I’ve got a problem. It’s not a good one to have, and I really don’t think I am alone in it. In fact, I think there are a lot of Christians that have this problem. We cover it up, but it’s still there. It’s not a new thing. In fact, it’s been around for centuries. All the years the church has been around, and we still have it…
It goes by a different names – Pride, Arrogance, Conceited. Mark Lowry likes the phrase “pious gas-bags”. Some say Pharisee. Some say Baptist… ouch. I like the way Mark Hall from Casting Crowns describes this attitude, “Looking at the world at the end of our pointed fingers.”
We cover it up by saying things like, “I’ll pray for them.” “Bless their hearts.” “There but for the grace of God, go I.” Really? Sometimes we bring other people into it and share a little juicy tidbit so they can pray too! Pacify your conscience of gossip by sharing the burden.
In the book of Amos, God is telling the people of Israel through His prophet that their time is basically up. After numerous warnings to the nation of Israel regarding their sinful, idolatrous ways, God is going to allow them to be taken into captivity and their city destroyed. This is the end result of a nation that has turned from God because they feel they know better. (Hmmm this sounds hauntingly familiar…)
The scary thing is that God actually needs to spell it out to them. He tells Amos what to say, and the story is not a happy one. They are going to have their lives turned upside down. They are going to see a lot of death, and some of them will be separated from their families for the rest of their lives. So he gives the warning:
“How terrible it will be for you who lounge in luxury and think you are secure in Jerusalem and Samaria! You are famous and popular in Israel, you to whom the people go for help. Go over to Claneh and see what happened there. Then go to the great city of Hamath and on down to the Philistine city of Gath. You are no better than they were, and look at how they were destroyed. You push away every thought of coming disaster, but your actions only bring the day of judgment closer.”
– Amos 6:1-3 (NLT)
I see a people that are living with their heads in the sand. Life has been good enough, and they see no reason to change the way they are living. After all, they are God’s people and everyone around them knows it! But God tells them how terrible it is going to be for them because they are not paying attention to their circumstances. They need to pull their heads out of the sand.
God tells them to look at the cities surrounding them that He has brought down because of their sin. These proud cities were more focused on a hedonistic lifestyle of pleasure and excess, and it resulted in their destruction. And the thing is, these were cities right in their neighborhood. I’m sure they knew those cities were gone, and I’m sure they knew it was because of the sins of THOSE PEOPLE. But, it’s not like it could happen to us…
I’ve been the same way. I see people that have fallen away from God and I see the struggles that they have because of it, and I say to myself, “Well, they ought to know better. They’re just getting what they deserve.” Then I might just take a minute and thank God that I am not like them before going on my merry way. I don’t take the time to do a very important thing.
If the people of Israel really looked at those cities around them and what brought about their fall, what might they have seen? What would have happened if they had really looked for the root of their problems? Would they see a group of people that just fell on hard times, or would they see a group of people that had allowed complacency or pleasure to take control of their lives instead of seeking the things of God?
I think we focus too much on the actions of other people, and not enough on the attitude that drives those actions. If we did that, we might get a better handle on the attitudes that drive our own actions. After all, my actions are nothing more than my heart being allowed to live out what it wants. If I look at what is driving my behavior, ask God to help me with that, and discipline myself in it, I should see change! I need to be willing to take that deep look inside though and see where I am lacking rather than just looking for where I am better than the other guy.
The people of Israel were not willing to look inside to see what was wrong with themselves, and they didn’t take the time to look up until it was too late. I love how this translation says that they pushed away every thought of disaster and their actions just brought the judgment. I know I have had times where I have felt God tapping my shoulder to let me know what He is seeing in me, but I brush Him off and go my own way even though I know it is not going to end well.
Let’s face it. Trusting ourselves in most situations is going to lead to an unwelcome ending. I know that when I look back at my track record I can say my greatest failures were 100% mine! If trusting myself leads to such pitiful results, why would I keep doing it?
Relentless Growth means looking around to see not only the dangers I face in my walk, but the warnings of those who have fallen. It means looking inside to see what weakness in me is going to lead to a similar failure, and looking up to God for help and direction so I can succeed and be an encouragement to someone rather than a horrible example.
I don’t want to live my life based on my performance versus the other guy. I want to live my life dependent on Christ!
Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong