"Passive Verses Active" (July 2004)
A couple of weeks ago a friend was sharing something she had read about passivity in the church. I can't help but agree with what was said because, sadly, it is true. The church has been passive- passive in our relationship with the Lord, passive in our resistance of the enemy, passive in fulfilling the Great Commission. I know there are some groups, denominations, and individuals who don't fall into this category, but as a whole the church has been passive. After my friend shared this I have not been able to get away from the message of passivity- the Lord has continued to speak to me about it in my own life. I don't want to devote this newsletter to addressing this problem in the church in general, but I would rather bring it down on a more personal level and address passivity in the life of the individuals who make up the church. In addressing this subject I would like to begin by addressing one area in particular- passivity in our relationship with God. You must always put first things first- because God is a God of divine order- "Let all things be done decently and in order". (1 Corinthians 14:40) Before you can address the passivity that you have in fulfilling the commission, in resisting the devil, in doing the will of God, you must first deal with your relationship with God because everything else stems from and flows from that. This is why He said the first commandment is, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind;" then "Love thy neighbour as thyself." (Luke 10:27) It all begins with your love (and relationship) with God.
In order to find out whether you are passive in your relationship with God or not, you must first define what it means to be passive. You do this by definition and by comparing it with something else- so then you must have something to compare it with in order to determine if you truly are passive. Let me try to make what I mean a little clearer by using this example. My husband has been down in his back for the last seven months. During this time he has been through all sorts of therapy, injections, adjustments, and tests. Each doctor and therapist had given him a questionnaire and on it he had to rate his pain. My husband's biggest question in rating his pain has been, "How can you rate pain because what may be excruciating to one may be normal or less intense to someone else?" So what they do then in order to get a better indication of just how severe his pain is, they have him compare it to something else. It is rated on a scale from one to ten- one being moderate and ten being the worst. One means the pain is there but does not hinder you in any way from carrying out your normal task. Ten means that you are flat of your back in bed and cannot function at all. By using this system of comparison his doctors have a better idea of how to treat him and chart his progress based on the level of his pain. This is what we are going to do too to help determine if we are passive in our relationship with God- we will give you the dictionary definition and then give you something to compare it with.
The dictionary defines passive this way- inactive; offering no resistance; taking no part; receiving or subjected to an action without responding or initiating an action in return. Now, let me give you something to compare it with. If passive is inactive; without response, then we compare it to just the opposite- active. Active is the direct opposite of passive/inactive. Active- acting, moving, working; being in a state of action; marked by or involving direct participation. You can determine your level of inactivity based on your level of activity. So, using your amount of "activity" as a guide to rate your "passivity", ask yourself a few questions. Am I "drawing near to God"? (Psalms 73:28) Am I "submitting myself to God"? (James 4:7) Am I "seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness"? (Matthew 6:33) Am I "setting my affections on things above- on Him"? (Colossians 3:2) Am I "praying and reading the Bible- having communion with Him"? Am I "presenting myself as a living sacrifice" to God? (Romans 12:1) All of these words- drawing, seeking, setting, praying, reading, presenting, submitting are action verbs- they show activity; activity that is directed toward God- toward a relationship with Him. If you aren't drawing, setting, seeking, etc. toward God then you are doing the opposite- you are passive (inactive, without response); passive in your relationship with God. Now let me ask you- are you active in your relationship with God? I'm not talking about just being "busy"; just doing a bunch of stuff- a bunch of church work or religious busyness- but are you actively pursuing to know Him in a deeper, more intimate way?
Once you have dealt with your passivity in your relationship with God- "Submit yourselves therefore to God." (James 4:7a)- then you can deal with it in the other areas of your life. One of the areas we mentioned that the church was passive in was their resistance of the devil. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7b) God has given us power and authority over all the powers of the enemy. "Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you." (Luke 10:19) Yet, too often, when he comes to kill, steal, and destroy, when he comes with his temptations, we don't stand against him, we don't rebuke him, we don't do anything but accept what he brings our way. I understand that there are times when God allows the "trying of our faith" and the devil becomes an instrument in that process, but we still need to resist him and not give him any place- that doesn't excuse us. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith." (1 Peter 5:8,9a) Is this the case in your life? Are you passive when the devil comes to bring havoc into your life? Do you just idly stand by and let him destroy your marriage, your children, your business? Or do you stand on God's word with sword drawn and resist him? He may come, but are you just going to give him the keys to your "house" and let him come in and do whatever he wants to do? There is a reason why God gave us weapons- mighty weapons- that pull down strongholds. (2 Corinthians 10:4) Weapons are to be used- active; not laid aside on a shelf- passive. We have a good illustration of this in Proverbs 26:13-15- The sluggard says, "There is a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets!" As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed. The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth." A sluggard (passive man) sees the danger, but reasons and justifies why he won't do anything about it. He knows the lion is in the streets lying in wait, yet he won't get up off his bed (that place of comfort and safety) and use his powers against the lion. "Satan goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour." (1 Peter 5:8) Like the sluggard, if you see him "out there" lying in wait for you but you won't move out of your comfort zone- your place of safety- and use your authority against him... then you are a passive Christian.
There are some blessings, some healings, some answers to prayers that will never come as long as we are passive. Consider the woman with the issue of blood. (Matthew 9; Mark 5; Luke 8) This woman had a disease for twelve years. She had spent everything she had on doctors and never got any better- only worse. When she heard about Jesus and how He had healed others, she went to where He was and made her way through the crowd to "touch the hem of His garment". We know she received her healing, but just think about it for a moment, what if she had not been "active", what if she had been "passive". Would she have ever been healed? Would she have eventually died with the disease? There is one thing that we must always remember about a passive attitude- some may even call it a passive spirit- whatever the case may be; we must remember that it will always try to reason, justify, and excuse itself. This woman had a good reason- under the law she was considered unclean, so she was forbidden to be in public. She had a good excuse- I'm just too weak to go. She could have justified not going- the crowd is just too big to get through. No matter how "legitimate" your reason may be... if you are passive you are going to miss what God can do in your life. You must be active to receive the blessing; you must be determined; you must press through; you must keep on keeping on; you must "do" whatever you have to do in order to obtain... being passive won't receive it.
There is nothing about the Christian life that is to be passive. Jesus wasn't passive, "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him." (Acts 10:38) He went about doing good- He went about "doing the Father's will". You will never find passivity in the life of Jesus. Therefore, should it be found in the lives of His disciples, in the lives of those who follow Him, in the lives of those who represent Him on the earth? Just look at the words that are used in conjunction to our relationship with Jesus- "follow", "represent"- all action words. As you look at the lives of those in the early church, you won't find any of them that were passive. Look at Paul and Peter, James and John. On the contrary, "They turned their world upside down". (Acts 17:6) You don't turn your world upside down by being passive.
For many weeks now the Lord has kept bringing this scripture to me- "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." (Matthew 11:12) One thing that the church doesn't seem to understand is that we are "kingdom people". We aren't to be of the world; we are to show this world what the kingdom of God is like. We are representatives on the earth of another kingdom- a heavenly kingdom where Christ rules and reigns. We live "in" this world but we are not "of" this world. "For he [Abraham] looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." (Hebrews 11:10) "And confessed that they [saints of old] were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. (Hebrews 11:13) Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims." (1 Peter 2:11a)
So when we refer to the verse about the violent, it is talking about us (the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ- kingdom people). We are to "be violent and take this world force". Before you misunderstand and think that I am talking about going out and beating up the wicked judges or killing the homosexuals and abortionist, let me explain what it means to be "violent" as written in this scripture. Violence as the world defines it is not at all like the Lord defines it. As a matter of fact, God hates violence. "The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth." (Genesis 6:11,12) God told Noah that this was why He was going to destroy the earth with a flood. God is a God of love and mercy- not willing that any should perish. When they came to arrest Jesus in the garden and Peter drew his sword to fight, Jesus told him, "Peter, put up thy sword into the sheath." (John 18:11a) So what does it mean for the "violent to take it by force"? Let's define "violence". The Greek meaning of the word violence is- to force; to crowd oneself into; press. It comes from a root word that means "force- through the idea of vital action". "Through action"; this is activity, not passivity. As kingdom people, as representatives of God's kingdom we must actively be involved in showing forth God's kingdom on the earth.
How do we do this? How do we take action? How do we take it by force? "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." (Ephesians 6:12) We take it by force through prayer, intercession, and standing on the authority of God's word. Our "battle" is not against flesh and blood- the homosexuals, lesbians, the ungodly, atheist, the court system, the abortion doctors, or the government- it's against the devil and the demonic forces that come against us and mankind to destroy souls.
While Jesus was on earth He taught about being passive and active. He gave us a picture of what it would be like in the last days. (I believe this is a prophetic picture of where the church is today.) "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented." (Matthew 11:12-17) "And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace". (Matthew 20:3) Let me try to condense this for you- to elaborate is a whole other sermon in itself. There will be two groups in the church in the last days- an "Elijah" group and those who "sit idle". The Elijah group is active- the voice of one crying in the wilderness, "Prepare the way of the Lord". Those who sit idle are the passive group- they sit around waiting for someone to notice them, someone to give them a hand out, waiting around for someone to come to them instead of them "Going into all the world; into the highways and byways and compelling others to come in"; literally it means they are useless, lazy, and inactive. We each have a choice- do we want to be part of this "Elijah group" or part of the "idle group"? In order to be part of the Elijah group you are going to have to be active and not passive.
It's time we stop being passive in our relationship with the Lord and be active like the woman with the alabaster box and "pour" our love and life and our most valued possessions out on the Lord Jesus Christ. It's time we stop being passive in our obedience to Him and be active "doers of the word and not hearers only". It's time we stop being passive in our resistance of the devil and be active and "let him who stole, steal no more". It's time we stop being passive about the souls of mankind and start being active and "warn the wicked man of his wicked ways". It's time we stop being passive and get active and fulfill the will of God in our lives- nevertheless not my will but thine. It's time we stop being passive in our representation of Christ on the earth and actively "let our lights shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven." It's time we stop being passive and get active in taking our world for Jesus. It's time we stop being passive in fulfilling the commission that Jesus left for us to do and start getting active by "preaching the gospel to every creature."
If we are passive in our relationship with Christ we will miss out on what He wants to do through our lives. We will not walk in the power and authority that God has given us. We will miss our purpose and not fulfill our destiny. In short, we will be the losers. On the other hand, if we are "active" one day we will rejoice when we hear Him say, "Well done, thy good and faithful, servant. Enter into the joy and rest of the Lord your God."