Several years ago, at a Missions Conference at LBC, we had a keynote speaker by the name of Ron Blue. He began his speech by saying this: “First, there are millions and millions of people who have never heard the gospel. Second, none of you give a (expletive), and thirdly (as he paused for dramatic effect), you are much more upset because I used the word (expletive) than the fact there are millions and millions of people going to a Christless eternity.” After that opening I don’t know how much of his speech I remember, but one thing I do remember is questioning myself. Am I not interested in the souls of men? Do I care more for my own comforts than what is happening and will happen to the millions who have never heard the name of Jesus? Was I so apathetic? And so, when I saw the book “Overcoming Apathy” by Uche Anizor, I thought this would be good to read, to be able to help people like me. Well, that was my original thought, but then something changed.
So, what is apathy? It is laziness, slothfulness, and being aloof and disinterested. It is all those things we experience on our worst day. But for the Christian it is much more than that. It is when you do not care about God or the things that God cares about. It comes and goes. One writer refers to it as “selective apathy”. It attacks our prayer habits, our Bible reading and the stillness that every Christian needs daily.
The opposite of apathy would be zeal. This is what Christ demonstrated in the temple when he overturned the money changers, “His disciples remembered that it is written, zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:17) He also speaks of zeal in Romans 12:11: “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” Zeal is the missing element that every Christian needs, but how do we combat that feeling of laziness and indifference? Anizor gives 7 underlining causes for apathy. Let me zero in on one of those “backstories” as he refers to them: doubt. (Sorry, you’ll have to get the book to learn about the rest of the causes.)
Doubt is an area that I have always struggled with. I can remember many times standing at a graveside, comforting the family with the hope of a future reunion, and at the same time wondering: Will they? Will they see them again? Or, confronting a difficult problem at the church and saying, God will work it all out, and at the same time wondering, will He? These doubts have led to moments of apathy on my part, but God helps us even when we don’t seem to be helping ourselves. During those days of doubt, God has been faithful and given me a tool called apologetics, which has helped many times since. Sometimes it is a passage that will help me see in the dark, or sometimes He will give me a like-minded friend to walk alongside me and give wisdom.
Any of these backstories can lead us to a state of apathy but remember, we live in a world which is run by Satan, and we do battle with his forces on a regular basis. As it says in Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm”.
As I said, something has changed. I bought this book, “Overcoming Apathy”, thinking I could help you. But guess what, it has helped me! It has helped me realize that apathy can creep into my own spiritual life just as any other sin. It will help me the next time I hear another sermon on helping all those poor people, or another message on preaching the Gospel to those who have heard it a million times or when I hear people in the church who are still complaining about the temperature in the auditorium. I can only pray, “Lord, may I have the zeal which you have and may I be obedient to every area of ministry to which you call me. May I not ever be apathetic to the things of God nor to the things that God loves.” Thank you Jesus!