-Brook Ardoin (July 2018)
Charles Spurgeon was the most popular, influential preachers of the Victorian Era. Pastoring the world’s largest church in London, he founded 66 ministries. He fought against U.S. slavery, China’s opium trade, and human trafficking. He was a writer and prolific author, and his quotes remain some of the most profound and well known within the Christian community to this day.
It is in one of his books he first wrote about what he called “the callousness of the Gospel”. Though I have not read this particular book, it was in a recent discussion of the passion of today’s church that this statement arose to describe what I have witnessed. If Spurgeon witnessed a callousness in God’s people during the 19th century, I can only presume to imagine what his thoughts would be concerning this dilemma in our 21st century.
The word “callous” in relation to this article means, “make hard; hardened; insensitive; indifferent; unsympathetic; feeling no emotion”.
What Spurgeon began observing was a general loss of fervor and zeal for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Regrettably, this lack of enthusiasm for God’s Word among His people has only increased since his time. Moreover, what I have witnessed not only pertains to the Word of God but also towards Jesus Christ. In all fairness, this was not a problem that began in the 19th century. It started as far back as when Jesus walked the earth with those closest to Him.
Through the centuries, decades, months, and years, this callousness has only grown exponentially. Though there are many things we can blame as the Devil’s doing in our lives, this is unfortunately an area that God’s people only have themselves to blame. Sure, when we become callous, the enemy will recognize it and move in to only aid in causing more troubles in our lives from it. Nevertheless, in the overall scheme of things, the fault lies directly in the Body of Christ for allowing it to happen, but worse, to continue.
Well over three years now, I have stepped back from a Nursing career to work for God in ministry full time. From the very start, I began noticing a hardening or indifference towards God’s Word. At that time, I exclusively related this to His Word alone because my main job was writing articles based specific to the Word; therefore, I focused on how many of His people were interested in reading them.
It was perplexing to me in seeing the stats of the number of Believers reading the material published on our website centered on the Word, as compared to the other material based upon the happenings in the world at the time. It was staggering how God’s people were quick to read and comment on everything else but the things of God in the Bible by which is our blueprint for life and living it victoriously.
Because we were just beginning, my mind wanted to believe that this was only the result of being a new ministry. Likely, as the Lord expanded us, that would change… so I thought. Here I am more than three years later and a new full time online ministry with the Lord and the Word priority, and it has not changed but worsened. Many have grown hard towards filling themselves with the things of God. In essence, many have waxed cold towards Him and what lies in the pages of the Bible, and are spending more time seeking alternative sources to fill their souls.
The unbridled truth is that I am witnessing the great passion for the Word of God as well as the passion for the Lord Jesus Christ being washed away with the tide of callousness. Many are getting “used” to Jesus. The anticipation of spending time with the Lord in prayer has fizzled and the exhilaration of soaking in His Word at every given chance has seemed to reach its crescendo with many Christians. Many have even grown bored with these things and feel there is nothing new to be revealed.
Let me be clear that if you find yourselves slipping into a place where your hunger and thirst for God and His Word begin to diminish, you are not alone or a horrible Christian. Many Believers find themselves in seasons like this. I have experienced it myself. The trouble comes when we allow it to linger on and we do nothing to change it immediately. This is when we only have ourselves to blame. God is very passionate about you! It says in Zephaniah 3:17 that He takes great delight in you and that He rejoices over you with singing. Do you ever ponder the thought of the Creator of the Universe SINGING… and over YOU! He wants you to be just as passionate in your love for Him.
When we first meet someone and begin a dating relationship or a courtship, there is a wonderful newness and freshness about it. There is an excitement that is hard to contain. Normally, each person has a great desire to put the other first, and it is a joy for each to display a servant’s heart towards the other. Our “less than desirable” qualities are typically disregarded in the beginning. We look forward to sharing the day’s events with the other and there is an anticipation just to see, speak with, and spend time together.
Soon enough, majority of relationships end up growing calloused. The newness ends and the couple becomes comfortable and grows used to each other. Putting the other person’s needs first becomes less and less, and that servant’s heart that once brought such fulfillment starts dissipating. This is what callousness does – it causes the heart to grow harder and harder.
Most couples view these things as a sign they may be losing their love for the other person. The reason is because people tend to mistake love for a feeling or emotion, and love is not a feeling. God is love. Emotions are subject to change. God never changes. Love is a decision that involves work when planning to stay the course for the long haul.
The work necessary in all relationships is a requirement that must be kept by each individual. We have to determine in our hearts that individually we will do the work it takes within ourselves to remain dedicated and committed – to continue to put the other above ourselves and remain with the attitude of a servant’s heart, especially if we have made a vow before God in marriage to love unto death. Love is not in words, but in what you DO. James said it best when he spoke of not deceiving yourself into believing that God cares about what we say. It is what we do, or our actions that God cares about.
We can equate our natural relationships with our relationship with the Lord. Remember when you first were saved and your heart transformed? For most of us, it was like being brought back from the dead! That breath of salvation brought life we never knew existed. We wanted to tell everybody about Jesus and scream from the mountaintops about our salvation! We could not wait to dive into His Word every day as the Holy Spirit brought new understanding in those pages. We could not think to start and end the day without prayer, and usually any time in between.
As “babes” in Christ, the Lord treated us as babes – He constantly spoke to us, answered prayer, and revealed Himself to us. We were “on the bottle”, thriving off the milk He provided. However, there comes a time for weaning off the milk and we must begin to eat solid food. He intentionally begins to draw back to allow us to spiritually mature. We have to work to get the results He once provided so easily. This is a necessary process in growing in the Lord.
What happens with the spiritual is the same as the natural. Too many Christians base their salvation and walk with God on feelings. You are seeking out the same feelings you experienced when God bottle-fed you. When those feelings are gone, many fall away from the Lord, believe the lies of the enemy that God no longer cares, or presume they did something for God to draw away.
With others, that newness in the Lord begins to vanish and what was once effortless in praying and reading His Word becomes work. In addition, the busy lifestyles that come with this fast-paced world take priority over the things of God and you find yourself spending little to no time with the keeper of your heart.
“Faith without works is dead”. If there is a need, you cannot idly do nothing and expect God will just fulfill your every need. You must take action and do something to prove your faith in Him and His Word. When it comes to your passion for your first love and the Word, the same principle applies. If you sit back and do nothing, you will find yourself spiritually dead. If you build a fire but do not attend to it, it will slowly die down until it completely goes out. You must attend to your spirit and spiritual life or the flames will go out as quickly as adding water to fire.
In John 5, Jesus was in Jerusalem near the pool called Bethesda. Multitudes of the sick, blind, lame, and paralyzed frequented this pool so that when the angel stirred its waters, the first to get in would be totally healed and made whole. This is where Jesus healed a man with an infirmity for 38 years because He had compassion for him. When the Bible uses the word “multitudes”, it means a great volume of people. Therefore, imagine the scores of people witnessing the signs and wonders He performed that day.
Jumping to chapter 6, Jesus then went over the Sea of Galilee. In verse 2 it says “Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased”. The same multitude who witnessed His miracle working power near Bethesda is who followed Him as He traveled by boat over the Sea of Galilee. They were in awe and He stirred an excitement within them. They power He displayed was new to them. Though John does not record it, the same story in Matthew tells us that after Jesus departed by sea, He went alone to a deserted place but “when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick” ~ Matthew 14:14.
Jesus did not just heal the ONE man who had been sick 38 years, but he healed all the sick among that massive crowd. Continuing in Matthew, evening came and this is when Jesus performed yet another great miracle known as “Feeding the Five Thousand”. This number did not include women and children so we can only speculate the enormity of the crowd adding them in the count.
What I want to stress is the amount of signs and wonders the multitude witnessed in this ONE DAY was overwhelming – starting at Bethesda where he healed the sick man, then healing all the sick among the five-thousand plus, then multiplying 5 barley loaves and 2 fish to feed every mouth until their stomachs were filled.
Granted, look what happens the very next day. Crowds began seeking Him out in Capernaum. Consider the number that sought Him out that following day once the multitude passed word to everyone what they witnessed or were directly involved in. Today, we would be telling everyone on social media and in our cell contact list if we were part of that!
When they found Jesus, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You come here”? Jesus answered saying, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me NOT because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” ~ John 6:25-26. Recall in verse 2 how they first followed Him “because they saw His signs”. Within hours, their reason and exceeding desire to be close to Him had already changed.
They went from following and seeking Him out for WHO HE WAS, to seeking Him out the next day because of WHAT THEY COULD GET FROM HIM . In this case, it was food for their bellies. They labored for natural food which perishes rather than the food which endures to everlasting life which only the Son of Man can give (John 6:27). The excitement of who He was had already grown calloused overnight.
What about the Twelve that left job, home, and even family to follow Him for the two years of His ministry? We all know the story of the woman and the alabaster box. Jesus was dining at a table with His disciple’s only hours prior to His arrest when she entered and broke the flask and poured the contents over His head. The flask contained a very costly and valuable oil known as spikenard (See Mark 14:3-9).
In seeing the woman anoint His head, some of them had indignation within themselves – meaning they became angered, or annoyed, or even resentful of her. To this they said, “Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor”.
They murmured against her; they criticized her very sharply. In church lingo, they rebuked her. Jesus comes to her defense instructing them to leave her alone as she has come to anoint His body for burial and assures them that wherever in the world the Gospel is preached, what she did that day would be told. Jesus turned around and rebuked them right back.
How is it that the men closest to Jesus whom He informed time and again that He would be leaving the world and spoke of His impending death have such misunderstanding and disregard for the time at hand? This simple woman understood what was coming and this would be her last opportunity to anoint Jesus’ body before His death. Having been with Him for two years now, they forgot what drove them to drop everything they were doing to follow Him no matter the cost. They had grown used to Jesus.
They had grown bold with their words. Surely, for them to rebuke her openly in front of Jesus they thought He would agree. They had heard Him speak many times about giving to the poor, so they viewed her act as a waste. They were thoughtless of Him and their very little time left with him, and were more worried about the oil being wasted on Him. They still had not seen the bigger picture. They heard when Jesus spoke of His death, but had not been listening. The poor would always be among them to do good for them, but He they would not always have around.
She was doing what she could to honor Him before His death. She took the most valuable, costly possession she had and used it on Him. That act displayed the passion within her heart for her Messiah. She was giving Him thanks not only for who He was and all He had done while living, but thanking Him in advance for what He was about to do in death. Though He was no stranger to her having raised her brother Lazarus from the dead, she never got used to Him during the time she knew Him. That act displayed that nothing was too good or valuable to give up for Him. Her heart was ablaze with a deep love for Him, and never grew indifferent.
In Revelation, Jesus gives a review and instructions to some local churches based on how they have followed Him. After He speaks to the church at Ephesus of their hard work and endurance, He then says,
“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place – unless you repent”. ~ Revelation 2:4-5.
Jesus calls attention to them having left their first love, even though He just finished recognizing their labor and patient endurance. We can use the reprimands He gave these churches as a guide to live by to keep ourselves in check. There are two things He told the church at Ephesus to do because of their callousness:
- Repent – This not only involves asking forgiveness, but turning away from whatever has drawn you away from Him and getting back to Him.
- Do your first works – Do the things you did at first. Think upon and do the things from when you loved Him most. Spend time reading your Bible and praying daily without fail. Surround yourself with people of like mind. Listen to messages based on His Word in your spare time, never making any waste of the day.
In conclusion, let me assure you that you may never feel the things you felt in the beginning. Yet, you must never cease to remember that this is a walk based on faith, not feeling. It is imperative our hearts remain on fire for Him no matter how long we have been saved or serving Him; that we do not allow ourselves to become calloused or used to our Lord or His everlasting Word. Press in no matter how you feel and pray, worship, and read. Flood your soul in all that is Jesus, and He will draw nigh to you.
Do not be a statistic of Matthew 24:12 and allow your love to wax cold in these End Times. Jesus was speaking of Believers there. This not only pertains your love growing cold for others, but also your love growing cold towards Him. Remember, it is okay to have seasons where your spiritual passion feels as dull as a butter knife. However, you cannot afford to remain there or let it enter your heart. God expects you to stir yourself up and regain your spiritual fervor. God will give back to you in accordance to what you give Him.