Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Learning To Live as Overcomers: At Peace With God

I recently read a man's plea for help and prayer. It saddened and troubled me and challenged me to do some serious contemplation.

I have "character weaknesses" I cannot overcome, he said. If I do not spend "at least an hour or more each day with" God, I will never reach my "God-given potential... Pray that I can find a place to focus on God, start a new pattern, and then continue a Spirit-filled and sin-free life until I die. It's my only hope."
While I may be misunderstanding some of what he wrote, I think I accurately perceive him to believe that setting up the discipline of an hour-long "devotional time" is going to solve his spiritual problems. I cannot help but wonder if this approach is why he hasn't been successful in consistently overcoming issues in his life which he knows are not right.
As I write, please understand my motive is not to criticize this dear man. I am trying to refine my own understanding. As I learn, I try to share with others who are working through this all-important process of maintaining a right relationship with God. Of course, I also pray that this man finds the answers he needs!

Did the Apostle Paul seriously mean we should "pray without ceasing"? 1. Did he intend for us to truly take "every thought captive to the obedience of Christ"? 2. Was Jesus admonishing us to do something that He didn't seriously think we could accomplish when He said, "Abide in Me"? 3.
I am seeing in my own life that if I want to live a life consistently overcoming sin and self, it takes an absolute total trust in Jesus as my example of what pleases the Father and a moment-by-moment awareness of being in God's presence. I must place myself before Him in my mind over and over throughout the day. Just reading my Bible and praying at one point in the day does not miraculously give me the ability to live the life of an overcomer.
In order to stay close to God, the moment I awaken, I must talk to Him.  I must ask Him to help me. I must commit to do His will. (This is the huge issue! My will... All. day. long. my. will. has. to. be. dealt. with.) As I go downstairs to start the day, I have to stay before Him in my mind. If my flesh feels a certain way--let's say, for example, it's pulling me toward a grouchy attitude--I must refuse to let the feeling control me and pray again, "Father, help me be pleasant and loving toward my family to help them have a good day. I commit to be a positive force in their lives this morning--a blessing from Your hand. Help me care about their interests and needs as Jesus would. With Your help, I will focus on what will most edify them."
As the day continues, I will repeatedly be tempted to do things other than what God would want. (My will must be continually surrendering to His.) As each decision comes up, I must remain in His presence. Praying again, "Father. I know You are watching, and You care about my choices. You know each choice I make is a choice of, 'do I trust You or myself, will I choose things that make me more like Jesus or take the path away from you to a place of eventual destruction?' Please help me make the right decision at this moment. I trust You to know the best choice right now, and (I will do Your will.")
To the best of my understanding, this is "praying without ceasing," "abiding in Him," and is how I can live, overcoming the pitfalls that would trip me up. Reading something inspirational, listening to audio books, listening to sacred music, studying something in my BibleWorks program... these are all things that are a necessary part of my day, but I must ever carry what I am gaining from these various resources into every other moment of the day, staying in God's presence.
We all have numerous opportunities throughout the day to decide if we will choose something we naturally (in our flesh) prefer or something that will show we care about what God prefers. The rubber meets the road at each choice we make. What do we value most, our will or God's?

The human heart is so tricky, and if I do not demand absolute commitment to honesty, I will deceive myself and call things other than what they are. We can rationalize just about anything we want if our will is focused on wanting what we want. This reality really hits home with me when I read how difficult it is to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus says few will find the way. 4. That sobers me and motivates me!
I know there are times when habits from past bad choices are so ingrained in us that we cannot overcome them without help. That's when we need a human accountability partner we can call on for help during moments of temptation. Having a trusted fellow-believer look over our shoulder and call things what they are is a must sometimes! But, we have to want (our will again is the problem) to overcome more than anything else. A humble, surrendered will is what it takes to allow this kind of honest, open-hearted interaction with another human being. I can testify, God helps us through others sometimes, and real, consistent accountability works!
If my experience and understanding of the Word reflects a universal reality, asking others to pray that I will be disciplined in setting up an obligatory hour of devotions is not the answer. May we all find and embrace the truth and be overcomers in Christ Jesus!

1. 1 Thessalonians 5:17
2. 2 Corinthians 10:4
3. John 15:4
4. Matthew 7:14