Is It Futile To Serve God?
A new year has begun. Many resolutions have been made. One resolution that would benefit every person is that of serving God. As we take inventory of our lives, we may find that our lives have become stagnant.
The people of Zephaniah’s day had become stagnant. Zephaniah said they were “men who are stagnant in spirit, who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will do nothing, either good or bad” (Zephaniah 1.12). Because of this, God was bringing punishment upon his people. It begs several questions: How could God’s people become stagnant? Why would God’s people become stagnant? What factors contributed to this? Perhaps a more important question: Is this mindset prevalent among God’s people today? Let us consider these matters.
Stagnation is a failure to develop, progress, or advance. When water becomes stagnant, a foulness or staleness emanates as a result. When people become stagnant, this concept of foulness or staleness is seen in their dullness of hearing and their senses losing the ability to discern right from wrong.
From Zephaniah 1.5-6, we wee the characteristics of stagnant behavior in God’s people. They “bow down and swear to the Lord and yet swear by Milcom.” They had “turned back from following the Lord, and…not sought the Lord or inquired of him.” How had this happened?
We find the answer in the record of their own lives. God’s people had persisted in disobedience to the law of Moses. They were strictly warned not to imitate the idolatrous practices of the Canaanites (Deuteronomy 6.14), yet they did this very thing! They had become settled in this way of living. Zephaniah said, “And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, ‘The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil’” (1.12). This describes their complacency. Other prophets gave us similar explanations.
Ezekiel wrote, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of Israel are doing in the darkness, each at the shrine of his own idol? They say, ‘The Lord does not see us; the Lord has forsaken the land’” (8.12).
Malachi revealed even more insight. He described their complaining and murmuring as follows: “You have wearied the Lord with your words. ‘How have we wearied him?’ you ask. By saying ‘All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them’ or ‘Where is the God of justice?’” (2.17). “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord almighty?’” (3.14).
Stagnation is no respecter of persons. Complacency can set in today when anyone persists in disobedience. A stagnant life only changes in repentance. The gospel message declares this necessity. When a child is raised in an environment of complacency, it presents the most difficult obstacle to overcome in giving one’s life to Christ. Herein we see the need for the training up of a child in righteousness by both word and example of the parents.
Complacency can return in the lives of Christians. When Christians become complacent, they become weary of standing for the truth. Read again Malachi’s record of the words of Israel: “It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty?’” (Malachi 3.14). Weariness in well-doing is is an ever-present threat. It wears on us. We see the parade-like atmosphere in the religious world around us on the TV and on social media as they praise the Lord for their blessings and prosperity, while we go about “carrying out his requirements, like mourners.” Enticed by the glitter, many have sought to incorporate their practices into the worship of the Lord to liven up things. They see the proverbial greener grass among the denominational ways and desire to be fed with their social food. They see the prosperity — the large numbers among them — and conclude that there is no “justice” with God. As the Psalmist stated of the wicked in Psalm 94.7, “They say ‘The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.’” God answered with a reply that is still applicable today in Psalm 94.9-13: “He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see? He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke? The Lord, who teaches man knowledge, know stat thoughts of man, that they are but a great. Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord, and whom you teach out of your law, to give him rest from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked.”