Living free starts with overcoming spiritual complacency and focusing on the race before us.
Our culture’s idea about freedom is often that we are set free to do whatever we want. The irony is that when we go through seasons of doing whatever we want, those turn out to be our least content seasons. We were not built to live for ourselves.
I think of the eighteen months of doubt I experienced that held me captive and how complacency overtook my naturally zealous spirit. My spiritual doubt and disillusionment stole my energy and desire to serve. Without a bent toward service, I bent toward too much Netflix, too much social media, too much sugar, too much grief. Click, scroll, binge, cry — rinse and then repeat. What I experienced in that season is not at all how life was meant to be lived. You and I were made to be part of an eternal story centered on the unyielding purpose of our service to an unmatched God. Complacency rewrites that script entirely.
Keep reading to find out what cured my complacency, or use the links below to quickly jump to the other sections of the article.
- Overcoming Complacency With a Mind Change
- Living Free Starts With Serving Others
- Living Abundantly Looks Like Surrender and Obedience
- The Joy of Self-Forgetfulness
Overcoming Complacency With a Mind Change
Complacency is finding comfort in mediocrity, in accepting things as they are, clinging to the status quo. It’s behind our tendency to check out, to zone out, to numb. The questions driving our thought patterns are no longer How will God use me today? and How can I give Jesus to someone? Instead, we’re focused on…
What do I want?
What do I need?
How will I get what I want and need?
What do I feel like doing?
What will make me happier?
What will make me more comfortable?
What will make me look good?
What will make me sound smart?
What will protect me from getting hurt or from taking all the blame?
What will make me feel content?
That’s the question around which all the others revolve.
The apostle Paul gives us the weapon of truth that frees us from the velvet-covered chains of complacency:
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:2)
Why? Because as those who have been buried in Christ and raised in faith, we have already died to the things of this world. Our real life is bound up with Christ.Overcome complacency and live free. We were made to be part of an eternal story centered on the unyielding purpose of our service to an unmatched God. Complacency rewrites that script entirely. Click To Tweet
My husband always says that the definition of leadership is “taking initiative for the good of others.” When we reject passivity and lean into the needs around us, we see our minds set on the things of God. God is never passive. God is always working for our good and His glory.
Why does it matter that we choose service instead of complacency? How does taking initiative for the good of others help us redirect our negative thoughts? What is in store for the person who serves consistently?
Searching for balance? The Two Words That are Key to Enjoying a Balanced Life
Living Free Starts With Serving Others
A key reason for the lover of God to choose service over complacency is that God highly values work. He loves work, as evidenced by His actions at the beginning of time. With outright whimsy, He created those peacocks, as well as giraffes, platypuses, and more. He worked. He worked hard. His hard work was fueled by sheer delight. I think there’s a lesson for us to catch here. We, too, should delight in our work.
Intuitively we understand this to be true. I mean, admit it: it may feel satisfying to binge on chips and salsa while scrolling social-media feeds for an hour or two (or three?), but at some point don’t you become as antsy and itchy as I do? Doesn’t your soul start screaming for something more?
You know what our souls are saying to us? They’re saying, “This just ain’t cutting it for me!”
The fact is, our brains are hardwired to thrive when we are serving others. Though subconsciously we seek to be served and have our needs met, research has proven that our brains actually do much better when we’re on the giving end rather than the receiving end.
- Serving others reduces activity in the stress- and threat-related parts of our brains.
- People who live with purpose sleep better and live longer.
- Serving others lights up a region that is part of the brain’s reward system which helps us recognize and pursue things that bring us pleasure like a good meal, an encouraging interaction with a friend, or a hug from a trusted family member.
Do you want to know God’s will for your life? I’ll give it to you in three words:
Surrender. And obey.
That’s it! So many books have been written on finding God’s will, yet — boom — here it is in plain sight:
“He said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
In our small-minded human-nature economy, we think that freedom means going our own way. In fact, freedom is found in laying our lives down in the service of God, the One who made us, who knows us, and who has welcomed us into fellowship with Him. It is in this state of full surrender that the longing to obey rises up in us.
Living Abundantly Looks Like Surrender and Obedience
Think of it: Obedience to God without full surrender is an exercise in robotically following the rules. Surrendering to God without obedience is the equivalent of faith with zero works. Which is, as James 2:17 says, dead faith. No, to live out the abundance we’re promised in John 10:10, we must have equal parts of both ingredients: surrender and obedience, obedience and surrender.
We go where God says to go.
We stay when God says to stay.
We lean in when God whispers our name.
We serve when He asks us to serve.
You know, we tend to glamorize Jesus’s earthly ministry, as though every moment of His existence here was star-studded with excitement and stimulation. Yes, there were definitely noteworthy occasions throughout those three years. A scene involving bread and fish comes to mind. But apart from the miracles Jesus performed, much of His time was spent sitting across from one or two or three individuals in a small room over a simple meal, talking about forgiveness and about grace. Nothing flashy. Just basic acts of service from One who was constantly bending down to meet the needs of people.
The Joy of Self-Forgetfulness
So we wipe down breakfast tables and speak kindly of someone who’s being criticized and write thank-you notes and build spreadsheets and take a stand against injustices and make coffee and apologize for that thing we said and send emails and hug a sobbing teenage daughter and change diapers and reach out to a client and teach a preschooler how to tie his shoes. We do all these things and a bajillion more — all because God prompted us to.
And as we build the spreadsheet for the glory of God, as we wipe the table in service to God and our people, we don’t have quite as much time for ourselves. It’s the joy of self-forgetfulness. We need to become excellent at being self-forgetful.
But it’s difficult to forget big things, especially ourselves.
So we shift our gaze. See, there’s a greater plan for service in our lives, and this is it. The way we fix our eyes on Jesus is to run the race set before us. We interrupt the spiral of self and the pattern of complacency when we run the race before us.How do we interrupt the spiral of self and the pattern of complacency? We fix our eyes on Jesus and run the race set before us. Click To Tweet
But let me pull you in close and tell you that when you start taking risks for the kingdom of God and running your guts out, Satan will do everything in his power to discourage you. The devil delights in distracting us from worship, from running our races, because he knows that living out our purpose here is a direct result of our love for God, our wholehearted focus on Him. When you look at Jesus, you are so moved by His love, so moved by His grace, so moved by what He did for us, that you can’t contain yourself.
So you go give Him away.
It’s how we’re supposed to live.
Chip’s book Holy Ambition has made a big impact on Jennie’s life and ministry. Recently Chip sat down with Jennie for an inspiring discussion. Watch the video today.
© 2022 by Jennie Allen. All rights reserved. Adapted by permission from Get Out of Your Head: Stopping the Spiral of Toxic Thoughts
Bible Teacher, Founder of IF:Gathering
Jennie Allen is an author, speaker, and the founder and visionary of IF:Gathering. She is a passionate leader following God's call on her life to catalyze a generation to live what they believe. Jennie is the author of numerous books including New York Times bestseller, Get Out of Your Head, and her most recent book, Find Your People. Her Bible studies include Stuck, Chase, Restless, Proven, Get Out of Your Head, and Find Your People. Jennie has a Masters in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary and lives in Dallas, Texas, with her husband, Zac, and their four children.More Articles by Jennie