STAYING TOO LONG AT THE MOUNTAIN
The Danger of Spiritual Stagnancy
By Henry Jaegers
And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. (Genesis 11:1,2)
No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved. (Matthew 9:16, 17)
The idea of spiritual progress has always been a concern, even in my own personal life. Progress, I believe, is the sign of health and lack of progress means that Satan is at work to hinder the program of God from going forth. Remember that Satan is always at hand when we begin to make progress spiritually. He is there with his various distractions which he throws in the way to hinder our progress. We see this manifest early, after the times of Noah when his descendants went forth, trusting the Lord and looking forward to greater things. But then, there were the plains of Shinar. Who can imagine all the things that must have gone through their minds and convince them that staying there was the will of God? They imagined all the wonderful things they could do for God at that place, and although progress was a good idea, to stay in Shinar was not. Their idea of progress was right but their timing was out of sync with God's. And sometimes that's how it happens.
Sometimes we fail to come to grips with the fact that there is a natural tendency for us to want to settle down, be comfortable and enjoy life. But we don't have to go outside the will of God to find true happiness, for Jesus said “I am come that they may have life and to have it more abundantly (John 10:10). And I believe that spiritual progress is the means by which God causes happiness to take place. We know the story of Babel and recall that their decision to “settle down” was not part of God's plan. We live in a day where "the progressive movement" seems attractive to many. But Satan's purpose is not progress but destruction and ugliness. Satan delights when the church is spiritually stagnant and nothing is happening, and that is too often because spiritual growth in the individual Christian has been hindered.
But in the New Testament, the message that is often misunderstood and overlooked is that of the old wineskins and the old garment being sown into a new one. If you study the context, you will discover, that Jesus was criticized because his followers were not doing the same as John's disciples, and Jesus uses this illustration to show that John's ministry was somewhat like old wineskins that would eventually be no longer necessary. It served its time, but now a transition was taking place, replacing those old wineskins with the new. Jesus’ message was a new wine of progression and beauty but the old wineskins which lost their usefulness just by getting older, needed to be replaced, not patched over, and so it is true with the garment. The old patch will eventually wear out and lose its usefulness. That's what happens to us when we become satisfied with our spiritual progress. God's plan is that we should grow and produce beautiful fruit like that from a garden but instead what comes forth instead, are the works like that coming from a factory. Living in the flesh and living in the spirit is not possible at the same time.
Paul in Galatians chapter five said, “walk in the spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh". The battle is always before us and we must be engaged in the battle with progress being in mind. We are always on the winning side when it is our desire to obey the promptings of the spirit in order to refuse the temptations of the flesh.
So, it is a simple message that I am trying to convey. Simply this, be careful that you don't spend too much time in the comfort zone. Satan is always there, seeking to convince us of how wonderful it is to be there, but God's plan is to progress beyond the comfort zone until the spirit of God flows forth from within, producing the beautiful fruit of the spirit. Our daily relationship with Christ and our spiritual progress is essential to keep spiritual stagnancy from becoming a norm in our lives.