Spiritual complacency is essentially rebellion, which is as the sin of witchcraft. Real worship is our only real defence against this dangerous deception.
then beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. (Deuteronomy 6:12)
Complacency is a terrible thing at the best of times. The dictionary definition is: a feeling of smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements. Ouch. When applied to spiritual complacency, this takes on a far more sinister relevance, because it essentially implies the exclusion or disregard of God and all that He has done. I’ve often heard Christians mention – and fairly smugly – how unbelievable it is that the Israelites turned from God so many times, despite the evidence of all He did for them. The reality, though, is that we’re as human as they were. None of us are exempt from the dangers of spiritual complacency.
What is spiritual complacency?
If we look at our definition of complacency, we can clearly see how it ties in to today’s verse. When we are satisfied with our own achievements, we ‘forget the Lord.’ It’s not rocket science. There is no space for self and God to co-exist. We may read our Bibles, pray, participate in worship in Sunday services, and even do good work. But if we look to ourselves and our own accomplishments, we’ve fallen into spiritual complacency. Instead of giving thanks for what God has done in, through, and for us, we have that warm, fuzzy sense of satisfaction at our own achievements.
In essence, spiritual complacency is not giving God His rightful glory. It is where we are when we forget all the things He has done – not the least of which is bringing us out of the ‘Egypt’ of bondage to sin and death. Spiritual complacency, at its root, is pride. Self raises its ugly little head and reasserts its ‘rights.’ We look past the reality of our sinful and helpless condition and see only our own abilities and strengths. This not only denies God His rightful glory, but it also denies the necessity and the power of the cross.
How God views spiritual complacency.
Today’s verse opens with a warning every believer should take very seriously. Beware means to take extreme care, to see the danger of something and avoid it. It means to be watchful and cautious, to be on guard, and to make every effort to protect ourselves. We simply cannot afford to skim over this severe warning because it reflects God’s response to our spiritual complacency. In a nutshell, He tells us to take extreme care that we do not fall into this condition. When He issues this kind of a warning, we need to pull up the handbrake and immediately examine ourselves. Then we need to keep the reminder constantly in mind as a guide for our future walk.
The Bible tells us that God is a jealous God. In fact, it actually says His name is jealous (Exodus 34:14) This is written in the context that we must worship only God. But when we fall into spiritual complacency, we’re worshiping self rather than God by taking the glory for ourselves when it belongs to Him. Part of our worship is giving glory to God. But wait, there’s more. I am the Lord, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images. (Isaiah 42:8) This makes it very clear that God absolutely will not share His glory, and especially not with His creation. This truth highlights the serious danger of spiritual complacency that we ignore at our peril.
Spiritual complacency puts us in rebellion.
Remember Satan and how he rebelled against God? The essence of his rebellion was reaching out to assume the glory that belonged to God alone. For that, he was thrown out of heaven. Then, think about Adam and Eve. It was when Satan told them that they would ‘be like God’ that they succumbed to temptation. The result was rebellion – sinning by breaking the commands of God and, in doing so, seeking to share His glory. We all know the consequences of that – consequences that put man out of the garden and relationship with God, and which ultimately led to the cross as the only means of redemption.
1 Samuel 15:23 tells us that For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. Now there’s a truth we don’t really want to hear. We somehow assume that witchcraft equals occult, but this tells a different story. The sin of witchcraft essentially involves turning away from God and replacing Him with idols of our own creation. These idols are empowered, in one way or another, by the demonic. What this means is that our spiritual complacency is actually idolatry. We are worshiping self, not God. Little wonder, then, that God tells us to ‘beware.’
How we fall into spiritual complacency.
Interestingly enough, the context of today’s verse is the ‘good times,’ and that alone is very telling. It’s a fact that when the going is tough, we turn to God. When we’re experiencing trials and tribulations, it’s easy to ‘remember’ God and all that He has done and is able to do. In those back-against-the-wall moments, we readily keep our eyes on the Lord and we’re quick to acknowledge our own helplessness and inadequacy. The harder the trial or battle, the less likely we are to fall into spiritual complacency.
But the good times lull us and seduce us. When things are going well, we have no real ‘need’ of God. We have no reason to call on Him for salvation or deliverance. More often than not, if we’re not ‘driven’ to turn to God, we don’t. We don’t give Him the time and attention we should. While we’re buoyed up with a sense of well-being, God somehow ends up on the back burner. We know He’s there and that we should spend time with Him, but the impetus is missing. Tomorrow becomes the next day, becomes next week or even next month. Slowly, we’re subtly seduced into imagining that we’re doing a good job and don’t have to worry God. That’s deception, and it’s the beginning of the slippery slide into spiritual complacency.
Spiritual complacency must be actively avoided.
Once again, that word ‘beware’ is critical. It provides us with not only a warning of the consequences but the key to avoid spiritual complacency. We must be watchful and alert, and search ourselves for the signs of imminent danger. There are a few things we need to do. The first, of course, is to exercise self-discipline and to remain faithful to our daily commitment to spend time with God. Our relationship with Him is not based on our need of Him. It’s a way of life, a covenant relationship that we need to actively pursue. Prayer isn’t only about asking for what we need. It’s about simply enjoying time with Him, praising Him and thanking Him, and about being obedient and living lives that bring Him glory.
The second thing to do is to continually remind ourselves of who and what we are, and who and what God is. This means living in the revelation of the cross and daily acknowledging our sinfulness. It means accepting that all things come from God, including our abilities, talents, intellectual prowess, and potential. Nothing happens but by His will and through the power of His Spirit. Without Him we are nothing and can do nothing of any eternal value. We need to allow the Spirit to train us to recognise pride and self-satisfaction. Then, we must be ruthless and rip it out. Finally, we need to continually remind ourselves of all that He has done and is doing. Thanksgiving is a powerful preventative measure against spiritual complacency. If we remind ourselves daily of what God has done, we will never come to the place where we ‘forget’ Him.
Worship is our real protection against spiritual complacency.
All of these things can be summed up in one simple word – worship. Not singing songs or shouting praise, but living lives in surrender and obedience to God. The heart of worship is putting God first in everything. It’s living in His presence, knowing His holiness, glory, power, and majesty, and including Him in every aspect of our lives. When we look to and live for God alone and come into His presence daily in real worship, spiritual complacency will never find a foothold. Real worship is our only real protection. When we live right relationship with God, daily and in each moment, worship is our natural response because God will fill our vision with Himself.
Thank You, Lord, for Your warning words, and for taking the time to remind us of the dangers that so easily seduce us away from You. Help us to see ourselves always in the light of the cross so that self finds no foothold. Grant us the grace to dwell in Your presence, to fix our eyes only on You, and to live lives of worship that give You the glory that is rightfully Yours. Guide us always, so that we may not raise self as an idol against You and inadvertently fall into rebellion.