Concluding our section on responsibility it’s important to take a good look at the dangers of the call. What we’ll see, even in this brief look, is how invasive the threat (world, flesh, and devil) can be. It can even thwart a God-given impulse to serve and lead.
The first danger to the life of living out the call is arrogance. When you see your gifts flourishing, when people constantly compliment it’s tempting to begin to think too highly of yourself. Jesus, in His third Beatitude says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). Many commentators have observed that true meekness is not self-hatred, but rather a true understanding of the self. It is an awareness of yourself not just in your giftedness, but also in your rebelliousness. When you understand your whole self and see it in light of God’s white hot holiness, you begin to become meek. But then recall the cross, the fact that though you are unquestionably rebellious you are also irrevocably loved. What you’ll find is that your heart begins to be stirred with a ‘mysterious confidence.’ You’ll be confident but not arrogant. You’ll be meek, but not saddened. Practicing meekness is the surest way to guard against arrogance and arrogance is one of the quickest ways to destroy an effective life of living out the call.
The second danger to the life of living out the call is envy. We’ve all experienced this. The seemingly powerful minister is nervous and anxious, thus envious of the housewife or the plumber. The plumber or the housewife who desires the illusive ‘more’ is envious of the powerful CEO. Envy has an insidious ability to erode our effectiveness as we pursue our call, our responsibility. You might think of Peter who in John 21 after Jesus says gives him the call: “ Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him,“Follow me!” (John 21:18-19). It’s Peter’s reply which illustrates the envy: Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” (John 21:19). So often when the Lord calls us and sends us we look to our neighbor and ask “Lord, what about him.” This envy takes our focus off of our God-given direction and sends us into competition, a perfect foothold for the enemy.
The third danger to the life of living out the call is sloth. We all know people who have “greatness in their bones”--they’re exceedingly talented but exceedingly lazy. Sloth plagues Western society. You can just look around. Idea implementation consultation has become its own business. The dark-side of the American dream is an infatuation with the wealth without a desire for the work. A friend of mine says, the major human problem is not a lack of information but a lack of execution.
Sloth is often inspired by a deep fear creating an unbiblical sense of inadequacy. Rather than “it is better to have tried and failed than not tried at all,” we believe “it’s best to avoid failure, even if it means not trying.” The Philokalia, an ancient Eastern Orthodox text, describes sloth as dejection. A sense of dejection often carries with it a sense of uselessness. This is, as is perhaps obvious, again the work of the world, flesh, and the devil.
Sloth can also be the result of a lack of inspiration. When there is nothing compelling us to greatness, greatness is hard to imagine. That’s why it is ever-important to fix our eyes on Christ; when we see Him as He is we will necessarily be inspired. It’s important to remember that sloth, historically, has been understood as one of the seven deadly sins. We typically don’t see constant inactivity as a sin, but that may be because it is so common, and after all, how could something so normal be a sin. In any event, from a historic and biblical perspective, sloth is deadly. When sloth infects calling the tsunami destroys the buildings. When sloth infects calling the earthquake flattens homes.