In our ongoing study of the 7 churches of Revelation, we continue our study of the letter written to the Church at Pergamum. This is the third of 7 churches mentioned in Revelation.
Three weeks ago, we investigated the commendations made to this congregation by Christ. There are two main commendations in Revelation 2:13:
1. You hold fast to My name.
2. You did not deny My faith.
But Christ also had some things against this congregation. These are listed in the next two verses. Christ lists two primary concerns occurring in this church. And they were serious enough for Him to command the church to repent of them.
WHAT WERE THE TWO THINGS FOR WHICH CHRIST REBUKES THIS CHURCH?
Revelation 2:14-15 (NKJV)
14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.
15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
The two serious concerns of Christ were:
o They had those in their midst holding to the doctrines of Balaam.
o And they also had among their congregation those holding the doctrines of the Nicolaitans.
Just to review briefly, Balaam was a prophet who is mentioned in the Old Testament. He is connected with a couple of incidents when the Israelites were moving through the wilderness toward the promised land. Balaam was renown in his day for hearing directly from God, and being able to curse or bless individuals or entire nations in the name of a greater one than himself. When the Israelites came near to the plains of Moab, Balak, king of Moab, sent for Balaam to curse Israel. After trying to curse them three time, and having God bless Israel instead, Balak returns to his home (Numbers 24:25).
If that were the end of the matter, then we could have surmised that, perhaps, Balaam learnt his lesson - but there is more to it than that. He has yet to receive any monetary benefit from his efforts. He devises a plan in his heart to cause God Himself to curse Israel. He suggests to king Balak that all he needed to do was to have their women infiltrate the Israelite men, enticing them to partake in their idolatry and sexual immorality. Thus, because the Israelites played into the hands of the Moabites, God become their adversary rather than their protector.
Christ is rebuking the church in Pergamum for allowing these things to infiltrate their congregation. And Christ spells it out in Revelation 2:14.
Revelation 2:14 NKJV
14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel.
Christ says Balaam's scheme was to put a stumbling block in the path of the Israelites.
Continuing to read in Revelation 2:14 (NKJV) we see the two things making up this stumbling block.
14. ......to eat things sacrificed to idols,and to commit sexual immorality.
Christ is not speaking of outsiders, but rather, about those who have been allowed sanctuary within the congregation. The fundamental problem within the Pergamum congregation was one of compromise. Satan had already tried a frontal assault on this church, and one of their own - Antipas - was martyred for his faith in Christ. And yet, this congregation held firmly to the name of Jesus, and did not relinquish their faith in Him.
But now, his tactics or methods become crafty, and tries to undermine the claims and power of Christ from within. Satan sends in those who hold doctrines that are heretical. If any of the seven church letters are specifically relevant to today's church in the U.S., then this one is it without any doubt. The single most dangerous cause for concern in any Church is not what might beset it from outside its ranks, but what might arise from within. Another group, called the Nicolaitans are also mentioned among those who have infiltrated the church with their heretical doctrines.
As mentioned a week ago, the subject of the Nicolaitans is mentioned first in the letter to Ephesus. I find it interesting to compare to the Nicolaitans with what we read in Acts 20.
Let me take a couple of minutes to review the final moments of last week's lesson. In Acts 20, the apostle Paul is near the end of his 3rd missionary journey. He is heading back to Jerusalem for the holy days. At Miletus, Paul sends for the elders of the church in Ephesus to come down and meet with him. So he is in this city for just a few day, as he makes his way back to Jerusalem for the Jewish Holy Days. When the elders of Ephesus arrive in Miletus, he gives them a message of warning. He warns them about "savage wolves" who would be coming following his departure speaking false things (Acts 20:28-30). Here is what Paul said.
Acts 20:28-30 NKJV
28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God* which He purchased with His own blood.
29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.
30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.
Now the wolves had come to the churches. Sinister Nicolaitan false prophets were teaching their dark and dangerous doctrines as God's truth. The church in Ephesus sifted what they heard and "tested the spirit" behind it. Then they did what Paul instructed them to do. they absolutely rejected what the Nicolaitans taught. They remained faithful to the Lord.
I quote Ignatius, one of the earliest church leaders in the generation following the 12 apostles. We know that Polycarp, the leader in the church at Smyrna, was a disciple of the apostle John. We also know that Ignatius was a friend of Polycarp. Many think he also was a disciple of the apostle John. Ignatius wrote to the church in Ephesus, and said:
"You heed nobody beyond what he has to say truthfully about Jesus Christ. I have heard that some strangers came your way with a wicked teaching. But you did not let them sow it among you. You stopped up your ears to prevent admitting what they disseminated."
But, in the case of the church in Pergamum, they had allowed the Nicolaitans to infiltrate the congregation.
So, what did they teach as their doctrine? What did they practice as to their deeds? In the letter to Pergamum, they are linked with the doctrines of Balaam. This may imply they were guilty of the same, which, as we have already noted, was idolatry and sexual perversion.
I did some research into whether or not the early church leaders, after the apostles, mentioned them. Ignatius says in a letter to the church in Philadelphia: "the Nicolaitan sees the end of all as pleasure and sees unlawful unions as a good thing." The phrase, "unlawful unions," is referring to fornication and adultery.
What the Nicolaitans taught was that mankind had two natures - spirit and body. They believed the body was inherently evil, and only the spiritual part of a person could be made holy. Therefore, you could defile the body any way possible without spiritual consequences.
Irenaeus, one of the disciples of Polycarp, stated:
"The Nicolaitans…lead lives of unrestrained indulgence…..teaching that it is a matter of indifference to practice adultery, and to eat things sacrificed to idols."
Sounds just like the Balaamites.
Jesus holds it against the congregation for allowing teachers of false doctrine to remain in their midst. Jesus does not say the majority of the church practiced idolatry or committed sexual sin. It was that they weren't condemning the sins. They had tolerated the sins to continue.
Some within this church were beginning to compromise their faith. And compromise is the first step to apostasy. We cannot court the world and what it considers acceptable morality and remain true to God. The Pergamene church was commended for waging war against the devil in the world. But they were not awake to the compromising with the devil taking place within the church. I could take this lesson in a number of directions at this point.
o Study what it means to compromise our relationship with Christ.
o How do we tell whether a person is a false prophet or not?
o God hates the doctrines of the Nicolaitans. What else does He hate?
As stated earlier, the two-word phrase describing the church in Pergamum is "Religious Compromise." Today I want to continue along that vein. To begin, let me ask you a question.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE COMPROMISE?
To compromise is to settle differences in which each side makes concessions. To settle somewhere between two positions.
ARE ALL COMPROMISES WRONG OR NEGATIVE?
When two people marry, they bring different backgrounds to the marriage. Over time, they learn to compromise for the good of the whole. I am not talking about compromising one's relationship with God, or compromising biblical morality. Married couples compromise about:
o what car to purchase.
o what color to paint the bedroom.
o which appliances to buy first.
ARE THERE SOME COMPROMISES THAT ARE ALWAYS WRONG OR NEGATIVE?
To say of a traitor that "he compromised the security of the country," is always seen by those making the statement as negative or wrong.
I mentioned in our last lesson that there are a number of non-negotiable entities of the Christian faith. One of those was: "personal salvation comes only by believing in the atoning work of Christ and making Him the Lord of my life." I will not compromise that belief. That would be a compromise of what God teaches us in His Word.
This may be a little simplistic, but it can be said that the Bible has two main themes running through it.
1. It shows the way to God.
2. It shows how to walk with God.
The Book of Proverbs addresses, primarily, the second of these themes. Proverbs helps us apply wisdom in all areas of our life. It takes us down where the rubber meets the road. It is a very practical book.
Proverbs addresses the subject of how a person manages their daily affairs, or his time, or himself. The deal greatly with personal ethics, and are filled with commands and exhortations about daily conduct.
The Book of Proverbs seldom takes you into the sanctuary of the church. Rather, it leads you into the streets to teach us about everyday matters. But, it is also there - in the busy marketplaces of life, that we find the greatest pressures to compromise our faith in God.
FOR THE CHRISTIAN, WHERE DOES CONTINUAL SPIRITUAL COMPROMISE TAKE A PERSON?
There are a number of terms or phrases in the Bible that describe a person who has made spiritual compromises over a period of time.
1. Serving two masters (Matthew 6:24).
2. Backsliding (Jeremiah 3:14; Hosea 11:7).
3. Forsaking the Lord (2 Peter 2:15).
4. Going our own way (Isaiah 53:6).
5. Leaving our first love (Revelation 2:4).
6. Forgetting God (Job 8:13; Psalm 9:17).
7. Falling away (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
8. Turn aside (Psalm 125:5; Proverbs 7:25).
9. Growing cold (Matthew 24:12).
10. Departing from the faith (Hebrews 3:12).
11. Putting hand to the plow and looking back (Luke 9:62).
12. Salt that has lost its savor (Matthew 5 13).
13. A dog returning to is own vomit (Proverbs 26:11).
14. Allowing little foxes to spoil the vine (Song of Solomon 2:15).
15. A little leaven spoils the whole lump (Galatians 5:9).
16. Having loved this present world (2 Timothy 4:10).
I believe that even a casual observer will admit that we are living in the last days. These are days of great uncertainty and danger. I don't say that to scare you. I say it to describe my belief that the coming of Jesus is very soon to occur. And, although these are indeed days of uncertainty and danger, if you or I are a child of God, we don't need to fear or panic at all. But, all around us, we see signs of what the Prophets and Jesus spoke and warned would mark the end-times.
What does bother me is the truth of the statement made by the apostle Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. He says that before Christ comes, there would be a great falling away from the faith. The Bible calls this "apostasy."
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE THE WORD "APOSTASY"?
The Greek word is "APOSTASIS." This is the Greek word used in the above Passage, and translated "falling away." This word comes from two root words.
o Apo - away, apart
o Stasis - standing
It means to walk away from what you once believed - away from where you once stood. It could mean the abandoning of a party or cause. For what we are discussing here today, it means a professing follower of Christ has left the faith. They have abandoned their earlier beliefs. In 2 Thessalonians 2:3, we are told that this would happen just prior to the second coming of Christ.
The reason I have brought up the subject of "apostasy," is that I believe no one becomes apostate overnight. It happens over an extended period of time, as a person's faith become eroded bit by bit, and is weakened, damaged, then destroyed.
In another book written by the apostle Paul, he mentioned essentially the same thing.
1 Timothy 4:1-2 NKJV
1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,
2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron,
The Bible warns that these end-times will be satanically energized. Our adversary, the devil, is very clever. He has been doing what he does for dozens of centuries. He is good at it. In fact, the Bible tells us that the devil will step up his efforts against mankind in these last days. That is because he knows his days are numbered (Revelation 12:12).
WHAT CAUSES SOMEONE TO COMPROMISE THEIR FAITH?
The reader of the Book of Proverbs has hardly begun, when they are confronted with such words as: "If sinners entice you, consent thou not." (Proverbs 1:10). For the Christian, to compromise their faith is to give in to sinful enticements.
God knew his people would need to be reminded again and again about how to think, speak and act, so he inspired the writing and collection of Proverbs. We cannot afford to neglect its counsel.
Literally everything we do - whether an attitude, a look, a word, a temper, a facial expression, everything we do either defaces or adorns the image of Jesus Christ in us. Nothing is neutral. Therefore, we need to be on guard against the very subtle enticements of the world around us.
What is it that leads a once-strong minister of the Gospel to turn from his faith in God…to commit adultery, causing his marriage and ministry to be destroyed, splintering a strong church into a dozen fragments.
What cause a famous evangelist, who has led many to Christ, to defect from the faith,......breaking his family apart, later to wander across the United States like a homeless animal, finally to die a drunkard in a south Chicago gutter.
What would cause a very gifted young man, on whose head God's hand seemed to be place, and while attending seminary, getting great grades in his studies, to begin, through a chain of events, to doubt and let his faith slowly erode, who, the last I heard, was living far from God, and his speech punctuated with profuse profanity, being cynical of Christianity.
What causes such things to happen? One thing that was probably common to all these defections from the faith was COMPROMISE. Probably many compromises over a long period of time. It is the mostly silent, gradual, almost imperceptible toll of erosion and deterioration.
2 Kings 17:9 NKJV
9 Also the children of Israel secretly did against the LORD their God things that were not right,...
Those who compromise often do it in secret - at least at first. Because they once walked with God, they know that it is wrong, but the lure is stronger than their resistance. The person who has backslidden - separated himself from God often remains hidden behind a facade of religiosity. A person can espouse the right doctrine and bear every appearance of honor among men, yet still be filled with lust, jealousy, bitterness, etc.. That is true of all of us in the room today.
But the one who continues to compromise will not tarry near the altar of God. But he will squirm under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and writhe in discontent with his own weakness, but they will often shift the blame for their actions on someone else.
I have met, or known of, Christians who fell by the wayside. But I have never met a single one who fell all at once. The backslider does not suddenly wake up one morning and go out an commit adultery. Over a period of time, he may have become lax in his thought life, or he has allowed himself to entertain fleshly desires. King David watched Bathsheba undress, and soon, because he allowed it to lingered in his thought, it was but a little step for him to give expression to the imagination of his heart.
In each example I have given - whether in the Bible or in our world - the person let down their guard, one small compromise at a time. Eventually all those little compromises added up to create a big one. That is the one they couldn't pull out of - the one that eventually took them down.
It is clear to me that compromise is one of the greatest dangers confronting Christians today. Compromise - clever, seductive, subtle, deadly - is one of the most effective tactics ever invented by the devil for use against Christians. Spiritual decay is a gradual process. If it came as a splash of cold water in the face, we would recognize it for what it is.
But Satan is sly, and his tactics are subtle. Satan doesn't really expect most Christians to go out and commit some horrendous sin. No, he would much rather convince us to lower our guard at little at a time. And he will do it so gradually that we hardly realize it when we stumble. One notch at a time our integrity is impaired, and our relationship with God is damaged.
I remember the story of a 400-year-old redwood tree. This ancient tree had survived 14 separate strikes by lightning. It had survived countless earthquakes, storms, winds and other violent natural disasters. Yet one day, without warning, this massive, towering old tree came crashing down. No bolt of lightning was responsible. No overzealous lumberjack had felled it. It just came crashing to earth for no apparent reason.
On closer inspection, investigators discovered why this old tree had died. Tiny beetles had found their way inside its trunk and had begun eating away at its life-giving fibers, and thus weakening its mighty bulk from the inside out.
In much the same way, the devil tries to bring down Christians. He does it through a steady drone of small, seemingly insignificant temptations. While we are fighting and resisting him well in one area, we may be setting up house with him in another area of our lives.
Not all cases of defection are as obvious or notorious as those I have mentioned thus far. Certainly they are not as public as some of these were. But there is not a church today that is working for Christ and His Kingdom, that does not experience defection in the lives of some within its assembly.
2 Timothy 4:2-4 NKJV
2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;
4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
One of the biggest challenges of the church in our American society today is the subject of "Tolerance." And this has crept into the thinking of the church at-large in so many ways. In addition to teaching that Jesus is the God/man, they also preach Jesus is merely a man. Not only preach that the Bible is infallible, but mix in that the Bible also contains many errors. Preach that man is a sinner, but he is also essentially good. Preach that salvation is by grace, but also say salvation is based on the works a person does. Preach that Jesus is Lord, but also preach that you are the lord of your life. You may want to preach there is a heaven and a hell, but balance that with the idea that there may not be a heaven or hell.
>I can only speak for myself, and what I intend to teach, but I will stand with Moses and Elijah in saying, "Jehovah alone is God and therefore He is to be served and worshiped." I will say with Christ, "It is written!" and refuse to compromise for the sake of peace, if it is not peace with God.
2 Corinthians 6:14-18 NKJV
14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?
15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?
16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you* are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people."
17 Therefore "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you."
18 'I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty."
That is the mandate each of us, as Christians, are under. This is non-negotiable.
Frankly, you may be very close to that quitting point yourself. Perhaps you have seriously entertained the thought of going your own way. Or you may be presently engaged in a life that is dishonoring to Christ.
As I have studied over the years, and tried to analyze why defection from the faith occur, I think there are at least two things I have learned.
1. Defection does not occur suddenly.
2. Defection quite often takes place in time of blessing.
Let's look at each of these.
Defection does not occur suddenly
Deterioration is never sudden. No garden "suddenly" overgrows with thorns. No church "suddenly" splits. No building "suddenly" crumbles. No tree "suddenly" falls. No marriage "suddenly" breaks down. No person "suddenly" becomes base.
Slowly, without much notice, certain things are accepted that once were rejected. Things once considered hurtful are now secretly tolerated. At the outset, it appears harmless - perhaps even exciting, but the wedge it brings leaves a very small gap, a gap that grows wider as moral erosion joins hands with spiritual decay. In time, the gap grows to become a canyon.
That "way that seems right" becomes, in fact, "the way of death," as Solomon wrote in Proverbs 14:12. There is no such thing as "instant defection." Erosion takes place over a period of time. One little compromise is followed by a second. And both are tolerated with a still larger compromise. Defection often begins in the thought life, and then makes its way down into the heart, deep down where decisions are made and convictions are formed. It takes time for defection to run its course, unless somewhere along the line it is arrested.
Show me a person who has fallen away from their walk with the Lord, and I will show you a person who started making compromises in his or her life long ago. It just doesn't happen all of a sudden.
Here is an attempt on my part as to the process of continual compromise or backsliding.
1. The person's prayer life is crowded by other interests. Backsliding begins in the knees. Or, more accurately, backsliding begins when knee-bending stops. Other interests may be innocent pastimes - sports, hobbies, television, etc, but even that which is "good" can take you away from what is "best."
2. Hunger for the Word of God diminishes. As we fill our hearts and lives with junk food from a number of sources, our time in God's Word is reduced.
3. Church attendance usually slackens off. Church members are like automobile engines. They start missing before they stop. But some will continue in a state of hypocrisy.
4. Relationships undergo extreme stress. The urging of the Holy Spirit becomes more uncomfortable, which affects the time we spend with people who are close to God.
5. God's appeal to return is ignored. There may still be a lingering desire to follow God, but they won't step away from the lure of worldly things.
6. Refusal to return causes their concern for lost souls to subside. Because they recognize their own hypocrisy, they can't talk to others in the world about the spiritual condition of others.
7. The fear of God eventually departs. In time, a complete reordering of our personal priorities takes shape. Because they have a memory of what it was once like having God in their life, they may still experience a feeling of lost-ness or lack of purpose.
8. The abhorrence of sin is gone. It now become quite easy to justify actions they earlier would not have considered acceptable. Our sensitivity to spiritual things is not what it used to be, so now there is very little sense of guilt.
9. A calloused heart becomes stone. 1 Timothy 4:2 says our conscience will be "seared." We will even blame others for the path we took. The further we go, the more distant becomes the voice of God, and the more difficult it seems to find our way back. They become like Samson, who compromised himself to Delilah many times, until he did not know that the Spirit of God had left him (Judges 16:20).
Perhaps each of us, including myself, could benefit from a little spiritual housecleaning. Ask yourself: "Is there any areas of compromise in my life today?" Is there something that is choking out my spiritual strength. Is the excitement of our relationship with Jesus being drained. Now is the best time to deal with compromise in our life. Like a garden that must be carefully tilled and weeded, our spiritual lives require diligent attention
Hosea 10:12 (KJV) tells us:
12 Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.
It takes an effort in living a life of righteousness.
2 Peter 1:5-9 (NKJV) adds:
5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,
6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness,
7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.
8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
We cannot afford to neglect our spiritual condition.
Backsliding is, as the words imply, a sliding back. It is not a jump off the cliff, but a coasting downhill. And we cannot - we cannot - climb the mount of God in neutral. Spiritual growth requires a conscious effort. If we don't make that effort, our spiritual life will, by its very nature, succumb to the ways of the flesh. We need to speak the prayer of the David in Psalm 139.
Psalms 139:23-24 NKJV
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties;
24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
I want the searchlight of God to shed light on areas where I have compromised. How about you? If you are tolerating immoral things in your life, If you are compromising with thoughts that have no business being there, whether on a trip out of town, or in the secret place of your home in the evening, or in your apartment, or in the car where you drive each day, or from the stuff you read, or the entertainment you seek. If the things prompting your life are not God-like, then seeds of defection are being sown. AND THEY MUST BE REMOVED! They must be plowed up. We are not playing games. This is for real - and it is for all eternity.
Life is filled with choices. And we make daily decisions that may draw us nearer to God, or cause us to fall away and distance us some from God. We have an enemy, whose purpose it is to render us ineffective for the Kingdom of God. His desire is to discredit and disprove both the work and the Word of God, by weighing down and wearing down the saints.
The Scriptures speak as much about backsliding as it does about salvation. That should be as no surprise. You see, while a person was part of the devil's world and living away from God, the devil spent little effort on them. He already had them where he wanted.
But when a person accepts Christ as their Savior, all hell breaks loose, literally. He will now use everything in his arsenal to derail a believer. As an unbeliever, the person posed not threat to the kingdom of darkness. But Satan will work overtime to deceive and mislead the elect of God.
I have lived long enough to know that if seeds of compromise are left unattended and allowed to blossom, things never get better if action is not taken. They always get worse - and that is true for an individual or a congregation. A compromise today will lead to a character trait tomorrow. And a character trait tomorrow will determine your eternal future.
1 Thessalonians 5:22 says, "abstain from every appearance of evil."
It may not be sinful to you, but if it can be taken as wrong or just look wrong, then get away from it.
Remember, compromise is never big at the beginning. And roads leading to defection are not well marked with huge warning flags. They are smooth, attractive, appealing and easy. The enemy doesn't mind taking his time, as long as he can deteriorate your spiritual sensitivity to the Lord.
Obedience to Christ is not optional. It never has been an elective course in the school of the Christian walk. while our salvation is completely unmerited, many of the promises of God are conditional upon our obedience to His Word.
Defections quite often take place in times of blessing
Jeremiah 2:7 NKJV
7 I brought you into a bountiful country, To eat its fruit and its goodness. But when you entered, you defiled My land And made My heritage an abomination.
Defections don't only happen in times of severe trials. Rather, they occur in times of blessing and prosperity. Think of those men of Scripture who failed the Lord.
David sinned at the zenith of his career.
Jonah defected on the heels of one of the greatest revival in history.
Elijah begged God to take his life only hours after he had come down from Mount Carmel, where he had won a great victory over the false prophets.
Our most vulnerable moment is when we are enjoying times of prosperity and blessing. God had given the children of Israel the fruit of the land to eat, and they defiled it and made it an abomination.
When you are making top grades in school - you are vulnerable. When your family seems the closest and the strongest - you are most vulnerable. When your business has reached a level you never dreamed possible - that is a vulnerable state.
When things are going well, we have the tendency to let down our guard. That is when things like boredom and complacency can set it. i think it is tougher to REMAIN victorious than it is to BECOME victorious.
In 1 Corinthians 10, the apostle Paul paints a similar picture.
1 Corinthians 10:1-4 (NIV)
1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.
2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
3 They all ate the same spiritual food
4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.
They had everything.
A cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
The escape through the Red Sea.
God's man, Moses, and his brother Aaron.
Manna from heaven and water from a rock.
They were surrounded by unparalleled privileges. Miracles were an everyday occurrence. God's presence was constant. His workings were evident all around them. Everywhere, there was talk about God. It was like a Bible conference atmosphere day in and day out - week after week. Surely they flourished in such an atmosphere. WRONG !!
The next verse - verse 5 - says:
"Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert."
The Israelites allowed overexposure to the blessings of God to lead to taking God for granted. That's what happens to photographic film when it is overexposed. Sometimes the image is lost entirely.
My warning to you and to myself is this: You who think this cannot happen to you, you who stand - take heed - lest you fall (1 Corinthians 10:12).
Be careful about changing your standards in order to accommodate your desires. Be alert to the pitfalls of prosperity and success. If the Lord grants you riches, fame or success, do not feel guilty or run scared. Just stay balanced and in the Word of God.