3 Common mistakes that lead to Spiritual Failure
Overconfidence can destroy you. If you want to fail at something, wrongly assume you can’t.
Have you ever wondered why so few sports teams are able to string together successive championships? It’s NOT because they don’t have the experience, talent, or coaching to accomplish it. It’s because people are prone to think so highly of their achievements that they lose the hunger for improvement. They grow lazy and forget what it took to BECOME successful.
The same can be said of MARRIAGE. Good marriages take work. There is never a time when you can be satisfied … where you no longer see the need for change …where you falsely assume that your marriage is too strong to fail. When you begin to take your marriage for granted, you unwittingly sabotage what it has taken years to build.
Overconfidence has destroyed many good men and women spiritually too. The Christian life is hard. Like all relationships, walking with the Lord requires discipline and faithfulness. You can’t ever take a day off as a Christian. To grow in your relationship with the Lord requires you to be proactive – studying the word, praying for strength and wisdom, asking God for discernment to see through the deceitfulness of sin.
Don’t think you are too strong to fail. Don’t assume you have arrived at a place where you can coast. The Christian life requires 100% every day. And those who don’t give their all often wonder where their joy went or why they are crying over ruined testimonies.
This was Paul’s message to the Church at Corinth. As he brought chapter 9 to a close, he said of himself, “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
Though an Apostle - though a preacher of the Gospel - Paul knew the path to spiritual failure is paved with overconfidence. No matter how old you are or well-versed in the Bible you may be – the Christian life demands diligence!
Have you gotten to a place in your spiritual experience where YOU are coasting? Going through the motions? Content with former achievements, have you gotten to a place where you no longer feel the need to improve or change? Maybe you have been at a place of prolonged spiritual drought… where you no longer have that burning desire to serve ? YOU may not know it - but you are in danger of being, what Paul calls “disqualified.”
What does that mean – to be “disqualified?” It means “rejected.” It means, “to fail to meet the righteous standard set by God.”
All of us have bought products and found a label inside the packaging that says “Inspected by” and then it will give a number. The person assigned that number is putting his job on the line, saying that he or she has examined the product with a trained eye and found that it meets or exceeds company standards.
You may not know it - but God has a standard for US too. And there is coming a day of inspection. Some, tragically, will not meet His standard… they will be “disqualified.”
Jesus talked about it in Matthew 7, when He said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven... On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me.”
How does a person get to that place? What happens in the lives of people who were once the picture of faithfulness – but end up far from the Lord? According to our text, the person who is headed for disqualification makes three common mistakes:
1. First, he takes the blessings of God for granted. vv 10:1-5. Israel had suffered YEARS of brutal slavery in Egypt. And God heard their cries. He was touched by their need and reached out to them and delivered them by His strong and mighty arm.
God did this many times for His people, because He had promised to be their protector and provider. The only thing He required of them was to trust and obey. If they remained faithful - He would meet their every need. Paul mentions specific ways in which God intervened on their behalf:
As they were being pursued by the chariots of Egypt and came full stop at the Red Sea, when it seemed they had nowhere else to go and would surely die, God made a way for them when there was no way - He allowed them to cross over on dry land.
When they were out in the desert, having to look into the eyes of their starving children and soothe their fears – God made a way where there was no way - He provided Manna and Quail and gave them water from a rock.
When they were “under the cloud” – under the Shekinah glory of God – He was theirs and they were His… the apple of His eye… the object of His affection. Time and time again, God … blessed … His people.
But many of them had a short memory. They forgot the faithfulness of God. They failed to reflect on His blessings, to be thankful, because they had developed a sense of entitlement. They were stubborn and rebellious. They complained against Him at the slightest sign of adversity.
So verse 5 says “...with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.” “God was NOT pleased.” They did not meet His approval. God had inspected His people, and found them guilty of taking His blessings for granted.
I wonder - are we guilty of taking the blessings of God for granted?
Consider your life for just a moment. Think of ALL the things God has done for you, in you, and through you. How He, in spite of your spiritual condition, reached out to you and saved your soul. It was on account of His goodness and NOT your own – that He did this. He has met your needs these many years. When you couldn’t help yourself, God helped you.
Think about all the times He has encouraged you – how, when you were on the verge of giving up - God ministered to you and lifted you up…
Think of all the prayers He has answered – when money was an issue, when a conflict threatened your family, when sick or needing wisdom, when you didn’t know where you would turn or what you would do – God heard YOUR cry. THINK of ALL the suffering He has spared you from… His great faithfulness in times of trouble. ALL of us… ALL OF US have been so richly blessed!
Have you taken His blessings for granted?
In the beginning you were amazed by it all – you couldn’t praise Him enough. But lately things have become ordinary. You don’t pray like you should. You aren’t as faithful as you once were. How often you think of yourself without giving one single thought to your Savior. How quick you are to complain… to act in the flesh… to be demanding.
TAKE NOTE: The surest way to being disqualified is to allow yourself to get to a place where you take the blessings of God for granted.
2. Secondly, believe that you can sin without consequence. The person in danger of rejection by God is the person who thinks he can live in sin and still experience God’s blessings. vv. 6-12
In spite of all the good things God had done for them, He was not pleased with most of them. So, for 40 years they wandered until literally thousands of Jewish carcasses littered the desert. God destroyed an entire generation of people, people He loved, people He had blessed, because they were unfaithful.
Many of those people were respected leaders. Many of them had great potential. But they were rejected by God - because of their sin.
What should THAT TEACH US??? In this day of “cheap grace” – where we are taught that God loves us too much to judge - too much to punish our sin - you need to know that the same God Who destroyed an entire generation of people in the wilderness - still sits on the throne today.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can sin without consequence. Don’t think you can be unfaithful and still experience His blessings. It is FOLLY to assume you are the exception to the rule… or to measure yourself with faulty comparisons in an attempt to justify your sin. Remember what Paul said? “Don’t be deceived. God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows, THAT he will reap!”
3. But not only did they fall because they took the goodness of God for granted, and believed they could sin without consequence, THIRD, they fell because they didn’t take temptation seriously. Notice verses 13 and 14, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, FLEE from idolatry.”
Flee! – run away – get as far away as fast as you can. When will we ever learn that we are weak and prone to sin. When will we learn that we don’t overcome sin by constantly putting ourselves in a position of compromise. You are sabotaging your success if you keep hanging around people who challenge God’s best for you. FLEE!
How seriously should we take temptation? I would remind you that Jesus said in Matthew 18, “…if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire...”
Do you think Jesus takes temptation seriously??? AB-SO-LUTELY! He is teaching us that we should be so concerned about our spiritual well-being and our testimonies before others that we take drastic measures to AVOID temptation.
And lest you think, “I’m not doing anything THAT BAD…” “In comparison to so-in-so my sins are SMALL.” In the Song of Solomon we find this wise proverb: “Little foxes spoil the vines.” It’s not the big, shocking things that lead to ruin – Satan doesn’t often tempt us to take drastic leaps into sin. It is the little sins… that wrong thought here, that half-truth there, that lingering look, baiting us like bread crumbs, luring us, ever so gradually away from the Lord. It’s the things that don’t offend us, that don’t shock us - the things we THINK are hidden from view - - that ultimately destroy us.
David would never have thought that he, a man after God’s own heart, would have murdered a man in an attempt to cover his adultery. But it all started when he walked out on his balcony and lusted for a women who belonged to another man.
I am sure that no one would have ever believed Job, the most righteous man on earth, would have cursed the day of his birth… but it was a series of unfortunate circumstances that led this man to hate his life that had been so richly blessed by God.
No one would have ever suspected Peter, our Lord’s best friend, of cursing God and denying he knew the Lord.
No one would have ever imagined Samson, the strongest man to ever live, would have become as weak as yesterday’s dishwater, or that Judas would have become a betrayer, and on and on we can go.
It’s “the little foxes,” the little sins, the secrets, the indulgences of our minds, those indiscretions and half-truths – and because nothing happens immediately, we are lulled into a false sense of security – and before you know it BOOM! You are ruined and filled with brokenness.
If you want to know how people experience spiritual ruin, it’s really quite simple: they take God’s blessings for granted… they believe they can sin without consequence… and they refuse to take temptation seriously, and for that, they were rejected. If Paul was concerned that it could even happen to HIM of all people, surely WE aren’t so arrogant as to believe it can’t happen to US.
How ARE things? Right now, might the Spirit of God be speaking to YOU, showing you that you are the verge of heart-break in the very least, and something catastrophic at its worst? Are you concerned about it? In the honesty of this moment, would you admit that you have made some decisions that are leading you to ruin? And right now you realize that where you are and what you are doing is offensive to God. Do you want God to forgive and restore you today?
Ask God to forgive you right now... to fan those dying embers into full flame… and revive you again. Won’t you???