Enabled to do His will

impossible task - SysiphusWretched man that I am!  Who will set me free from the body of this death?” Paul says in Romans 7:24, grieving over his inability to perform in life in the way he feels that God intended for him.  For all of us, this does seem an impossible task.  It is exhausting, and repeated failures are discouraging.

Paul finds comfort in the realization that reaching God’s design for him does not depend on him, but on His Designer.  “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v. 25)

plugged inOur comfort and encouragement comes from this Hand-in-glove relationship.  If we stay plugged into our intended Power Source, our machinery will operate according to “factory specifications.”  Our lives are masterpieces of God’s careful artistry, and we will accomplish what He intends when we let go of the controls and let Him operate our machine.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”                         Ephesians 2:10

Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord,  equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”                           Hebrews 13:20-21

child n dad ride bike

 

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Listening to God’s Voice Takes Prayer and Practice

By our own choice, we too often live in spiritual poverty, ignoring God’s wonderful offer of help:

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”                       First Corinthians 10:13

hands over earsAlthough He graciously offers us His own help at our crossroads, we often clap our hands over our ears and go our own way, resulting in damage to us, to those around us, and to His kingdom purposes.  We are very much like those in the days of the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel:

They have turned their back to Me and not their face; though I taught them, teaching again and again, they would not listen and receive instruction.”           Jeremiah 32:33

Behold, their ears are closed
And they cannot listen.
Behold, the word of the Lord has become a reproach to them;
They have no delight in it.”                                                                                   Jeremiah 6:10

They come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain.”                                                                       Ezekiel 33:11

The pain of repeated failures to heed the loving, wise prompting of the Holy Spirit makes us long for unplugged ears that hear and hearts that are eager to heed and live according to His design. To this end He is eager to take us.  We can prepare our hearts and ears to be responsive to His promptings by seasoning them with prayer, “Lord, help me to do, in Your supernatural strength, what I cannot do on my own!

hearingThe Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples,
That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.
”                                                     Isaiah 50:4

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me”                       John 6:27

Lord, I am Your sheep.  Make me to hear Your voice and follow You!

And practice makes perfect.

But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”                                                                                             Hebrews 5:14

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Frustrated with yourself?

For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. . . . For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.  For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.   

divided heartI find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.”                  Romans 7:15, 22-23

 

Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”                                                                                             James 4:7-8

Teach me Your way, O Lord;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.”                                                     
Psalm 86:11

What is the answer to this universal human problem of a heart that is divided between heaven and earth?  Between the kingdoms of God and the Prince of This World?

  1.  Feed the new creation, and starve the old.  That, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”       Ephesians 4:22-24     “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”    Romans 13:14

2.  Walk according to the Spirit.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.  For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son . . . .  Do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”        Romans 8:2-4

3.  Let Christ live through you.  I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, butChrist lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”    Galatians 2:20

4.  Set your mind on the things above.  Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”                          Colossians 3:1-3

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Watch carefully for your rescue!

bailing boatPicture the scene of a man lost at sea in a little boat filling with water.  Hopefully, he is not so busy bailing out his boat that he does not see the search airplane passing overhead and miss his opportunity for rescue.  As we face temptation to sin, where we are looking for help is crucial to our successfully being removed from harm’s way.

For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.  [Jahaziel] said, “Listen, . . . thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s.”                                                                                               2 Chronicles 20:12, 15

Paul says, “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  (Romans 7:22-25)

We find resolution to the dire circumstances and temptations we face, not by looking intently at the problem, but in gazing trustingly to the Source of the deliverance that will come.

eyesBehold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God,  until He is gracious to us.  Be gracious to us, O Lord, be gracious to us.”                                 Psalm 123:2-3    (see also Psalm 13:5-6)

The surest victory in the temptations we face will not come from ourselves, from our white-knuckling, teeth-clenching discipline.  “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.”           (2 Corinthians 3:5)  Our deliverance will come as we humbly admit our helplessness and our need for God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

 

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Replacing anxiety

Anxiety takes the joy out of our lives, replacing it with dread and fear and insecurity.  Jesus says to us,

Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ . . . for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. . . So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.                      Matthew 6:31, 34

rough seaAnxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down,
But a good word makes it glad.
”                      Proverbs 12:25

To replace anxiety, we are to trust God with all our cares, in prayer, and leave them there.  Look at the fruit of this act of trust:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”   Philippians 4:6-7

El CapitanThe rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.
Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah.
”                                                Psalm 62:8

When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
Your consolations delight my soul.
”                                     Psalm 94:19

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”                     1 Peter 1:6-7

Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.”                                                                     Acts 4:13

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Our Forever Attorney

Forever is an unfamiliar concept to our insecure, earthbound minds.  It is foreign to our worldview and experience of shame and disappointments.  Nothing seems forever.  Things we treasure are ripped from our hands or slip unexpectedly through our fingers.

galaxyIt is even hard for us to believe that our forgiven relationship with God is permanently ours to enjoy.  Everything else in life can be taken from us — our health, our loved ones, our financial resources, our home, our jobs.  Why not our salvation from sin, our right standing in God’s eyes?

But the security of His promise of forgiveness and eternal life is not based on our performance or circumstances of life, but on God’s faithfulness and Jesus’ intercession for us at the right hand of the Father.  Which He does forever!lawyer:judge

“But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness”       Romans 4:5

so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”                      Hebrews 6:18-20

Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”                   Hebrews 7:25

“Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ?”                                                                               Romans 8:34-35

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Our loving Coach in temptation

As a schoolboy, I learned to water ski from my dad.  He gave me a few dry land lessons on the basics of balancing myself over the skis, staying crouched until the speed of the boat was sufficient to allow me to stand up on the skis, then rising to a standing posture, leaning back slightly.  Once I was actually in the water, he distracted me from the fear of sinking, the roar of the boat’s motor, and the pain of falling, by standing in the back of the boat, demonstrating how my posture should change as the boat accelerated.  My fears were partially alleviated by keeping my eyes on him and trying to imitate his visual cues.

nature lion south africa whitelion

Photo by Piet Bakker on Pexels.com

Facing temptation, we can feel like an easy breakfast for Satan, the Prowling Lion, who constantly looks for someone to devour.  (1 Peter 5:8)  With our eyes on the fierceness of the test or temptation, we feel defeated and hopeless before we even get into the fight.

It can change our whole perspective to turn our gaze from our enemy to our Companion who walks beside us.  When God was about to disclose Himself in a special way to Moses and give him his life mission, He revealed himself in a burning bush,  commanding him to remove his sandals, “for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.  In the midst of testing or temptation, our fear can be allayed and our courage bolstered by the realization that we are on holy ground, that God is up to something wonderful and intentional that will mature us and glorify Him.  And we are part of it.

Poor Job had no idea that he was part of a heavenly contest between God and Satan.  God asked Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?  For there is no one else like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” (Job 1:8)  God “threw down the gauntlet” to Satan, in “showing off” one of His finest followers.  Job’s trusting performance would glorify God, to the shame and anger of his Accuser.

We can be sure that our performance in the midst of trials and temptations is at the heart of why God allows them to come into our lives.  We can welcome them as opportunities to grow spiritually stronger, as we learn to depend more fully on Him through difficulties.  This brings us into more intimate relationship with our Father who holds our hand as we pass through the fire.  coach:pitcherHe is like our loving Coach who wants us to succeed, never allowing testing greater than we can bear (with His help) (1 Corinthians 10:13), but seeing to it that the challenge is difficult enough that it will strengthen our “spiritual muscles” for future battles.  Maturing us, until we look more and more like Him.

On the proving grounds of God, our Coach, we can have joy in the midst of trouble (James 1:2-4), knowing that the outcome will show Him off to the world and to Satan.   “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”          1 Peter 1:6-7

As we see this behind-the-scenes reality, we are more likely to have a cheerful spirit, optimistic of success than if we enter it fearfully, in the dread of certain defeat.

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