Do you ever struggle with a particular sin…over and over again…no seeming victory? Perhaps it’s an obsession or an unhealthy habit. Maybe it’s your tongue gossiping or showing disrespect…Or laziness, or being desensitized to unwholesome shows, or self-righteousness, or materialism, or prayerlessness, or pride…So much to repent of…Unrelenting disquiet in the soul…Embarrassment to come before the Father once more…Do I really belong to the Father? How can I be that new creation, yet still sin so much? Like The Pilgrim in Bunyan’s classic we come to Christ initially with that huge burden strapped to our backs, only to find it rolling down Calvary’s hill when the Spirit opens our spiritual eyes to understand and embrace the gospel, but it would appear we sometimes become uncomfortable without that familiar burden and we start rebuilding that unnecessary heaviness that Jesus has already and perpetually removed from us positionally. Yet, we encumber ourselves with wrong thinking, unhealthy and sinful behaviors. We live in defeat and fear, depression and anxiety. We sin those same sins over and over again wondering where the power for victory lies. We try and try and try. We become exhausted, afraid to go to the Father even though it is to Him we must go for relief and safety.
A prayer by one of the old Puritans says,
“I confess my sin, my frequent sin, my willful sin; all my powers of body and soul are defiled; a fountain of pollution is deep within my nature. There are chambers of foul images within my being; I have gone from one odious room to another, walked in a no-man’s-land of dangerous imaginations, pried into the secrets of my fallen nature. I am utterly ashamed that I am what I am in myself…” Paul speaks to this in Romans 7. He does what he doesn’t want to do and doesn’t do what he does want to do. The Puritan says, “Thou has struck a heavy blow at my pride, at the false god of self, and I lie in pieces before Thee. But Thou has given me another Master and Lord, Thy Son Jesus…” Paul says, “But I thank God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Sister, being weighed down by your sin is good in-so-far that it causes you to turn from self and idolatry and to Jesus. Bear with me as I quote the finish of the Puritan’s prayer: “Save me from the…pride of life, from everything natural to fallen man, and let Christ’s nature be seen in me day by day.” Now, get a visual of this plea. “Grant me grace to bear Thy will without repining [fretting, being discontent], and delight to be [here it is!] not only chiseled, squared, or fashioned, but separated from the old rock where I have been embedded so long, and lifted from the quarry to the upper air, where I may be built in Christ for ever.” Did you see yourself being broken away from the rock, fully hewn into Christ’s sculpture, soaring free from the depths of imprisonment–made like Christ, being freed from besetting sins, slowly but surely?
Author Matt Papa says that we worship our way into sin and so we must worship our way out of it. We need a greater thrill (than the sin). We need a more captivating beauty. We must fix our gaze on Christ and His beauties rather than fixate on our sins. As we do this and are consumed by His excellencies we find ourselves being less and less attracted to the sin. I repeat Paul: “I thank God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
God, our gentle Father, likens Himself to a mother hen or bird securing her babies under her wings. He does this for His children where He protects us from the world and sin and Satan, even from ourselves. I often think of myself in that place of protection and have composed and prayed the following prayer as a result–a prayer of holy resignation, when I finally give up the struggle, trying to conquer sin by my own willpower and run to Him.
Father, I behold your mighty greatness in Your Word and in the remembrance of a myriad acts of mercy and faithfulness to me. I see you beckon me to Yourself. Sometimes I come haltingly, ashamed and afraid. Sometimes I come running with desperation, trembling. Always I come, casting myself at Your feet, grasping them and Your clean robes. And always, You lift me up and wrap your arms around my quivering self and clasp me under your sheltering wings–so safe–and the shaking stops. I peer out from that haven. The world is still roiling, but I am forgiven and secure.
Elisabeth Elliot wrote, “Heaven is not here, it’s There. If we were given all we wanted here, our hearts would settle for this world rather than the next.” Elisabeth, whose firm grip on God’s promises was always a supreme encouragement to me, went to the full presence of the Lord a year ago this week after a decade-long battle with dementia. She left behind her faithful third husband Lars Gren whom she married in 1977 after losing her second husband Addison Leitch to cancer in 1973 and her first husband Jim Elliot to cannibals on the mission field in 1956.
Do we remember, sisters, that this world is not our home? Just last week here in Orlando we had singer Christina Grimmie (outspoken about her Christian faith) shot point-blank during an autograph session, 49 people killed and 53 wounded in the deadliest mass shooting in American history at Pulse nightclub downtown, and a two-year-old boy killed by an alligator as he waded in a lagoon at Disney while his father desperately tried to free him from the gator’s jaws. I’ve seen incredible hatred, judgement, and politicizing all these events as people—politicians, celebrities, and civilians alike—provide commentary on television and social media.
Sin is ugly, and it has ugly consequences. We’re all familiar with Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death.” That’s easy to remember when we see tragedy every time we turn around. But the rest of the verse contains the breathtaking truth: “But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Do we give thanks for that with every breath, sister? Do we speak about it every chance we get? C.S. Lewis said in The Weight of Glory, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
We hear a lot these days that Christians should stop hating. And you know what? They’re right. When the Pharisee lawyer asked Jesus in Matthew 22:36 “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus answered (vv 37-40) “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
How can we love our neighbors? In practical ways: donate money, time, or blood; bring food in crisis and water when it’s hot out; care for children; provide for widows and orphans; be a shoulder to cry on, and so much more. But how can we best love our neighbors? By sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
“…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:22-25)
In these hard times, just as in all times since time began, we are not promised tomorrow. But if we repent of our sin and have faith in the work Jesus accomplished on the cross facing the fullness of God’s wrath for our sin, regardless of what happens we know where we are bound. Because we are in Christ, our eternal life has already begun, though we “now see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)
And when we are before the face of God, “He will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
Our ultimate hope can be in no stronger foundation than Jesus Christ our Lord. Cling to Him, sister, now and forevermore.
In His love,
I am a woman of strength and confidence. My parents did an amazing job raising my sister and me. They prepared and encouraged us. They praised our successes. One success led to another and another. They were a strong foundation for my life and adulthood. My confidence in who I was as their child, a woman, and a child of God was great. However, I have heard it said (Love & Respect marriage seminar) that “every strength has a back sided weakness”. Thinking through the devil’s tactics and knowing he likes to tailor his attacks to each individual (particularly by honing in on their weaknesses), I wondered what the weakness of this wonderful strength was.
I almost choked when I realized what it was.
Just about every conflict I have found myself deeply wounded by was because someone pointed out an area that I thought I had handled, covered, or was competent in—and they felt otherwise. I’m not saying they were always right, but as soon as I heard something other than a positive, I got (get) defensive and hurt. The funny thing is I don’t tend to question whether I am still a strong woman, capable and able to get things done; but I mope around and tend to be consumed by the criticism for a time (often a loooong time). If true, I should allow the criticism to shape me into a better individual; if untrue, I should toss it out. I have done neither. Instead I have allowed the devil and my own prideful heart to condemn me to a torture rack that I am on, but not tied to.
Yes, you read that right. Christ freed me at the cross yet I am the foolishly jump up on to that torture device and allow the devil to gleefully turn the screw. And he will, until you and I realize the game he’s playing and GET OFF!
I am jumping off and running away with this in mind and in action:
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interest, but also for the interest of others. Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Phil. 2:3-8
If that doesn’t keep my pride (and the devil) at bay, I am confident I can find another verse (or more) to attack my pride. Dear sister, please join me and run out of Satan’s torture chamber. He can’t hold us there unless we choose to stay. Christ saved us from more than just Hell. He saved us for an abundant life!
Running with you,
My dear sister,
As I sit in the comfort of my home with my cup of coffee in hand, thinking of you and watching the news of the world, my heart wells up in gratitude to the Lord for our safety from violent persecutions simply because we profess to be Christ-followers. Certainly there have been times in my own life when my love for Jesus has caused discomfort in those who do not love Him, even scorn and disdain, but never to the point of physical harm or the State coming to take me away. I know that in our own USA there are those whose families have ostracized them, there are small businesses which have been shut down, there are lawsuits against organizations who refuse to compromise their core beliefs. These are hurtful and serious situations, the outcome of many still unknown. Our first amendment rights seem to be in jeopardy over various issues including homosexual ‘marriages’ abortion ‘rights’, and transgender ‘rights’. At present, none of these are resulting in torture and death to those in opposition, but they certainly are an oppression of serious noteworthiness…Which brings me back to the world news…
It is with horror that we hear of our brothers and sisters and children being beheaded, crucified, set on fire, or drowned. I do not mean to minimize in any way our own trials, diseases, disappointments, and deep losses of various kinds, but in our trials perspective is always beneficial.
I think of Hebrews 11 with its list of pilgrims and sufferers and martyrs. Though they had many promises of the coming of Christ, they never saw, here on earth, the fulfillment of those promises, yet “they all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth…Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection…of whom the world was not worthy.”
I think of the apostles, all put to death except the exiled, beloved John. I think of the believers through the centuries who suffered simply because they loved the Lord Jesus and would not deny their love. “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” (Revelation 12:11)
There are Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego–refusing to obey the Kings edicts, knowing death must follow, unless God… And Luther’s brave stand before the Diet of Worms. Get a copy of Foxe’s “Book of Martyrs”, read with horror and awe, and think long and hard about the test of faithfulness.
Sweet sister, when we get bogged down by the things in our own lives, let us ask God to remind us of the big old world out there filled with so much evil and imposed suffering and unimaginable abuse and persecution in the name of false gods against those who love our Lord Jesus.
Many of our brothers and sisters are experiencing sheer terror at this moment. They are despairing of life itself yet they are clinging to God, our Father. My heart cries out to Him on their behalf.
Pray with me.
O, our God, our hearts ache and cry out to You for all those in this world who are being or will be persecuted simply because they are faithful to Jesus Christ. Please prepare all of your children for a day of possible persecution by strengthening us in our trust in You, Your Word, and in Your goodness now, so that no matter what, we would remain faithful to You, by Your grace. May we all have “persecution grace” and not shrink from living boldly for Christ in every circumstance. In our own strength we would crumble. In Your strength we can do whatever You call us to do. May we have thoughts of those who have gone on before and be prepared to “leap for joy because great is our reward in heaven” (Luke 6:23) and “rejoice that we would be counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 6:41 ).
For those who are suffering now, physically, emotionally, spiritually–for dear unknown friends– please sustain, lift up, surround, give courage, take away doubts, misgivings, wavering, fear and dread and terror…Comfort, build up, remind of Your goodness, Your love, Your nearness, Your face, Your heaven. May there be rejoicing and songs of praise coming from their lips–for the joy set before them. Please remind them that their suffering brings great eternal reward. It is not in vain. Remind them that I Peter 1:6-7 tells them that their faithful response in their sufferings validates their faith in God “even though tested by fire” that it “may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Remind them and us that the more we suffer for Him, the greater our capacity to glorify Him. That is a very great reward.
Lord Jesus, You who were persecuted and suffered–You who were tempted in all points as we are (yet without sin), please let your nearness be known to these precious children of Yours, keeping them faithful, not denying the Lord Who bought them, even in the face of death.
‘Thou art my protecting arm,
fortress, refuge, shield, buckler.
Fight for me and my foes must flee;
Uphold me and I cannot fall;
Strengthen me and I stand unmoved, unmovable,
Equip me and I shall receive no wound;
Stand by me and Satan will depart;
Anoint my lips with a song of salvation and I shall shout Thy victory.’ (From Valley of Vision)
In the midst of all pain and suffering Jesus says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” He will make everything right. He will wipe away all tears. He will take away our anxieties and terrors and our sin forever. Let us say with John, “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”
Look up, my friend, He IS coming again.
I recently read we should thank the Lord in the midst of our sufferings, in fact for our sufferings. That act draws us closer to Him and helps us through our dark times. In one of my all-time favorite books, The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom and her sister do exactly that as they travel roads of unspeakable horror, yet find themselves blessed by God over and over again. My husband and I have also found God’s grace in His “no” answers.
Oh, there are times that my spirit simply cries and hangs on for dear life. I cherish the verses in Romans, “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Rom. 8:26-27) No formula, just remain in Him. He pleads for us. With His Father, with God. For us. There couldn’t be a better advocate, no one who understands me better.
How blessed are we?
I had to laugh through tears as I looked up this passage. I know I’ve read the chapter untold times, but until tonight I did not realize that these verses of the Spirit interceding for us is sandwiched between, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Rom. 8:18) Unspeakable joy to come!
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28) Satan’s plans for evil are thwarted by our loving Lord and turned to good.
“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:35, 37-39) His assurance we are ever His beloved.
From crying out in desperation, too crushed to even formulate words in defense, to knowing with great surety our trials are not without a purpose, we are conquerors through Jesus—and not just that, but the best we can even dream of is merely a shadow of what is to come. Sweet sister, as you cry in your dark hours, cling to Him—He has great, beautiful plans for your tomorrows!
Running with you,