We also possess unprecedented amounts of leisure time, freedom, and opportunity to serve the Lord.
Yet, today, the prospective bride of Christ also lives in “the worst of times.” Now may be the most dangerous period in the history of the Gospel Age Church of falling into the perilous condition of spiritual lethargy.
When we describe spiritual lethargy in one’s consecration with the Heavenly Father, there is an attitude of laziness or slothfulness in one’s spiritual duties and responsibilities. A spiritually lethargic person is one who has lost passion and zeal in his or her spiritual life due to a lack of the influence of God’s holy Spirit.
Those who have consecrated to the Heavenly Father to be baptized into Christ’s death have a solemn lifetime spiritual work ahead of them. Paul urges us to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12,13 NASB). Not with self-assurance, but “with fear and trembling,” “with reverence and awe” (Goodspeed).
During “the best of times” we may forget how wonderfully the Lord has blessed us. There is a danger that our consecration may become commonplace in our hearts.
In today’s technological, fast-paced society, negative influences bombard the spiritual heart and mind. The unholy effects of the spirit of the world, and the devil prey on our fallen flesh. Our spiritual-work life can be adversely affected through such mechanisms as the mass media, social media, and the workplace. Most of our free time could be used up in viewing or using television, Netflix, the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, and our mobile phones and devices.
Sports, recreation, vacation travel, homes and workplace could also rob us of time that could be used for our spiritual work. If we do not use these activities appropriately, they can begin to dominate the hearts and minds of our “old man.” Spiritual lethargy then can begin to creep over us if we are not alert, as we devote attention to these earthly influences. This condition causes us to slumber to our consecrated duties and obligations. It will be manifested in laxness to our Christian work, and we can become “spiritually poor.”
The consecrated-work life of a Christian has three key features: study, service, and character development. All three require a strong prayer life to the Heavenly Father for His guidance and blessing. Prayer is the lifeline of the New Creation. Spiritual lethargy decreases ones appreciation and value of the Truth. It results in diminishing desire to personally study the Scriptures. It spawns indifference to the privileges of meeting to study with the Lord’s people in an ecclesia or convention setting.
Paul warns us: “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19 NASB). As “vessels of the Lord” we need to continually study God’s word. There is no time to spiritually sleep! We must study to fill our new minds and hearts with His holy Spirit. Study is not merely for head knowledge but to direct our Christian lives. God reveals Himself to us through His Word. Such study will maintain our spiritual joys, hopes, aims, and energy. God wants the power of His Truth and His precious promises to mold us into His image and inspire us to activity in His service.
Spiritual lethargy will result in a lack of desire to be active in service to God and the household of faith. It will also dampen our desire to spread the glad tidings of the Gospel by letting our lights shine as a witness to the world.
The Joys of Self-Sacrifice
We are to lay down our lives for the brethren (1 John 3:16). We should ask ourselves if we are doing all we can to serve our brethren. The Lord expects us to do this as part of our spiritual work and show our worthiness of “the great salvation.”
There are many ways we can serve the brethren. One important way is to build up one another up in our most holy faith. It is through speaking the truth in love that we grow up into Him in all things (Ephesians 4:15). The joys of self-sacrifice can overcome the burden of lethargy.
We need to ask ourselves if we are active in the work of sharing the gospel message with our family, friends, neighbors, and workmates through our actions, words, or printed material.
Spiritual lethargy also produces a character not pleasing to God. If we do not fill “our vessels” with God’s Word and His Spirit through study and service, there is grave danger that the void will be filled with the knowledge, attitudes, and character of the adversary and the world. Their unholy spirit can taint a character with mammon, selfishness, impatience, faultfinding, envy, malice, and strife.
The work of our spiritual studies and service will lead to growth in our Christian character. The power and influence of God’s holy Spirit through these activities will have the sanctifying effect of producing the graces of character in Christ’s likeness.
Let us review two illustrations of spiritual lethargy occurring to the prospective bride of Christ in Scripture. (1) The young lady in Song of Solomon Chapter 5 finds out that her love is not as deep and true as it must be to become a worthy bride. Initially she does not respond to her bridegroom’s knock at the door and lies listless on her bed. This is reminiscent of the Laodicean, who became wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked (Revelation 3:17). Due to her lethargy, the grandest of all prospects — of being the “called, and chosen, and faithful” bride of Christ — has been lost. If she had been awake to the work of developing her relationship with him, she would have opened the door when he knocked and would have made any sacrifice for Him.
In the Lord’s message to the church of Ephesus we are told that these brethren had left their “first love.” This should be a warning to all of the Lord’s people. A cooling of zeal in our consecrated work is usually a gradual process. So always be vigilant that spiritual lethargy is not creeping into our lives to keep us from “always abounding in the work of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
(2) The foolish virgins of Matthew 25 also serve well to demonstrate to us the danger of becoming lethargic to spiritual work. These virgins were spiritually poor because they had too little oil. They did not keep their vessels filled with God’s holy Spirit. They could not keep their lamps burning because they became lazy and fell asleep to their spiritual duties of prayerful study, service, and character development.
When we were first enlightened and became followers of the Master, we had that “first love.” We possessed zeal and enthusiasm for our consecration and spiritual work of prayerful study, service, and character development. The test is now to maintain this worthy attitude during this perilous last period of the Gospel Age church.
We must not fold our hands or fall asleep to the duties, obligations, and privileges of our consecrated spiritual work. We must not let our modern-day prosperity and high-tech distractions create spiritual lethargy in the minds and hearts of our New Creature. We must “take time to be holy.”
Paul admonishes us today, “Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically” (Romans 12:11 NLT).
“For you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but be alert and sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:5-6 NASB).