Friday, April 22, 2022

Suffering from Spiritual Second Night Syndrome

Suggested Reading: 1 Kings 18:36-19:10

I did a lot of theater in high school. I did everything from lead roles to being an understudy to working backstage helping with sets and props. Most of the plays that we did would run for three nights, typically a Thursday through Saturday. On the second night, we would always warn each other beforehand not to take it easy, especially if we did well on opening night. See, there was this thing we called "Second-Night-Syndrome" where, if we did really well the first night, we would let our guard down and then do horribly the second night. If opening night was bad, we typically didn't have to worry about Second-Night-Syndrome because we were already focused on not screwing up again.

A similar dynamic exists in our Christian walks. When things have been going really well, when we have been growing, and especially when we have had some major victory in our lives, those moments contain the greatest potential for disaster because we let our guard down or because we have experienced such a spiritual high that anything less than such stellar victory leads us into depression. There are two prominent examples of this in scripture.

We find the first example in 1 Kings 19. The prophet Elijah has just had a severe spiritual high.  Elijah has defeated the prophets of Baal in a duel by calling fire down from the heavens to consume a sacrifice and the people have turned back to the Lord. Then Elijah succeeded in praying a multiple-year drought to its end. Even the evil king Ahab seemed to give Elijah a break for once. But when Queen Jezebel found out what Elijah had done she threatened Elijah and he literally ran for the hills and found himself in a depression so deep that he prayed for God to end his life, saying, "I've had enough, Lord. Take my life. I am no better than my ancestors" (1 Kings 19:4, HCSB).

The second example stands out as the single biggest mistake of King David's career. David had finally ascended to the throne, becoming king over the entire nation of Israel. David had succeeded in bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, subduing his enemies and receiving a promise from God that David's dynasty would last forever. Finally, a time arrives when David feels that he can let his guard down and rest for a while. So, "In the spring, at that time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king's men and the whole Israelite army" (2 Samuel 11:1, HCSB). Instead of leading his men in battle, like he should, David decided he deserved to loosen up and let his guard down. As soon as David let his guard down, he saw Bathsheba and got caught up in an affair that would bring trouble to his family for years to come.

Very often, the most dangerous times for us are not those times when things are going badly and we have to work for everything we get. The most dangerous times are when we have had great success in our lives and we let our guard down. The secret to righteous living is not to seek out the great victories, but to walk consistently day by day, whether in victory or in hardship. If you have had a great victory in your life, be careful not to let your guard down or to begin to believe that you have finally gotten everything together. The moment you do, you will find yourself falling very hard and very fast. Instead, whatever victory you have achieved in your life, thank God for his grace in granting you that victory and then seek to be consistent in your walk.

The greatest opportunities for us to fall lay in the shadow of our greatest victories. Seek God's grace in victory as much as in the battles of every day life.

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