The Price of Complacency
by Dr. Michael J. Hall
Mike Hall is the vice president of Providence Baptist College in Elgin, Illinois.
In chapter 18 of II Kings, Hezekiah has replaced Ahaz as the King of Judah. Judah has had some pretty decent kings. Ahaz was not, but Hezekiah wasn’t so bad. Also in chapter 18 there is a revival that takes place in Israel. Hezekiah recovers the nation from the path that his father had taken it. In chapters 18 and 19 he wins numerous battles against the enemies of Israel. In chapter 20 he goes through a miraculous recovery where he begs God to heal him and let him live longer. God grants that and gives him 15 more years.
Then in chapter 20 we have an interesting passage that is the result of all this happening in Israel and in the life of Hezekiah. “At that time Berodachbaladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present unto Hezekiah: for he had heard that Hezekiah had been sick.” (II Kings 20:12)
If you looked at the parallel passage in II Chronicles, the statement there is that they inquired of the wonder that had been done in the land. Berodach-baladan had heard of the great things that had been going on in Judah on behalf of Hezekiah, the battles that had been won, the miraculous healing that had taken place. This individual is curious now as to what is going on over there. He sends some messengers and inquires.
Verse 13, “And Hezekiah hearkened unto them, and showed them all the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armour, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah showed them not.” Judah had the God of the universe, Jehovah God. He is the One that had worked those tremendous miracles on behalf of Hezekiah.
Here is a foreign king who knows nothing about the God of Judah, who has inquired about the wonders that have taken place. What a wonderful opportunity Hezekiah had to share the testimony of what the true and living God can do. The guy was asking, “Where do all these wonders come from?” Instead what Hezekiah does is opens his house up and simply shows him all the wonders that he has. Now frankly folks, what has happened is this: not only has he shown him the riches of the land, but he has also shown him Israel’s entire defensive capabilities. He has opened wide every military secret to a sworn enemy who has flattered him and made him comfortable by coming to inquire of his health, rather than take the opportunity to share truth about the Jehovah God of the universe.
Verses 14-18, “Then came Isaiah the prophet unto king Hezekiah, and said unto him, What said these men? and from whence came they unto thee? And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country, even from Babylon. And he said, What have they seen in thine house? And Hezekiah answered, All the things that are in mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not showed them. And Isaiah said unto Hezekiah, Hear the word of the Lord. Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the Lord. And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”
The attitude of Hezekiah is reflected in the next verse. I’m not even so sure that it was necessarily that big a deal to God what Hezekiah did, but the attitude of Hezekiah is revealed in this next verse. “Then said Hezekiah unto Isaiah, Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken. And he said, Is it not good, if peace and truth be in my days?” The problem that Hezekiah had, which is the same problem that we have today, is complacency. Hezekiah has said, “What’s the big deal? As long as everything is okay with me in my lifetime, I am satisfied. I really don’t care. I’m just going to kick back and enjoy.”
Do you want a good working definition of complacency? “As long as I’m okay, the rest of the world can go to Hell. It’s no big deal.” That is complacency. “Just so I don’t suffer, I could care less about anybody else.”
History has shown us some of the problems with an attitude like that. In the 1930’s, Germany had just gone through a time of great depression. Any depression going on here in the United States paled in comparison by the way, with what was going on in Europe at the time. Germany, after World War I, was treated like a second class citizen. They were required to pay taxes. They were stripped of all their armed forces. The reparations that they had to pay were tremendous, and they were treated like second class citizens in Europe. The Germans, as any group of people, were a very proud people. That was tough on them. In the early thirties, an individual started coming to power, and this individual promised them a chicken in every pot, a car in every garage, and began to restore their prosperity and perhaps even more importantly, their pride. Germany began to emerge economically once again, began to rebuild their forces. In spite of what the treaties at the end of World War I said, they began to re-arm militarily. In 1938 Hitler annexes Austria. Look like Germans. Speaks German. Must be German, and annexed them.
In September of 1938, Neville Chamberlain and the French Prime Minister by the name of Edouard Daladier, had a meeting with Hitler. Hitler began to demand the western part of Czechoslovakia, which was the Sudentenland, also be annexed as a part of Germany. They had a meeting, and at that meeting quite apart from anything that the Sudentenese had to say, they allowed Hitler to simply have the Sudentenland. That policy was called Appeasement. When Neville Chamberlain returned to England, he made this comment, “It’s good that we have peace with honor. It’s important that we have peace in our time.”
I draw your attention to II Kings 20:19. “Then said Hezekiah unto Isaiah, Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken. And he said, Is it not good, if peace and truth be in my days?” Not a lot different. After that policy of Appeasement, the Sudentenland was taken by Germany in March of 1939. All of Czechoslovakia was annexed. In September of 1939, Poland was crushed. In April of 1940, Denmark and Norway were crushed, and we were on our way to World War II. Neville Chamberlain was ushered out of office in disgrace, remembered for the comment “Peace in our time.”
Toward the end of 1941, the United States sits quietly by. Apathetic. The war rages in Europe. We are so secure in what we have going on. We managed to take most of our naval fleet and port them in Pearl Harbor, contrary to any strategic plan that anybody would ever draw. We are so confident that a lot of our defense means on a Sunday morning are down. People are sleeping in. They had a long night the night before. Reports began to come up of mysterious sightings on radar and everybody dismisses it. No big deal. Who could possibly mess with the United States? On that morning of December 7, 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor took place on a group of people that were basically sleeping, and 2400 people died. Roosevelt says, “This is a day which will live in infamy.” The reports were there. The opportunity was there to discover what was going on, but we were confident that nothing would happen. I could go on and on and on historically and share how political complacency has hurt us at nearly every corner.
Yet that is not what the attack on September 11, 2001 was all about. Yes, there was a lack of airport security. Yes, there was a lack of pilot security. Folks, when you can grab the door leading to the cockpit and with your hand pull the door off, there is no security. Yes, there might have been a lack of security on the plane. They used to have air marshals even on domestic flights. But nothing ever happens to us. We haven’t had a hijacking in ten years. Those air marshals had guns. I have a feeling those air marshals could have made a difference.
All of those things happened and yet that is not the reason why terrorists succeeded in their deadly attack on September 11. I believe the real reason was that God saw the complacency of a so-called Christian nation and said, “It’s enough.” For years God has tried to knock at the door of the United States and given us warning that as a Christian nation we had better heed the call of God. We’ve turned a deaf ear. God says, “I’m going to shake you to the very foundation of your confidence levels. I’m going to rattle you economically, what you consider as a strength. I’m going to rattle you militarily, which we consider a strength, in an effort to wake you up.” As a nation, the United States suffered from this complacency.
What are the signs of complacency? When I was in military service, there were several key things that would be a signal if a unit was complacent and unprepared.
One of the signs was that you had poorly kept personal equipment. When I was in Korea, we were on alert 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The threat was still there. You’d go up to the border and you are looking across the table at a guy with an AK74 loaded and pointed at you. The threat was still there. We had our web gear. Mine was in the trunk of my car. All I had to do was grab it. I had my web gear, my pack. I had flash lights, canteens. Everything was ready. All I had to do was grab it and go. That was my personal equipment. I had an M16 and a 45 that were in a secure area that I could get to immediately. Those weapons were cleaned and ready to go in a moment’s notice. I had a gas mask that I could get ahold of in a very short amount of time and have it on and it had been checked out and proven to be operational. We were ready every day because the threat was there constantly.
I’ve been out of the service since 1992. I was going through my closet last weekend and opened up a box of stuff. I still had some of my prepacks in there. In your pack you have four little containers on the outside. You always had a waterproof bag. In that waterproof bag you got a towel, extra pair of shorts and tee-shirt, and that is your prepack. You always have to take the important stuff. (Of course your wife makes you have underwear without holes in case you get killed.) That stuff was ready at a moment’s notice. All I had to do was grab my pack and go. That was my personal equipment. You can always tell by poorly kept personal equipment if a unit and individuals are complacent.
Secondly, you could tell if they were not watchful and not constantly prepared. We had inspections all the time just for flaws in tactics, flaws in operation. We had exercises that we would go on. We discovered one time because of an exercise that we were on that if we had entered into war and gotten in a conflict, we found out that we would not have enough equipment to get enough replacement soldiers there on time to stop the threat. We found that out on an exercise and fixed that problem. We wouldn’t have found out if we wouldn’t have had the exercise. A unit that was not watchful, that was not constantly preparing, was not constantly being ready was a complacent unit. Units that didn’t do training to keep that fighting edge were a complacent unit.
When I was in Germany, I was a company commander. At that time the Soviet Union was still a very real threat. We were not all that far from eastern Europe. I just wanted to be satisfied my unit was going to be as ready as possible as we began training and working and preparing so that we were ready to fight if we were called upon. We would have army readiness training exercises. In those exercises you’d get a call in the morning. You would deploy your unit. You’d head out to a defensive position and set up and be ready to go. We worked and worked and worked until we were in a position where finally we ended up being rated for our type of unit, rated the number one tactical unit in Europe because we practiced and prepared and pushed and worked. Just minutes could make the difference between survival or not. Units that were complacent didn’t bother doing that. The signs of complacency for the military were poorly kept personal equipment, not being watchful, not being prepared, and not training.
The same signs of complacency can be found in Christian America. When we look at the complacency of Christian America, we see that we are hurting in our personal equipment -- the Word of God. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Folks, that’s a pretty good weapon. Our personal equipment in this nation has been the Word of God. Since 1900 we’ve had a problem with the deterioration of our personal equipment.
In 1620, the Pilgrims brought the King James Bible to this land. The King James Bible was not the Bible of England. The King James Bible has been the Bible of the United States of America. It was exported from England to the United States. Since 1900 we’ve been messing with inferior weapons -- Revised Standard Version, American Standard Version, New International Version. Version after version after version which have diluted our ability to be defensive with our weapon.
There are no mistakes in the Word of God. There are no coincidences. The Bible says, “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” (Revelation 3:7-8) Some folks believe that the church of Philadelphia represents Christianity roughly from the time 1775 to 1900 A.D. People have said, “Is the United States specifically mentioned in the Word of God?” The words United States are not, but the church of Philadelphia may represent the time period of 1775 to 1900. The first capitol of the United States was Philadelphia. For me it doesn’t take too much imagination to see God speaking to us as a nation and the world of Christianity that was represented at that point in time.
It says, “...he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;” He’s talking about opening some door. What door has been opened to the United States since she became a nation that no other nation in the history of the world has ever opened like we have? The door of the mission field. As long as the United States was taking the true Bible to the world, that door of the mission field stayed open. Yet God says here that no man is going to be able to close the door, but He can and He has since about 1900, as soon as we started messing around with the word of God, and substituting it with inferior per-versions. As long as we took the true Bible to the world, the mission field was open. The doors to the mission field have been closing since 1900, especially in the European world. We had a good personal weapon, the Word of God, but we have allowed it to be deteriorated, and replaced it with inferior wannabes. Today America has almost no weapon at all. The average Christian in America doesn’t read his or her Bible, and couldn’t find one in the house if they had to.
For the Christian, this is our weapon. This is our source of strength. This is our shield. This is everything we need to conduct life as a Christian in this old battlefield. Yet Christian America today has lost touch with the Bible. Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 19:7-9 describes the Bible this way, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” Yet even with the description of the power of the Word of God like that, we ignore and neglect it. We fail to read it, rarely pick it up, and in some cases can’t even find it. Our personal weapon is going into disrepair which is a sign of complacency, yet Christians do nothing.
We are not watchful. Our standards as a nation have slipped, and our morality is headed downward dramatically. In America we have more single parent homes today than in the history of our nation. We have Sodomites attempting to be recognized as legitimate, legal, sanctioned, head of households. We have homes that are unsupervised, kids roaming the streets, no idea when parents are going to be back, even with very small children, and it happens here in Elgin. You’ve knocked on the doors and seen three, four, and five-year-olds come to the door and mom and dad aren’t anywhere to be found. Misplaced priorities in the home. Mom and dad might be together, but they are rarely around the kids because they are working around the clock to get the almighty dollar. The home is fragmented. Ephesians five and six teach us that the wives are to submit. Husbands are to love. Children are to obey, and fathers are to provoke not. The Bible gives us clear guidance on how to have a solid, happy home, and yet Christians do nothing.
Our schools, instead of upholding the basic tenets of society which are morality and discipline, public schools today do all they can to break them down. We have what we call ‘situational morality’ which is nothing more than ‘if it feels good go ahead and do it.’ We have self-imposed discipline which is nothing more than ‘I’ll do whatever I want to do.’ As a result, our young people have nothing solid to stand on. It’s no wonder they are going around killing one another. There is no standard of right and wrong in their life, other than the standard they set for themselves. Our public schools are teaching that, yet Christians do nothing.
In our churches, the standards are slipping as well. There is no doctrine being taught strongly for the most part in America as once happened in most mainline denominational churches. The Methodists were teaching it at the turn of the century. Presbyterians were getting it done. Yet today you are hard pressed to find any mainline denominational churches doing anything in terms of solid Bible doctrine. Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” Our churches have no standards anymore. It used to be we would make that criticism of charismatic and non-denominational churches, but all you’ve got to do is start traveling around to independent, Baptist churches and you’ll find the same standards are slipping there as well -- no difference between the music of the world and the music in the church, no difference in the standard of appearance of the world and the people in the church.
On vacation in Colorado we stopped at an independent, Baptist church out there. We walked in and pretty soon the worship group walked in -- sandals, long hair, earrings, beards, and got up front with their electric guitars, drum set, electric piano and electric bass and just had a rock concert. I thought I was in a coffee house from the seventies. Unbelievable -- an independent, Baptist church, our standards are slipping. No accountability, not told what should be done based on the Word of God, how to behave, how to act, what to do, what not to do. Instead the services are tailored to what the people want. Yet Christians do nothing.
Not only is our personal equipment shot, not only are we not watchful of our standards, but we’ve failed to train and rehearse, which is a failure to serve. There was a time, folks, when everybody in America went to church. For the most part, everybody had a church they identified with, and everybody went. You’ll be knocking doors today, and run across people 20 and 30 years old who have never been in church. They wouldn’t know the name of a church if their lives depended on it. They wouldn’t know who to call if they were in trouble or needed prayer, no church whatsoever.
Every once in a while I still try to approve books in the library and keep up on some of the kid’s books. There was a book sale, and I got ahold of some of the really old, original Hardy Boys books. I used to read them when I was a kid. They are going at it, working on solving the mystery right up until Sunday, because then they go to church. Now once they got back from church, they sat down to dinner and started talking about the case again. You won’t find that in any recent books. That was just a part of mainstream society back then -- going to church.
There was a time when most churches understood and supported foreign missions. You won’t find that today. There was a time when many churches believed and emphasized personal accountability to your neighbor in terms of sharing the Gospel and encouraged you to be the kind of person that would go out and share the Gospel with others. Not today. There is a failure in our training and our rehearsing and our serving. Yet Christians do nothing. Paul tried to encourage us in I Corinthians 9:24. “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” He said, “Folks, don’t be satisfied with where you are. Get out there and do something for God.” Yet many people can’t be identified as a Christian based on how they live their life.
When Hezekiah demonstrated complacency, he paid a price. Second Kings 20:16-18 says, “And Isaiah said unto Hezekiah, Hear the word of the Lord. Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the Lord. And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” Because of the complacency demonstrated by Hezekiah -- “I could care less. I just want to get by. Don’t bother me. I’m satisfied. I’m happy. Leave me alone.” God says, “I’m going to rip the kingdom out of your hand. I’m going to destroy your people and your very own children one day and your descendants are going to suffer as a result of your apathy and complacency.”
Folks, we as a nation are paying a price. What took place on September 11, 2001 I believe, was a direct result of the complacency that America has demonstrated. But you must understand it’s not just the nation’s fault. We as individuals constitute this Christian nation. If we as individuals don’t shake ourselves out of our complacency, America will never recover.
How is your personal equipment? Second Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” This Bible is your tool of the trade. This is your weapon. We used to have to practice and prove ourselves on our personal weapon. I qualified on an M16 and on a 45. I qualified on an M16 and a 45 with a gas mask on. We used to have to take those things out constantly and maintain a level of proficiency on them, or if you didn’t you went back out on your own time with a remedial group until you qualified on that weapon.
If you had to qualify on this weapon, your Bible, how would you do? The Bible says, “Study to show thyself approved...” Are you studying today? Are you getting in the Bible and finding out what the Word of God has to say about you and your responsibility as a Christian?
How is your prayer life? First Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray without ceasing.” Are you praying at all? An attitude of prayer without ceasing doesn’t mean you are some kind of monk walking around mumbling all the time. What that means is the communication lines between you and God are open constantly. If something comes up, you can go directly to Him because you’ve got that open communication. Are you even praying at all? As a Christian, that’s an important part of your personal equipment.
Are you watchful? Are you holding to your convictions? Second Corinthians 6:17 says, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,” It’s still in there. You’ve heard it, but are you doing anything about it? You are in a great church here that holds a good standard. Yet when you are by yourself in your own car and your own home, what are you doing about it? Are you listening to the right kind of music because it is right to do? Are you dressing right even when you are at a job and nobody from church can see you? Are you still dressing right because it is right to do? We are to be watchful. Hold to those convictions and standards. Don’t allow complacency to creep in.
Are you constantly in a position of training? Are you serving? Mark 16:15 says, “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world...” Nobody should run out of things to do. What are you doing? I could be lumped in that category, as all of us can, in not doing all that we could be doing as a Christian.
If we are not doing all we can, you might as well mark it down. Your complacency brings destruction and judgment as much as anyone else’s. God sees your heart. He sees your lack of prayer, your lack of Bible study, your lack of convictions, your lack of service. God says, “Complacency makes me sick. I’ve got to wake them up out of that complacency.” He’s done it on a national level.
What makes you think He’s not going to do the same in your personal life? Some of you men, leaders of your home, are you leading your home in spirituality? Are you setting the right example and teaching your family to follow you in service and devotion to God. I would hate to think that God is going to have to do something to shake us out of our complacency, and He is going to do it if He’s the God of the Bible. God is not going to judge a nation and leave individuals unjudged. Are you doing what you are supposed to do? Are you serving? If not, are you ready to pay the price?
Hezekiah lost everything. The Bible record says about 100 years later, it happened just like God said. In the tragedy of 9/11, people lost property. They lost life and loved ones. As a nation, we certainly lost respect around the world.
What about us individually? Is God going to have to cause you to lose property? Is God going to have to cause you to lose life? Is God going to have to cause your name to lose respect for generations to come because of the complacency in your life? Some of us had better get shaken out of our complacency and get our act together and start getting busy for God, getting back to the way things are supposed to be. Because one day judgment is going to come.
If by some chance, you go through this life without paying the price, you will stand before a holy God and give an account for what you did on this earth. Is the account you give of your life going to be one of complacency, or is it going to be one of faithful service and fervent devotion to Christ?