Water that has become stagnant is no longer flowing or moving. Because it is no longer moving, it becomes foul and stale, and scum begins to form on the surface, making the water undesirable and unpleasant to the senses. Stagnant water can also become a breeding ground for bacteria and mosquitoes, which carry malaria and the West Nile Virus — a health hazard, to say the least.

Stagnant Christians are not really any better. Stagnant Christians are no longer moving or working and they have become unpleasant to the Lord to the point He would rather spew them out (cf. Revelation 3:15, 16). Stagnant Christians can also become the source of unpleasant attitudes and undesirable behavior, and can often be the cause for spiritual weakness and lack of movement in others because their lack of movement often hinders others from moving and acting as they should.

Spiritual stagnation is hopefully something we seek to avoid, but the problem is that we do not always recognize when we have come to a standstill. Let’s take a few minutes today and consider some ways we become spiritually stagnant, then examine ourselves to see if these things describe us and, if so, let us make the necessary changes.

Directional Stagnation. It may be that we become stagnant simply because we have no clear purpose and no goals for which we strive. We reason among ourselves that we are “OK” because we aren’t regressing into the world, but the fact is, we aren’t moving forward, either; we are at a standstill. Far too often, we are content to simply keep the status quo and as long as nothing drastic happens and no great changes are made — either bad or good — then we are satisfied that things are as they should be.

When we have lost our direction, if we never really understood our direction, or if we never had a clear goal for which we were striving, then it is likely that our actions have become merely aimless motion, without purpose, and we are not growing spiritually. Someone has likened such to a rocking chair: You may be making a lot of movement, but you’re not really going anywhere. Christians of all levels of spiritual maturity should never be content with things as they are, but we should all be “straining forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13), and at no time should we think we have progressed enough, but should be ever striving to “excel still more” (I Thessalonians 4:1) lest we be that church that had “the reputation of being alive, but [were] dead” (Revelation 3:1).

Where are we headed? Do we know? What are we striving for? To what do we look forward? The leaders of this congregation should be leading us, and leading us in such a way that all members know where we are headed and how we reach that destination. No member should be left out of the effort, no member should be overlooked or ignored, and each member must have a part. Every member, too, must have personal spiritual goals and must have a part in moving this church in the direction it should be going. And if the leadership isn’t leading as they should, you still must set your spiritual direction and make some obvious spiritual progress towards spiritual maturity and the eternal goal of heaven. Do you know your part in this church? Do you know where you’re going?

Intellectual Stagnation. It is no better when we fail to move forward in our knowledge of God’s word, either. When we rely on what we learned in past studies and keep repeating the information we learned in the Bible study we did in the beginning of our faith, we have not progressed in our knowledge; we are stagnant. When we answer questions about spiritual matters by merely repeating what others have written, we have ceased seeking a deeper understanding of God’s word and have ceased looking to improve our spiritual understanding of God’s word; we are stagnant.

When we fail to grow in our knowledge and application of God’s word, we remain babes in Christ and we do not become the teachers we should be (cf. Hebrews 5:12- 14); we have become stagnant. If, as teachers, we do not — or cannot — get any deeper than a simple understanding of a passage or we don’t seek a deeper understanding of a passage, then we have ceased growing intellectually; we have become stagnant. If we no longer “like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up” (I Peter 2:2), we have become stagnant. If we, as a church, are not constantly challenging ourselves to make sure what we believe is true to God’s word, then we may get into the habit of answering questions by saying, “That’s what we’ve always done,” or simply giving no answer at all for what we believe and practice. When we cannot answer why we believe or what we believe, it will not be long before someone comes along who is very convincing and who leads us astray — and we will not even know it.

Relationship Stagnation. A church whose members know very little about one another and who spend little time with one another is going to be one that is soon stagnant because none of the members will want to do anything with the others for the simple fact they don’t know each other well enough to know what to expect. Face it: If a stranger comes up to you and urges you to join with him in the work of the Lord, wouldn’t you be hesitant to join with him unless and until you knew more about him? Most people would, and it is because they cannot be sure you are both of the same mind and believe the same thing. It would be confusing to join with someone, only to find that they do not believe the same thing. The only way we may eliminate that hesitation is to get to know one another better, but that will not happen if we are stuck in the same phase of our relationship with our brethren as when we first met them.

To illustrate the point, let’s ask some basic questions: Do you know the person on the pew behind you well enough to tell me what their favorite color is? Do you know how many brothers or sisters they have? Are their parents still living? Where does this person live? Could you get there? Do they know where you live? Do they know anything about you?

We must come to the point of knowing one another that we are willing to demonstrate it by our actions. John reminds us, “By this we know love, that He laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (I John 3:16). Are we willing to lay down our lives for our brethren? If not, why not? Could it be that we really don’t know one another as well as what we claim? What will we do about it, if not?

Let’s take an honest look at ourselves and see where we really stand in regards to these things. Do we have a clear spiritual direction, both individually and as a church? Have our leaders laid out for us the spiritual goals of this congregation? Do we each know our part in the accomplishment of those goals? Have we set our personal spiritual goals, and are we diligently working towards them?

Are we learning more about God’s word and how it applies to us personally? Are we challenging ourselves and one another to a greater and deeper understanding? Do we know one another well enough to feel comfortable working with them in the Lord’s work? Are we making an effort to get closer to one another? Ask, and then answer, these questions. Let’s do all we can.

by Steven Harper via Gospel Truths May 2011

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