As the World Burns (Yawn)

The dangers of complacency amid chaos

Several dramatic, violent events are shaking our world. Just recently, we have seen Russia invading Crimea and Ukraine; Palestinians raining down terror on Israel; an entire “state” of terrorism taking over much of Iraq and Syria; anti-Semites driving Jews out of Europe; Germany overtaking Europe’s militaries; Iran building the bomb. And that’s just in the past couple of months.

With all this upheaval taking place around you, what isyourreaction?

Some people say, Well, the world has always had problems. Right now is no different. But it is different. And how you react is going to make all the difference in your life.

The stability of the world is nothing like it was 50 years ago—or even 20 years ago. In fact, the world powers are now experiencing an upheaval much like the one that took place before World War ii. Many people even recognized that war was coming—it was only a matter of how big it would be. But the world—the Western world in particular—kept procrastinating. It kept closing its eyes to the imminent disaster. It kept appeasing the aggressors even as war became inevitable. That is how strongly they craved the status quo. That is how much they wanted to remain complacent.

The tragedy of World War ii—the most murderous war in history—vividly shows what happens when you fail to confront the problems before it’s too late. Yet today, similar events are unfolding, chaos is growing—and this time we have weapons of mass destruction. Are people reacting any differently? And how are you reacting?

You know the history of world war. You may even understand the prophecy of the Bible. And yet many of us still lie in a warm bed of complacency! We just don’t want to face the cold reality! We just don’t want to snap out of it!

This spirit of complacency in our society reaches all the way up to the top positions of the most powerful nations on Earth!
We all have personal lives, living and making our choices day in and day out. We tend to think those choices have nothing to do with national leadership or with geopolitics. But that’s not true! National administrations, international conflict, terrorism, world wars—all come from the same place: the human heart.

So it matters what happens in Ukraine and Israel and Germany. It matters what populations permit their leaders to do. It matters how you react to the earthshaking events that are taking place around you. It matters whether you roll over and hit the snooze button, or whether you snap awake!

At Ease in Zion

Think about these chaotic crises that are piling up around the world right now. Jihadi terrorists—jihadi “states” are committing mass executions and barbaric beheadings in the Middle East. The Ebola outbreak in western Africa is spreading. Russia has basically dropped the pretenses and invaded part of Ukraine. Palestinians are rebuilding so they can terrorize Israel even worse than before. Europe seems in danger of fragmenting—even its individual nation states are in danger of fragmenting. Germany is dominating the Continent economically and politically. America is spiraling inward in a vortex of racial conflict, ideological division and a black hole of debt.

Former Amb. John Bolton put it plainly: “The world is descending into chaos” (article, page 1).

Yet God says that people are “at ease” at this frighteningly dangerous time (Amos 6:1; Revised Standard Version). And He says woe unto them. Woe unto the “notable men”—those leading our nations—who have been lulled into a false sense of security—and are lulling us to sleep as well.

This spirit of complacency in our society reaches all the way up to the top positions of the most powerful nations on Earth!

On August 29, the president of the United States actually promised Americans that the world is “much less dangerous” now than it was 25 or 30 years ago. He wants you to believe what he believes—that everything is getting better. Sure, the world has always been a little bit “messy,” the president explained. “We’re just noticing now because of social media and our capacity to see in intimate detail the hardships that people are going through.” The technology just makes the world seem worse than it really is. So go back to sleep. Everyone is safe. America has never been this strong—or more indispensable.

In fact, America has never been more complacent! That should be self-evident.

Look at how easy it is for human nature to live in denial—to murmur about peace and safety, even as blaring alarms are going off everywhere!
“Woe to those who lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat lambs from the flock, and calves from the midst of the stall; who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp, and like David invent for themselves instruments of music; who drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!” (verses 4-6; rsv). Here God chastens our peoples, saying they should be grieving the death of entire nations. Instead, we are living it up! Eat, drink and be merry; for tomorrow will never come—that’s the way most people live their lives today.

This is the same spirit of complacency that soothed the United States and Britain in the 1930s—shortly before World War ii shattered the globe. And it’s exactly the way Jesus Christ said it would be just before His return to Earth.

The Apostle Paul said Jesus Christ would return at an unexpected hour—like a “thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). It is unexpected—not because God fails to warn the world—but because we have gone to sleep! The leaders in the modern-day nations of Israel have promised us prosperity and ease for generations to come. Our ambassadors are traveling the world proclaiming “peace and safety” (verse 3).

And it’s not just the politicians’ fault. In general, we welcome these smooth words! In Isaiah 30, God says it is the slumbering masses who are responsible for the blind shepherds. We are telling our leaders to preach “smooth things” and to “prophesy deceits.” And they are giving us what we want.

Look at how easy it is for human nature to live in denial—to murmur about peace and safety, even as blaring alarms are going off everywhere! People simply will not listen to a warning. They reject a corrective, even when it is delivered by God, in love. They don’t want a message that they consider “doom and gloom.” They would rather risk massive destruction than have to spring out of bed and change their lifestyles. So they pull the pillows over their heads and snuggle up to leaders who will reassure them that they don’t have to do anything, that nothing will overturn their warm bed of security and prosperity.

The Apostle Paul was a different kind of leader. When giving advice to his young ministerial assistant, he said, “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach theword; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:1-2).

What a contrast to the “teachers” talked about in so many other Bible prophecies! Preach the word, God tells His servants. Be instant. Stand by it at all times, whether it’s in season or out—whether it’s popular or not. In this passage, preserved for us, God is showing us how to snap out of complacency.

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine,” Paul prophesied. That time is now upon us! “And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (verses 3-4). What a perfect description of our godless society today—where people en masse have turned away from hearing the simplicity and rigor of God’s truth in exchange for warm lies and soft delusion.

When this happens, God says in 1 Thessalonians 5:3, those with eyes to see had better know that suddendestruction is near!

Vigilance Is the Key

The sin of complacency is one of the most universal and destructive afflictions of our day. Have you been infected by this deadly disease? If so, as Paul wrote in Romans 13:11, it’s “high time” to wake up! If you have been reading the Trumpet magazine for very long, then you know just how short time is. It’s time for you to react!

Those who slumber on don’t know what is happening. Their eyes are too heavy with ignorance and self-deception (2 Corinthians 4:4). But your eyes are open. Yousee what is happening! The question is, What will you do?

“The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light” (Romans 13:12). We are living on the verge of Jesus Christ’s spectacular return to Earth! We are in the “last hour” (1 John 2:18; rsv). Isn’t that reason enough to roll out of the spiritual sack and go to work putting on the armor of God?

Chaos is happening all around us. We must be more awake now than ever before! We must be earnestly preparing daily for the fight ofour lives. It’s a fight not against a foreign enemy or a political ideology, but against the spirit of complacency, the spirit of sin. As these verses show us, complacency isn’t just a bad habit, it’s a deadly hazard in the fierce spiritual war we are waging against a satanic spiritual force!

“If I had to choose between pain and nothing, I would choose pain.” That’s how author William Faulkner understood this: To grow and develop as a human being, he had to struggle and fight to overcome obstacles. And the consequential pain was much better than lazy indolence.

Now is not the time for spiritual drowsiness!

In 1 Peter 5:8, God identifies the power behind this spirit of complacency: Satan the devil. Satan is very much a real being, and he is very much active in our lives right now. God compares him to a roaring lion that walks about “seeking whom he may devour.” When lions hunt in the wild, they target the weakest member of the herd. They seek to devour the one that slows down during the chase or that carelessly waits too long before sprinting into action. They stalk their prey silently, invisibly. Then when you hear the terrifying roar, it’s too late.

God says we must be sober and vigilant in order to avoid spiritual catastrophe. This serious-minded alertness is the key. The Greek word for “vigilant” in 1 Peter 5 means “to take heed lest through remission and indolence some destructive calamity suddenly overtake one” (Strong’s Enhanced Lexicon). If we let down spiritually and become complacent and lazy, calamity will swallow us whole.

So be spiritually alert and on the watch—constantly on guard against drowsiness. Diligentlyprepare for what is coming, the inevitable (and prophesied) pandemonium that will explode out of the current world chaos. Put forth the constant, energetic effort it takes to serve God acceptably—with reverence and fear (Hebrews 12:28).

The Vigilant Christian

Here are five positive steps you can take to spring into action and shake off the deadly comfort of complacency:

1. Watch

Jesus said, “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36). First, we have to watch world events. That means we have to turn off the entertainment long enough to see this evil world for what it is. God refers to His people as the “children of light.” This is because they see and understand the truth of God. They focus on world events in the spotlight of Bible prophecy. They don’t scoff and ridicule the prophecies of God. They watch!

2. Pray

Christ said to watch and pray. In Matthew 6:10, He commanded us to pray fervently, “Thy kingdom come.” The Bible says “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). Fervent prayer really gets results! When you habitually pray fervently every day, this connection with God fires you up! Jesus Christ was in the daily habit of rising a “great while before day” in order to talk to God alone in prayer (Mark 1:35). Numerous times the Gospels recount Christ talking to His heavenly Father for hours at a time! On at least one occasion, Jesus prayed all night long! The Apostle Peter said we must have the same mind as Christ in order to survive what is ahead (1 Peter 4:1). That means we must set aside time every day for effectual and fervent prayer to God.

3. Study

Numerous Bible passages show that daily Bible study powerfully impacts our lives. This is how God feeds us the spiritual food we need to survive. Studying God’s Word has so many specific and tangible benefits! It teaches us to properly fear and honor our Creator (Proverbs 1:7). It teaches us how to live like Jesus Christ, who said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). So slow down and take the time to diligently study the Word of God—and then meditate on what you are learning. Be like the Bereans, who searched the Scriptures daily to prove God Word true! (Acts 17:10-11). This will exhilarate a complacent mind like nothing else will!

4. Move

God’s Word also prods us to labor for physical fitness. The Apostle John wished “above all things” that we have good physical health (3 John 1:2). Can physical health really be that important? It is if we are serious about serving God with energy and vitality! We can’t serve God powerfully with physical bodies that are tired and sluggish. As Herbert W. Armstrong once wrote, “Next to the salvation of one’s soul, sound, vigorous bodily health surely is the most necessary and the most valuable treasure a man can achieve in this world.” God created the physical body to be a temple for the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). That alone is reason enough to keep it clean and healthy! But think about how much more you can serve God and His work if you are fit for the task physically.

5. Prioritize

Change your life to put God first. Get out of bed as soon as your alarm sounds and organize your day so that it revolves around God. Show God every day that you are willing to work at this—to set your mind on the things above (Colossians 3:1). Show Him you are serious about bringing energy and zeal to your daily Bible study and prayer—that you are eager to “stir up” the gift of God’s Holy Spirit in your mind (2 Timothy 1:6). How we manage our time says a whole lot about how urgent we are in these last days.

Don’t give in to the pulls of the flesh and succumb to the deadly sin of complacency. Become perfect—even as our Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48). We can’t sleepwalk our way to perfection!

Of course, we can’t overcome any sin or build any character on our own power and strength. Only the awesomepower of God can reproduce His character and nature in us (Genesis 1:26; Zechariah 4:6).

But give God something to work with!

Go to work each day putting on the whole armor of God. Fight the good fight of faith (Ephesians 6:11; 2 Timothy 4:7). Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Draw near to God. Submit to His authority. Activelyresist the devil so that he will flee from you (James 4:7-8).

And do these things with your whole heart! Now is the time—it’s high time—to snap to attention and serve God with red-hot zeal and determination!