Mediocrity: Be Anything Other Than This!

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“…you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold…” (Revelation 3:16)

Mediocrity is a warm blanket.

Mediocrity is a C+.

Mediocrity is “pretty good, but not great.”

Mediocrity is remaining with the bunch that finishes neither early or late, that turns in work much like everyone else’s, that is satisfied with “okay.”

Mediocrity is the head in the sand when the storm is raging around us. Just close your eyes and it will all blow over.

Mediocrity is being overly cautious when life-or-death decisions are being made.  “Well, let’s give this some more thought.”  “Let’s not be too hasty here.”  “We don’t want people to think we’re extremists.”

There’s safety in mediocrity.  We’re like everyone around us.  We don’t stand out.  No one criticizes us. They don’t even see us.  We blend into the landscape.

Our English word mediocre comes from two Latin words, medi meaning “halfway,” and ocris meaning “mountain.”  Somewhere there is a list of everyone who has scaled to the crest of Mount Everest.  No one ever bothered to note those who got halfway up and turned around for home.

A constant temptation 

As a pastor, I’m tempted to criticize those who choose mediocrity rather than daring, who play safe and avoid risks.  Yet I am very familiar with that way too.  As a pastor, I have been known to choose the conservative, safe way.  The outcome I feared was not so much failure as criticism.  I have refrained from taking a stand on a controversial issue for fear of becoming the focus of criticism.  Or, I have wondered, is this caution actually maturity warning me not to squander hard-earned trust on some cause not worth the price?  We’ve all seen foolhardy people who rush in where angels fear to tread, when they should have been quiet and stayed at home. Hard to know.

Pray for wisdom.

We want God to do a work in our midst, but sometimes we want Him to leave us alone. We desire seeing people saved and homes united, but not if it means God gets hold of us and insists on changing us. Work around us, Lord, we seem to say.  Not in us and through us. Self-defense mechanisms are all working overtime. If we would be or do anything for the Master, we must face and overcome this gremlin.

Shamelessness, the antidote for medocrity

“…and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet, and anointing them with the perfume…” (Luke 7:38)

So many people in Scripture demonstrated a wonderful shamelessness in Jesus’ presence.

–The men of Capernaum opened up a roof to get a friend into Jesus’ presence.

–The woman of Bethany wept openly in a hostile surrounding so intent was she on worshiping Jesus.

–The woman called Syro-phoenician would not take ‘no’ for an answer as she begged the Lord to help her child.

–The blind beggar of Jericho kept calling on Jesus when people tried to silence him, until the Lord heard and healed him.

–The tax collector of the same city climbed a tree to see the Lord, then publicly confessed his salvation in Jesus’ presence.

–Then, there was the blind man of John 9 who grew increasingly bold and fearless in his allegiance to his Lord.

–The women of Galilee followed Jesus, contributing to His support and remaining near the cross.

Just as remarkable, from our vantage point, is the number who pulled back from the Master lest they be embarrassed.

–Those who would not confess Him “for fear of the Jews.”

–Peter who denied Him in the high priest’s courtyard.

–The disciples who followed Him from afar.

–Joseph and Nicodemus who waited until it was safe to go public in their allegiance.

Embarrassment’s power 

We can learn a lot about ourselves by what it takes to embarrass us.  Paul says even to speak of what some do is shameful.  Then he says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.”

So many church members speak easily of forbidden practices, but “blush to speak His name.”  Something is bad wrong. We should fear silence and shrink from disobedience.

You and I do many things to avoid embarrassment.  We no longer wear certain things hanging in our closets because doing so would be embarrassing.  We hesitate to speak up for Christ in tense situations, knowing we might be embarrassed.  Our silence is not golden but yellow.

We can choose to live another way

There is no spiritual pill we may take to end the problem of mediocrity.  There is no one-prayer-solves-all for this malady.  It’s an everyday thing, a work, a discipleship.

This involves choices I make day after day, from the moment my eyes open in the morning until I lay my head on the pillow at night.

It starts with acknowledging my shallowness, admitting my love for convenience, recognizing my preference for the easy way out, owning my fear of criticism, and professing my desire for easy answers and comfortable choices.

I will never completely conquer this, not in this lifetime. So, the prayer for faithfulness and the will to excel for Jesus’ sake must always be kept current.

Isaac Watts put the matter in the form of questions set to music–

Am I a soldier of the cross, a follower of the Lamb?  And shall I fear to own His cause or blush to speak His name? 

Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease? While others fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas?

Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood?  Is this vile world a friend to grace, to help me on to God?

Sure, I must fight if I would reign.  Increase my courage, Lord. I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, supported by Thy word.