By Mike Willis
Having previously defined apathy, shown how it manifests itself in a local congregation, and discussed its causes, we are now prepared to consider what is the cure for apathy. If a person is looking for profound cures, he will not find them in this article. There are no shortcuts to spirituality; there are no glamourous methods of curing it. Rather, what is required is plainly revealed on the pages of God’s word in simple terms for everyone to understand. As I understand the word of God, these are the cures to apathy.
That repentance is the first cure to apathy is seen by the. two examples in the book of Revelation. When John wrote to the church in Ephesus, a church which had left its first love, he revealed God’s word to them in these terms: “Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen; and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place except thou repent” (Rev. 2:4-5) .. Later, he wrote to the church in Laodicea which was described as lukewarm. Here are his words to that church:
I know thy works, that thou are neither cold nor hot. I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent (Rev. 3:15-19).
John admonished both groups of brethren who were filled with apathy to repent.
No major changes in one’s conduct will occur without repentance. The process of repentance is simple: (1) one must recognize that his present conduct is sinful and will result in eternal damnation; (2) he must hate the sin in his life and resolve to put it behind him; and (3) he must follow this resolution through with action. With reference to the religious apathy which is manifesting itself in the congregations, a man must realize that absenting himself from the assemblies of the church, failing to study God’s word, neglecting prayer, and omitting good works from his life will result in eternal damnation. He must learn to hate these things as sinful conduct in his life and resolve to change them. This must then be followed through with action.
A person might not always have a warm feeling in his heart as he is doing the work of God. I should not expect that I will live my entire life of service to God on “cloud nine.” Hence, God never conditioned acceptability before Him on some warm, syrupy feeling in a man’s heart. One must simply accept his responsibility before God and do what God commanded him: He must discipline his life to worship God through good times and bad times, to study his Bible day in and day out regardless of the external circumstances, to habitually pray to God and to be active in good works.
If a man can so conduct himself with reference to temporal responsibilities, he can also conduct himself that way with reference to ‘his responsibility before God. A man does not go to work only when he has a warm feeling toward his work; a man does not provide for his family only when the kids are conducting themselves as little angels; he does not love his wife only when she is dressed like a gorgeous model. He realizes his responsibilities before God and fulfills them at all times. He should act in a similar manner with reference to his responsibilities before God.
Resolve in your heart that you are going to change your conduct before God. Be present at every service; if you feel well enough to go to work on a given day, normally you should feel well enough to worship God. Study your Bible every day; if you can find time to read the daily newspaper, you should be able to find time to read God’s word. Pray daily; if you have the time to talk to your earthly friends, you should be able to find time to talk to your heavenly Father. Abound in good works (1 Cor. 15:58).
Reaffirm Your Priorities In Life
A Christian must be a man who has his priorities in life straight. He must put God first (Matt. 6:33; 22:34-40), his family second (Eph. 5:22-6:4), the needs of others third (Matt. 20:26-28), and himself last. Satisfying one’s personal lusts cannot take priority over service to God, service to one’s family, or service to others.
When I consider why members are missing worship services, neglecting Bible study at home, failing to pray, and omitting good works, I am forced to the conclusion that this is being done because members are more concerned about personal gratification than the worship and service of God. I do not find members of the church missing worship in order to care for the needy, to provide for their families, and otherwise discharge obligations imposed on them through God’s word. When the rare occasions occur when this must be done, everyone is understanding toward such a person. However, what I see occurring is that members are neglecting worship and other responsibilities in order to stay at home and watch TV, to go to recreational outings, to work a second job in order to accumulate more wealth, and such like things. This plainly shows that God has taken a subordinate place in one’s life to some other activity.
God’s attitude toward such people is plainly revealed. Consider the statement made in Philippians 3:18-19.
For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is their shame, who mind earthly things.
Consider the things said about these people. (1) They are enemies of the cross of Christ. (2) Their eternal destiny is damnation in hell. (3) Their god is their belly (i.e., any earthly thing which gives them pleasure). (4) Their glory is their shame. (How many times have you heard men brag about things of which they should be ashamed? For example, a man might forsake the Lord in order to work overtime because he is covetous; then, he buys a shiny, new car with his additional income. He then glories in his raw car whereas he ought to be ashamed of having forsaken the Lord in order to obtain such a material item.) (5) They mind earthly things. These men were enemies of the cross of Christ because they had their affections set upon things of this world.
Later Paul described another group of men as “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof?” (2 Tim. 3:4-5). From such men, Paul warned that Christians should stay away.
Christians need to go to God’s eternal word to establish a system of values in life. That word will tell them that one’s obedience to God is more important than any temporal matter. All that one does in life is vain, with the exception of what he does for God (Ecc. 12:13-14). There is no profit in gaining the entire world and losing one’s soul (Mt. 16:26).
A high priority must be placed on communicating this idea to our children. We must bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (Eph. 6:4). I must communicate a knowledge of Christ to my children (2 Tim. 3:14-17). I must teach them how to pray, trust in God, lay up treasures in heaven, and otherwise place God first in their lives. If I rear a child with a good education, making loads of money, who is popular among his peers, and who participates in every form of legitimate recreation but who has no time or appreciation for God, I will have failed as a parent. I want to make the beauty of holiness attractive enough to him that he will desire to live in holiness himself.
Brethren, we need to re-evaluate where we are placing our priorities in life.
Be Devoted To The Lord
The foremost commandment in all the Bible is that a man should love God. Jesus was asked, “What is the great commandment in the law?” To this question, He responded, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matt. 22:36-37). One’s love for God is based on his knowledge of God; one cannot love one whom he does not know. One can know God through the revelation of Jesus Christ (Jn. 14:7-9). Hence, to know God better, one needs to know more about Jesus. Only as one comes to a deeper knowledge of the life of Christ and what God hays done for us through Christ can he increase his loye for, God and Christ.
In love to God, one must present his body as a living sacrifice to the God who gave His only begotten Son for our sins (Rom. 12:1-2; Jn. 3:16). Hence, he must make a personal commitment to serve God. Many know right from wrong without being committed to doing that which is right. It is one thing to teach our children the difference between right and wrong; it is another thing to rear our children to be devoted to that which is right. Similarly, we need to not only know God but to be devoted to His service. You and I need to make a personal commitment of ourselves to the Lord.
One Must Labor In His Vineyard
In order to overcome apathy, you need to be involved in the work of the Lord. Teach your neighbor the gospel of Christ (2 Tim. 2:2). Volunteer to teach a Bible class on Sunday morning or Wednesday night. Check on the people who are not attending regularly as they should. Visit the sick in the congregation to see what you can do to help them through this troubled time in life (Jas. 1:26-27).
As you become involved in the work of the Lord, you will develop a better appreciation of the church as a body in which every individual member has a work which it does to enable the body to function properly. The whole body works when it is “fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part” (Eph. 4:16; cf. 1 Cor. 12:12-20).
People are involved in those things in which they are interested. Hence, if you have any interest in Christ, you will want to be involved in His work. If you want to see people converted, you will support gospel preaching and gospel preachers as well as being actively involved in the work of teaching others. Hence, you need to personally be involved in the work which the church is trying to do. Instead of making noble resolutions which never result in positive action, become involved in the work which is being done in your community. Volunteer for every work project which you can.
Be Other-Worldly Minded
Think of heaven. I am afraid that most of us are so content with life on this earth that we think very little of heaven. Let us be reminded of the beauties and blessings reserved for us in heaven. The Lord has gone away to prepare a mansion for us in order that we might be with Him (Jn. 14:1-2). I am anxiously awaiting that inheritance which is “incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth riot away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith” (1 Pet. 1:4-5). The beautiful description of heaven makes me long for it. I long for that time when “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4). Although the description of heaven in the book of Revelation might be figurative, I am appalled at the beauty of that place (Rev. 21:10-27). I certainly want to go to heaven when I die. I do not want to miss heaven.
Long for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. The early saints wanted the Lord to return to take them with Him into heaven (Rev. 22:20; 1 Cor. 16:22). They realized that when He returned, the wicked would be punished and the righteous would be rewarded (2 Thess. 1:6-10). As saints, they had a good hope in Christ (2 Thess. 2:16; 1 Thess. 4:13-17). The hope which one has in Christ needs to be understood; hope is simply desire plus expectation. Having hope in Christ, I desire heaven and expect to receive it when Jesus returns. Therefore, I should long for the return of the Lord. What other things do we hope for but do not desire to see come to us?
Setting my mind on these things will help me to keep matters pertaining to this temporal life in focus. I certainly would not entangle myself (2 Tim. 2:4) in anything which would jeopardize my salvation. Therefore, this would be another cure for apathy.
Are you genuinely concerned about apathy in the church? If so, will you join me in personally striving to eradicate apathy toward spiritual things from our own lives? Then, will you join me in working to help others root it out of their lives? Help me to talk to those who are forsaking the assembly, neglecting Bible study and prayer, and otherwise acting indifferently toward the Lord and His cause. Our own salvation depends upon it! Let us be concerned about our spiritual attitudes.
- Define “repentance.” What mental steps does one take in order to repent?
- Should one expect to have warm feeling about everything he does in service to God?
- Can one be faithful to God while doing the following:
a. Allowing a headache to keep him from worship services but not from work?
b. Going all week without studying his Bible other than when at worship?
c. Neglecting the needs of others?
d. Assembling just on Sunday morning?
e. Taking a second job which causes one to miss mid-week worship services?
- What is the most important thing in your life? Second most important? Third most important?
- Does your life reflect the order of priorities which you just named?
- What percentage of the Sunday morning attendance is present for Sunday evening and mid-week worship services? Why is there a difference in these attendances?
- What kind of. person is described in Phil. 3:18-19 and 2 Tim. 3:4-5?
- What is the difference in teaching your children the difference in right and wrong and teaching them to do right? How can you accomplish the latter?
- How does one increase his love for God?
- What can you do in service to the Lord? How many of these things are you now doing?
- How will working for the Lord help overcome apathy?
- What is “other-worldly mindedness”?
- What is “hope”? Do we hope for the return of the Lord if we do not want it to happen now?
Truth Magazine XXIV: 17, pp. 285-287
April 24, 1980