The Danger of Spiritual Complacency

The Danger of Spiritual Complacency
Zephaniah 1:1-13
“And I will punish the men who are stagnant in spirit, who say in their hearts, the God will not do good or evil.”

The prophecy of Zephaniah was unexpected. He proclaimed his prophecy during the period of spiritual reform and revival in Judah. The reign of Josiah was one of the spiritual high watermarks of the country. It was said of Josiah that “He did right in the sight of the Lord and walked in the all the ways of his father David, nor did he turn aside to the right or to the left” (2 Kings 22:3). Coupled with the guidance Of Hilkiah the Priest, Josiah brought spiritual forms to the nation by destroying high places and renewing the covenant with God. At the end of his life, it was said of Josiah that “Before him there was no king like him who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses: nor did any like him arise after him” (2 King 23:25). In light of these reforms, it is surprising that Zephaniah would prophesy of the coming judgment of God upon the nation. 

This brings us to the question, why would God pronounce judgment upon Judah at a time when the nation seemed to be having a spiritual revival? The answer lies in the opening chapter. Even as Josiah was leading the nation in spiritual reform, the cracks in the nation's foundation were crumbling. We first discover that the spiritual reform was not complete in the people's hearts. While Josiah was wholehearted in his devotion to God, the people were not. In 1:4-5 we find God condemning the people because they were vacillating in their worship. While affirming their worship of God, they were still worshipping tolerating Baal and worshipping the sun, the moon, and the stars. In other words, they were worshiping the Lord and the other gods at the same time. While affirming the God of Israel, they were not giving their exclusive allegiance to the Lord God alone.

Furthermore, we find that they were “stagnant in spirit” (1:12). The phrase refers to one who is “contented to a fault with oneself or one’s actions.” They were self-secure and undisturbed. Complacency is a cancer of the soul that strikes when we become apathetic in our spiritual life. We acknowledge God but reject his Lordship and sovereign working in the affirms of our life. We can become indifferent to God’s activity. We make God remote and uninvolved and engaged in our life. When they say in their hearts, “The Lord will not do good or evil!” they are saying that God is unconcerned about how we live. For the people of Judah, how we live no longer matters, for God will neither reward obedience nor judge disobedience.  

Spiritual complacency sets in when we no longer see God’s activity. We regulate God to the periphery of our life. Christ warns of the same danger when he writes to the church in Laodicea, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth” (revelation 3:14-15). To become spiritually lukewarm is to become indifferent toward God. While we still acknowledge his presence and even his supremacy in the universe, we live without consideration of him.  

God is a jealous God who desires our complete devotion, where we strive to obey him and submit to his word in all things. God wants us to surrender our will and purpose to him completely. When we fail to do so, we face the discipline of God to bring us back to him. It is one thing to verbally affirm our faith in God it is another to genuinely surrender completely to God.


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