We are already nearing the end of the first month of 2017. The year may still be relatively young but it is never too early to ready ourselves for the spiritual challenges we can be sure to encounter.
The details of the challenges vary from individual to individual. The Bible reveals that we are tempted according to our desires (cf. James 1:14). This year we may also encounter challenges to our faith the likes of which we have never encountered previously.
Whatever challenges or temptations we may face, there are four spiritual cancers we need to be especially wary of. Failure to do so will see them begin to fester in our souls, destroying us from within as they did the Hebrews in the wilderness.
The Bible warns us: “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God (Hebrews 3:12).” In the passage leading up to this dire warning, we learned:
“Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) (Heb 3:8-11)”
These four spiritual cancers are deadly. They have been the cause of many who have fallen by the wayside. Let us be doubly careful of them.
The first cancer to sneak in unawares is complacency. Dictionary.com defines being complacent as “Pleased, especially with oneself or one’s merits, advantages, situation, etc., often without awareness of some potential danger or defect; self-satisfied.”
A complacent person thinks he is safe when in fact he is surrounded by danger. Perhaps he thinks because he has been a Christian a certain number of years, or he only needs to do the barest minimum at his convenience to make it to heaven. Peter warns: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (1Pe 5:8).”
Complacency leads to the next spiritual cancer, carelessness. The complacent Christian becomes careless about the state of his soul and maintaining his relationship with God. Of course he knows he must study the Bible and pray everyday. He knows he must be fervent in evangelism both personal and corporate. He knows all the text-book answers to what we must do to be pleasing to God.
But the question is: is he abiding by them? Is he doing them? ‘Occasionally, sparingly, sometimes, once-in-a-while, without zeal.’ These are just some different descriptions of the same answer from a careless Christian – if he dares to be honest with God and his own soul.
It leads on to callousness: hardening of the heart and conscience toward the things of God. He is becoming increasing insensitive and indifferent to the Scriptures and his relationship with God. Yes, he might be aware that he does not search the Scriptures daily but he does not feel bad and is not embarrassed by it. He misses the assembly of the saints but he dismisses the fact with a wave and an excuse.
He is now languishing in the danger zone. Sadly, his complacency and callousness have blinded him to the point where he either fails to recognise his condition or goes into denial. This leads on to the next cancer.
This person will fall back into a state of condemnation if the three previous cancers were not dealt with scripturally through repentance and bearing the fruits thereof. Like the Hebrews in the wilderness who rebelled against God, they have committed the sin of unbelief.
What can we do? First let each Christian examine his/her heart. “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates (2Co 13:5)?”
Next, keep a lookout for brethren who might be in danger of these cancers and help save them. “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have mercy, who are in doubt; and some save, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh (Jude 21-23).”
“Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins (Jas 5:19-20).”