Passiveness is the trait of lacking enthusiasm for, or interest in, things. It is evidenced by a spiritlessness, numbness, apathy, and indifference in life. It is illustrated by the person who was given one talent in the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. Unlike the other two in the parable, his fear and poor beliefs about his master caused him to overlook ways to increase what he was given. He was not celebrated but was rebuked for his passivity. The single talent he had was actually given to one who increased the talents given to him.
Many Christians are passive because of an overemphasis on God’s sovereignty and an underemphasis on their own role in God’s will being done. The fear of pride and appearing self-promoting also causes many to bury their talent. This religious perfectionism creates a mindset that if we really have a certain gift or talent, we will not struggle at all in seeing it manifest in us. Passivity grows when we conclude that if God really wants something to happen, He will “zap” it into existence into our lives. What would happen if a baby thought this when he was given the “talent” of walking? They would conclude they have the gift of crawling, not walking. That is how I used to think, but thankfully I am getting free from such a limiting perspective.
Here are five ways to defeat passivity in your life and help you move into truly increasing your talents:
- Recognize it as a great enemy – “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, . . . I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours’” (Matthew 25:24-25). As we read on in this story, it did not end up very well for this person. Yikes, what is this saying? I believe it is a message to jolt us out of fatalism and lethargy. God needs our prayers, declarations, prophetic acts, risk-taking, writings, teachings, obedience, generosity, and love to accomplish His will in and through us.
- Stir up the gifts already in you – “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:6-7). “This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18). These verses are just a small sample of the many verses which urge us to demolish passiveness in our lives. Almost every morning when I wake up, I say out loud, “This is going to be a great day!” Why? Because I am attacking any tendency in me to wait to find out what kind of day it is going to be. Declarations are one of the best weapons to defeat passivity.
- Listen to preachers, not just teachers – Teachers share knowledge in revelatory ways, while preachers focus on stirring a passionate emotional response to what is being shared. We need teachers in our lives, but we also need to listen to preachers. I value people like TD Jakes, Chris Overstreet, and Mario Marillo. Their messages stir me to action. Personally, I believe the Lord is asking me to include more preaching in my messages. Some others reading this will also go on the same journey in the years ahead.
- Give God something to work with – Jesus did not create wine out of thin air in John 2. He said, “Give me those pots and put water in them.” He needed something to work with. In a similar way, the Holy Spirit needed something to work with when He was hovering over “the face of the deep” in Genesis 1. “Then God said . . .” activated Him to bring order to disorder. As we use our gifts, as we are faithful in our assignments, and as we contribute positively into our environments, we will find God partnering with us and supernaturally multiplying what we do.
- Restore vision for the future – “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Philippians 3:13). We all have “those things” to reach forward to. Vision and hope for the future gives power and purpose for the present. When we are in a prophetic culture and regularly hear who we really are and what the potential is for us, then we become motivated to be enthusiastic today, because what we do today is leading somewhere incredible. “Without a vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 28:19). All forward movement and improvements stop when there is a lack of vision, but passivity is obliterated by a vision for the future.
As I write this, I see God releasing a spirit of enthusiasm to those reading. This is a time when the roots of passivity are being pulled up in your life. Many blessings to you. For more on this topic listen to my podcast here. To listen to other podcasts from Igniting Hope ministries please click here.
ABOUT STEVE BACKLUND
Steve Backlund was a senior pastor for seventeen years before joining the team at Bethel Church in Redding, CA in 2008. Steve is a leader developer, joy activist, a revivalist teacher, and as Senior Associate Director, is a key part of the Global Legacy (a ministry of Bethel Church) leadership team. He travels extensively throughout the world encouraging churches and leaders and has authored a number of books.