Let’s face it. We all have them. Favorite Sins. No, I know none of us would really classify them that way. We don’t like our sins. We’re trying to overcome them. We’re trying to get rid of them. But there are the sins we seem to subconsciously turn to when the going gets tough. We’ve said over and over again that we wouldn’t do them again, but then things get hectic and crazy and the next thing we know we did it again. Been there? I have.
Okay, so as usual I’m about three months behind on the pop-culture scene. My brother always gives me a hard time about this. However, just the other day I learned that Weird Al has a new song being released. It’s called “Perform This Way.” I heard a snippet and wanted to find out more about the original it is based on. After all, those songs are always funnier when you actually know who he’s lampooning. So I asked my daughter about Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” Then she sang some of the lyrics to me and I said, “Wait! What?” “Oh, Dad, it’s not about that.” “Really, what’s it about then?” “It’s just about her tough childhood and her mom telling her she’s born to be a superstar.” “Oh, okay,” I said, somewhat relieved. Then, last night on the way home from Bible class the song came on the radio. I was stunned to say the least. Tessa said I was missing the point. So we looked up the lyrics when we got home. The disappointment simply continued.
I received a heart-rending letter this week from a brother who is suffering the earthly consequences of his heinous sins. He had heard a sermon I preached entitled “We are Allowed to Love Ourselves.” You may remember the series on this very topic that I wrote on this blog. The brother wanted to know how he could ever forgive himself. Having committed some heinous sins myself, I want to know the same thing. What does it mean to forgive ourselves? Should we forgive ourselves? How can we?
Yesterday, my brother-in-law, Nathan Williams, asked some questions on his blog about men and their thoughts on modesty. I tried to respond but for some reason his spam filter kept telling me my comment seemed spammy and wouldn’t let it be posted. So I sent it to him in e-mail to see if he could get it posted. He decided to post it as his blog entry today. Thanks, Nathan, for posting that. And I appreciate you striving to protect my rep by keeping it anonymous. However, I think one of the reasons we keep hearing from church after church about men falling, especially preachers and elders, is because we act like none of us ever have any real problems with lust.
I was looking out my window today and I saw a sad sight. A young and foolish man was being led by the nose to his death, but he didn’t even know it.
Okay, okay, I wasn’t actually looking out my window. I was reading about a father who was in Proverbs 7:6-27. This father was trying to convince his son to be intimate friends with wisdom instead of an adulteress. In this chapter, he explains the 7 appeals of the seductress. While this is written from a father to a son, the same points can be made to a daughter about the 7 appeals of a seducer. [Read more…] about The 7 Appeals of a Seductress
Are you facing any giants right now? What temptations are beating you right and left? Do you sometimes feel like you will never win those battles? You’ve probably been told over and over again to just try harder. And so you have. But trying harder hasn’t worked. Instead of trying harder, let me encourage you to try something different. Try relying on God’s strength. Let Him fight your battle. Remember when David fought Goliath? Who really killed that giant? Not David. In the same way, you won’t be the one to kill your giants. Only God can and will.
That all sounds well and good. But how? How do we actually rely on God’s strength? Last week, we mentioned 5 ways to practically rely on God’s strength when facing your giants. We thought about David who relied on God’s strength to face Goliath but noticed that from our outside vantage point it looked quite a bit like he picked out the stones, he slung the stone, he wielded the sword. From our perspective it looked like he was doing it all. However, we know he was relying on God. So we talked about the practical things we need to do to rely on God. We talked about the 5 stones we need to pick up, if you will. Today, I’d like to give you 5 more ways to practically rely on God’s strength.
- Give up.
- Walk in God’s presence.
- Give thanks.
- Make conscious contact through God’s word.
- Pack the right bags.
Now, let’s learn 5 more.
Way #6: Cut It Off
On April 26, 2003, Aron Ralston was trapped between a rock and a hard place. Hiking and rock climbing along in Eastern Utah, his right hand was crushed between a shifting boulder and the rock wall. Over a period of five days he made various attempts to free himself. Nothing worked. When he ran out of his water supply, he was certain of death. Since no one knew where he was and they would not find him any time soon, he tried one final desperate plan. He broke both bones in his forearm. Then, using what was left of his dulled cutting tool, he amputated his right arm. He repelled into the canyon and hiked out to meet searchers. Nobody wants to lose an arm. But when the choice is lose and arm or lose a life, the arm is not so bad.
You might think Jesus had this story in mind when you read what He said in Matthew 5:29-30. If your hand is causing you to stumble, cut it off. If your eye is causing you to stumble, pluck it out. No one wants to lose a hand or an eye, but when the choice is lose a hand or eye or lose your soul, the choice is clear. If we want to change the games we play by relying on God’s strength, we have to change our playgrounds, playmates, and playthings. If we keep going to the places, hanging out with the people, and interacting with the things that have always led us to sin, then we are relying on our own strength. We think we can follow the same path we’ve always followed but somehow we will be strong enough to play a different game. Not so. Relying on God’s strength means cutting off what leads us to sin.
Way #7: Find a Fellow Traveler
While I am in awe of Aron Ralston’s courage and willingness to cut off what was going to kill him, I recognize there was a deeper problem. Ralston went mountain climbing alone. Had someone been with him or at least known where he was going, he might not have had to cut off his arm. Relying on God’s strength means relying on God’s people. Find a fellow traveler. Find someone to walk with, talk with, share with, confess with. Find someone who knows where you are.
I can’t help but think of one of my best friends of all time who was a source of spiritual strength for me. When I say one of my best friends, I mean I told him everything. I didn’t just talk to him about the weather. I talked to him about my struggles. What I never recognized though was that he never shared in kind. I, of course, interpreted that as his strength. He didn’t have problems like mine. His life was smooth sailing. Then one night his nephew-in-law called me to say my friend had been committing adultery and was leaving his wife. You couldn’t have shocked me more if you had walked out of my blind spot and hit me in the gut with a baseball bat. Despite repeated attempts to make contact with my friend, he has rebuffed me in every way. I pray for him. I cry for him. But he is still walking in his sins. What is amazing is that I know this friend is not where he wants to be. I know he knew what was good for him and what would really work. How could this happen to him? He went mountain climbing alone and now he is being crushed by the boulder.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 explains that two is better than one. Find a fellow traveler.
Way #8: Bring the Inside Out
When you find your fellow traveler, learn to talk about more than the weather and the Super Bowl. Learn to bring what is on the inside out. Learn to share the secrets of your heart. The darkness in there will only dissipate to the degree you shed light on it. James 5:16 says we need to confess our sins to one another. We need to find people we are willing to share these dark secrets with. Otherwise they will simply grow and take over. When temptation hits, find someone to share what you are thinking, what you are feeling, what you are considering. You will be amazed at how this helps defuse the temptation and its power over you.
Way #9: Acts of Service and Love
The reason we want to overcome these giants is to be more like Jesus, right? It stands to reason then that relying on God’s strength means following the example set by Jesus, God in the flesh. Jesus was a servant (Matthew 20:28). If we want to be like Him, we need to work on serving. Most sin is the product of selfishness. If we purposefully get outside of ourselves to serve others, we are letting God attack our selfishness head on. The moment you start serving others, you are doing the exact opposite of sin.
Make a meal for someone who is sick. Visit someone in the hospital. Call a friend to simply offer encouragement. Help out at a homeless shelter. Volunteer for a non-profit organization. Set up the chairs for the next class in your congregation. Invite someone into your home for a game night. Do something for someone else, especially if it is someone who cannot repay you.
Way #10: Do the Next Right Thing
Matthew 6:33 says we should seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness. Relying on God’s strength means simply doing what He tells us to. Listen to His advice. Seek His way. Do what He says. Right now, my responsibility is only to do the next right thing. I don’t have to worry about where it is going to lead. I don’t have to get bogged down with what I’m going to accomplish through it. I simply need to trust God to make everything work out in the end. I just need to do the next right thing. I don’t have to worry about doing 10 years of right things. I don’t have to even worry about doing a week’s worth of right things. I only need to do the next right thing. I don’t have to fret about what will happen tomorrow. I just need to do the next right thing.
Don’t misunderstand. When you rely on God’s strength in these 10 ways, temptation won’t disappear. Goliath will still be stepping on to the battlefield asking for a man (or woman) to fight. But by doing these things, you will be stepping onto the battlefield in the name and strength of the Lord. He will win the victories.
Keep up the faith. Rely on God’s strength.
What do you do to rely on God’s strength in the face of your giants? To add your input, click here.
If you’d like to hear the sermon I preached based on this, click here.