The Curse of Mediocrity
So because you are lukewarm (spiritually useless), and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of My mouth [rejecting you with disgust].
Do you ever feel as if you’re just going through the motions? Some of us, for any number of reasons have lost our passion for work, God, our families, and everything else in our lives. We drag ourselves in after a long day and collapse on the sofa only to tune out in front of the television. We no longer want to change the world. The most we can muster is changing the channel.
Even if the stress levels in our lives are only slightly above optimum, our minds, hearts, and bodies eventually wear down, and all forms of energy in our lives dissipate. We used to be excited about this goal or that purpose, but no longer. We used to care deeply about this person or that cause, but no longer. All we want is to be left alone or to find somebody or something that will give us a few moment’s pleasure. The curse of mediocrity ruins us and everyone we touch.
In the letters to the seven churches in the opening chapters of Revelation, John writes to the church at Laodicea that the Lord is, to say the least, dissatisfied with its lack of passion. The church was located near the hot springs of Hierapolis, so the reference to “hot” may be about the steamy, healing, medicinal baths. The “cold” may reference the water that refreshed tired workers and travelers. But the church didn’t have any cold water, either. All it had was tepid, bland water that couldn’t heal and didn’t refresh, the kind we’d spit out.
If your heart is lukewarm, step back, take stock of your stress level, notice any negative habits you’ve allowed to develop- and make changes. Don’t settle for mediocrity any longer, but don’t just add more activity to your life. To become fully active again, you may have to eliminate more than you add.
As I read my Scriptures today, the words ring loud and clear that the most miserable creature on earth is the fence-straddler trying to please God and man. He fails to do either and ends up not even pleasing himself, much less his fellow man or his God.
I think most of us, were we honest, would admit that we find ourselves far too often under tremendous pressure from a number of sources to act in a certain way or to participate in certain things. We hear about peer pressure as it relates to children but adults struggle with peer pressure as well. We are pressured to “fit in” with society and its standards or to live out a lifestyle that in truth really isn’t us but seems necessary to qualify us for promotion or community acceptance. I wonder how many there are reading this devotion who on a regular basis set aside who they are and become who they are expected to be.
It’s not just the timid or the weak who are victims of blending in and becoming chameleons, the power of the pressures to conform to some norm affects even those who are considered strong. And because there are often opposing pressures, we find ourselves torn between the two. It is almost as an old song says, we are “torn between two lovers, feeling like a fool.” There is little joy or satisfaction in a life that is trying to please everyone.
The church at Laodicea had an even more challenging struggle for they were torn between their love for God and their love for the world. They couldn’t fully commit to God but they couldn’t walk away from Him. They only sought God when they could not manage by themselves. Jesus said that they actually thought they were sufficient on their own and had need of nothing. The truth was, according to the analysis of Jesus, they were poor-lacking spiritual things, blind-unable to see their need, naked- trying to stand in the presence of God on their own merit.
Their fallacy was to believe that they could live a double life. Jesus said that none of us could serve two masters. Perhaps some of the misery we find in life is the strain between trying to fit into the kingdom of God while holding on to the things of the world.
Not long after I became a Christian, I found myself in this place. I was still trying to still do all the things I had been doing before I got saved. But everything has changed and though I was still doing things that were sinful, they had lost their pleasure. I guess the habit was stronger than the fun. I’ve talked with those who became addicted to some drug who have told me that after a while, the excitement and the enhanced feeling was gone and now the drug controlled them without providing any pleasure. The truth is that everything in this world comes to this. No matter what we pursue in an attempt to find pleasure, it soon loses its ability to give that pleasure. Take a lesson from one of the most powerful, wealthy, and intelligent men who have lived, Solomon. He records that he set out to try everything that could possibly give pleasure only to find that “it was all vanity.” Though it may have given pleasure for a season, eventually the fun ran out. So while trying to stay engaged with the old life of sin, I was also trying to engage in the new life as a Christian. Boy, was I miserable. I couldn’t enjoy the sin because the Holy Spirit was convicting me and I couldn’t enjoy church because my conscience was eating at me. Paul, in Romans 7, describes this place as “wretched.”
I knew I had to make a choice. I also knew I was powerless to do so on my own. In desperation I cried out to God and He sent the Holy Spirit to break those chains that were holding me to my past. It was simply amazing. Oh, I didn’t become perfect. Temptations still come my way, calling me to go back to my past, exaggerating the fun it holds and minimizing the misery it brings. But when I remember to joy of being free, the feeling of being right and clean, and through the help of the ever-present Spirit, I know I don’t want to go back to my old life.
Choosing between two masters or two different lifestyles is not an easy thing. The deceitfulness of the world, the draw of the pleasure of sin, and the persuasion of the devil are powerful forces to be reckoned with. But thanks be to God, there is also the love of the Father, the grace and mercy of the Son and the power of the Holy Spirit living in us that give us enlightenment to see the true results of our choices. Though the choice may be difficult, once we choose the ways of God, we discover the wonderful peace even in adversity because we know in the end we’ll be in the best place.
If you’re trying to straddle the fence, I feel for you. No man’s land is a scary place. Not knowing who you are and more importantly whose you are is without a doubt the most stressful place to live. Make the choice, choose wisely, choose the master who gave up Himself for you and who has already made the choice to choose you. Close the door to the things that drag you down and open the door to heaven’s blessings. Renounce your allegiance to the destroyer-the devil, and proclaim your loyalty to the giver of life-Christ Jesus.
To the church at Laodicea Christ counseled them to “buy white clothes(representing righteousness) and healing salve so you may see(truth)” That’s an interesting thought since we know that Christ has paid it all on Calvary. What could we “buy”? If you read the entire passage carefully you will see that what Christ is saying is that our “buying” is in reality an exchange. We trade that which is of this world for that which is of the kingdom of God. We trade our vain attempt to be sufficient on our own for the dependence and trust in the sufficiency of God. We trade our feeble attempt to be righteous for the righteousness of Christ. We trade our thinking that we see clearly, though it is obvious we don’t, for the insight and the wisdom of God. I think we might say that we certainly get the best bargain in the trade. Once we make such an exchange, we are no longer dependent on the world or ourselves to find joy and peace and delight. No substance of this world can make you feel as ecstatic as a single moment in the presence of God. No amount of wealth can make you feel as blessed as knowing that you are a child of the King. No clothing of this world can dress you like being clothed with the righteousness of God. So take the deal, accept the offer and make the choice. Stop living the misery of trying to fit into two worlds and step over the fence. You’ll be glad you did.
Dr. John Thompson