As a teenager Acts 20:24 held a special attraction to me. I wanted to say with Paul, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” Of course at such a young age, and living in America, I had no inkling of what the fullness of this verse meant; and I still don’t, although I do see it much more clearly than I did. There are many around the world that faithfully live this verse out daily, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.
We, in America, know little of the persecution that our brothers and sisters face around the world; yet it is coming and we ought not to see it as some strange fiery trial. Jesus warned us that it would come; and, believers of every age have experienced its devastation to the body and quickening of the soul to draw nearer to Him who has saved us and claimed us as His very own.
It’s the believer who has diligently and actively taken to heart the admonitions of Jesus to “Watch and pray,” and Paul’s “Awake to righteousness, and sin not” that are ready to stand in such times of trial, while the slothful professor is likely to waffle or justify his reactions in the face of trials, temptations, and tribulations. So how do we “stand having done all to stand in the evil day” instead of crumpling with sloth and apathy in that same day? There’s no denying that, much to our shame, the comparative ease that most Americans have had has bred a tendency to spiritual slothfulness or a cooling of our first love or a feigning and waning of faith. “Ah Lord God, help us!” shouldn’t this be our cry? Ought we not to call upon our God with an SOS to help us Stave Off Slothfulness and to actively grow, being rooted and built up in Christ Jesus?
In our daily meeting this morning (9/1/21), American Decency Association’s founder and president, Bill Johnson, read from Banner of Truth’s Voices From the Past (a puritan devotional) in which Rev. Mr. Simmons (Puritan Sermons 1659-1689) shared three ways in which to “get rid of this unwelcome guest—spiritual sloth.”
1. “By faith—apply the promises of quickening. Promises are steel spurs that will reach the dull heart to draw out the corruption of sloth.” We know that God is able to and delights in keeping His promises, particularly to His own children. Remember that the Bible is full of promises, both for good and for bad; this reminder should move us to throw off sloth and put on obedience, claiming the blessings and avoiding the judgments which God has given. We desperately need God’s help; let us come to Him and proclaim, “Soul, God has promised I shall mount up with eagles’ wings, and God is able, true, and willing, therefore, I may be assured of his assistance.”
2. “Consider others that have gained the victory as your example (Heb. 12:1-3).” With the reminder to “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace. (Psalm 37:37)” Biblical examples of perseverance like Daniel, the three Hebrew children, Paul, the hosts from Hebrews 11, and others come quickly to mind. We can be encouraged and strengthened by the faithful histories of the Scottish Covenanters, the French Huguenots, and other believers of today who walk faithfully in our Savior’s way, who have said with Paul, “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. (Phil. 1:20)” Singing in the Fire by Faith Cook is a small book that will highlight more such examples that will serve to spur us on. These men and women who have gone before us are “fires to light our candles by.”
3. “Consider too how impossible it is for creeping snails to finish their journey’s end. Run that you may obtain (I Cor. 9:24). Don’t creep, but run, not indifferently, but industriously. Should we not serve God as actively as we ever did in the ways of sin and Satan?”
The days approaching are likely to be more challenging than we have ever known; we must draw near to God. We cannot afford spiritual slothfulness; with diligence and vigor may we spend more time in fervent, Spirit led prayer, meditation in the Word of God, and with all thanksgiving and praise remember that this world is not our home. Therefore, there ARE better days ahead.