My dear friend,
We are in a battle. Now more than ever we need to realize that.
Last semester we were surrounded by Bible teaching, mentors who loved Jesus and poured into us, close friends who kept us accountable and encouraged us, and our personal studies kept us in the Word daily. Our battles were fought swiftly and the product was joy in the midst of suffering.
Now we have graduated. We have said goodbye to our cozy time of learning and turned to face the big bright world with the knowledge we have learned. As soldiers, armed and ready to fight, so are we.
Yet as we take our step into the world before us, our old idols and playfellows have crept back in, tempting us to stray off the path…take off a little bit of our armor…or sit and rest for a moment. “You’ve got time,” apathy whispers. “What does it really matter?” “Nobody will notice.” “You’re fine.”
Meanwhile, lust starts showing you all the elicit pleasures your heart longs for. A beautiful stall on the side of the road filled with shiny things you can look at and desire…yet if you grab hold of its wares you have to pay the cost.
But if in a flash you become aware of your condition and see how far you may have strayed, then pride creeps in to show you a mirror. “You’re not that bad,” he says. Or, worse: “you can fix this. You can solve all your problems. You, you, you…you.”
See where the focus lies?
Without me you can do nothing. ~John 15:5
Ahh there is the key! Apart from Christ, we hold no power over the idols in our life. When we try and fight the battles of life on our own—or, worse, with the help of our playfellows—we get feel weary, exhausted, or helpless. How do you break the vicious cycle?
Although this was given to the Israelites many years ago, this gorgeous passage of scripture displays a full-color picture of spiritual warfare.
When you go out to battle against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God is with you, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. ~vs 1
Battle is inevitable. Sometimes it will look insurmountable. Yet God says to not be afraid, for He is with you. Not only that, but He is faithful! We all have stories of His faithfulness – the Egypts of our lives –and God wants us to remember these things and use them as fuel to keep us going. Remember when God gave you grace to overcome that trial in your life? Remember when He gave that one person just the right words to encourage you? Remember when He opened wide a door of opportunity that you never would have dreamed of entering? These are the covenants in your life that He gives you to remember. If there be any virtue or praise…meditate on these things. 😉
So it shall be when you are on the verge of battle, that the priest shall approach and speak to the people. And he shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel: Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies. Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them; for the LORD your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you. ~vs 2-4
Then you shall realize you are on the verge of a battle. You might feel weak, you might feel strong…you might not even realize what you’re getting yourself into. Yet there is a teaching priest (not literally, lol) who approaches and speaks truth into your life: do not let your heart faint. Do not be afraid.
God fights for you.
Now, it’s not going to be easy. Fighting is hard work! Yet it is very simple. I mean, read the text! Not very complicated, is it? Then why do we struggle so much? Paul has a lovely little explanation for this in Romans 7:
For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
Makes your head spin a little, doesn’t it? Sin does that. Note that Paul talks about the flesh and the spirit warring against each other. Paul recognizes the inward struggle. He even goes a step further and tells of the consequences of giving in to sin: you get brought into captivity. Self-doubt, insecurity, fear, anger, jealousy…the list goes on and on. These things are like warning lights inside your car. When they start flashing, it’s an indication that something is wrong. I want to sleep in every morning. I want to spend the weekend by myself. I want to eat carbs and chocolate all day long. Um…these are all great indications of the pride of life, lust of the eyes, and lust of the flesh.
So what is to be done? Fortunately, Paul doesn’t leave you hanging! The answer is in Romans 7:25-8:4.
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Cue the deep sigh of relief! There is no condemnation. For what we cannot do, Christ already did for us. I speak of myself first and foremost when I say that so often we want to do things ourselves yet often we get blindsided by our own sin. Not recognizing or, worse, not caring about the battles in our lives may seem pleasurable for a time, yet it always dissolves into despair. This is because the very nature of sin is self-destructive.
You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. ~ II Timothy 2:3-4
Remember: God fights for you, my friend. He does not ask you to go one step of the way without helping you out. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says He will not give you more than you can handle and He always provides a way of escape. But I think one of the most amazing promises is tucked away in Isaiah 55. The only way I can explain the beauty of this passage is through nature.
Once you’re all exhausted from climbing the mountain in your life, you finally break through the forest to the summit. As sweat pours down your forehead and your muscles ache with the strain, you catch a glimpse of the view. Fresh mountain air caresses your face and shifts your gaze to the brilliant colors of the mountains. Trees of all varieties stretch out in front of you, filled with the songs of birds, the energy of spring, and the vibrant colors of the morning. Sitting down in breath-taking wonder, your soul fills with irrepressible joy.
In that moment you instinctively know one thing. It was worth it all. That’s Isaiah 55.
Seek the LORD while he may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon…for you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. ~Isaiah 55
Take heart, my friend,