I have a confession to make. A while back, I realized I have a problem. I have a struggle with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Deep down, I haven’t really wanted forgiveness of my sins. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I have asked for forgiveness again and again and again, that is, if simply saying those words counts. But I realized that while saying those words, I had not really been asking for what God really offered. Please, let me explain.
What does God’s grace look like? Consider Matthew 14:28-31.
And Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’
The more I’ve worked with addicts and dealt with my own sins, the more I’ve realized that most churches are falling short in a very important area–freedom from sin. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Most churches teach freedom from sin. Most command freedom from sin. But very few are helping people become free from sin. Most of them simply tell people to quit sinning and then slap them on the wrist when they catch them sinning again or belittle and shame them for doing so. What can we do about this?
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 have a question for you. Who killed Goliath? (If you don’t know the story of Goliath click here: 1 Samuel 17:1-54.)
David walked on the battlefield. David chose the stone. David swung the sling. David aimed the sling. David slung the stone. David wielded the sword. But who killed Goliath? According to David, God did (cf. 1 Samuel 17:46-47). What a great lesson we gain from this. King Saul wanted David to rely on his armor. That is, he wanted David to rely on the strength of a man. But Saul, though he was head and shoulders above all the Jews, must have known how useless that was. After all, he hadn’t stepped out to face Goliath. David refused to rely on his own strength or his own armor. Instead, he relied on God’s strength.
If we want to face the giants in our lives, we have to learn to rely on God’s strength. But what does that look like? Notice that for David, relying on God’s strength didn’t look like sitting at the edge of the battlefield with legs folded in on themselves, eyes closed, and arms upraised with the thumbs touching the middle-fingers, just waiting on God to send fire from heaven. It meant that David chose a stone, slung a stone, and chopped off a head. To the casual observer it may not have looked like God doing anything. But David did all these things because he was actually relying on God’s strength.
With that in mind, here are 10 practical ways for you to rely on God’s strength every day as you face your giants. These are the ways for you to choose your stones, sling your rocks, and chop of your giant’s head by relying on God.
Way #1: Give Up
I know this sounds odd. But the first practical thing you have to do if you want to beat the giants is give up…surrender. But not to the giants, to God. Today and next Monday, I am going to share 9 other practical ways to rely on God’s strength, but if we don’t get this first point about our attitude and motive right, the others won’t help us. According to 2 Corinthians 12:10, we are only strong when we are weak. Only when we recognize we can’t win will we truly give ourselves over to God and let Him win the victories through us.
If you are like me, you may have tried numerous things to make yourself stronger. “Maybe if I read my Bible more, I’ll be strong enough. Maybe if I pray more, I’ll be strong enough. Maybe if I ‘go to church more,’ I’ll be strong enough.” Do you notice who I’m still focused on there? I’m focused on me being strong enough. I’m still relying on my strength. I’m essentially choosing to put on Saul’s armor and hoping that will help me defeat the giants. I need to recognize I’m not strong enough and, therefore, give up fighting. Instead of doing things to make me strong enough. I need to do things that will connect me to God because He is strong enough.
Way #2: Walk in God’s Presence
1 Thessalonians 5:17 says we should “pray without ceasing.” But I don’t want to simply call this tool, “Prayer.” Maybe we can call it “Prayer 2.0.” We need to take prayer to the next level. Instead of praying because it is the daily Christian homework assignment, pray because you are convinced God is right there with you listening. Envision Him as a you would a friend sitting across the table from you or walking beside you. Talk to Him because He is there.
Start your day talking to Him in prayer. Could you imagine waking up next to your spouse, walking around the house with her/him, eating breakfast, getting ready, and never saying a word? I can imagine that. Sadly, it has happened at my house. When? When things were bad. When someone is in our presence and we aren’t talking to them, it means something is wrong with that relationship. So get up and tell God, “Good morning. Please stay with me today.” Tell Him anything else that is on your mind. When you go to bed at night, tell Him, “Good night. Thanks for being with me today.” Tell Him anything you need to unload before going to sleep.
Talk with Him while you go through your day. Share what you are about to do. Ask Him to help with the decisions you are about to make. Follow-up with thanks for blessings that occur. If you fall, talk to Him about why it happened. This helps because it’s hard to gossip about your co-worker if you begin by asking God if He thinks it’s okay. It’s hard to look down a woman’s flapping shirt if you first run it by God to see what He thinks about it.
Way #3: Give Thanks
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says we should give thanks in every circumstance. No doubt, this is part of walking in God’s presence, but it is so important that I want to give it its own special recognition.
Let’s face it. Bad things happen to us all the time. We live in a fallen world. People sin. Because of sin, bad things are going on and we suffer for it. When bad things happen and even good things don’t go my way, I begin to get a little bitter. How about you? I begin to get resentful. I resent my wife, my kids, my friends, my co-workers, my neighbors, my brethren. Worst of all, I begin to resent God. I start to think maybe He is picking on me. Why won’t He let things go my way? This bitterness and resentment leads me to turn away from God and start relying on me. After all, if I don’t take care of me, who will? But this always leads me into sin. When I’m taking care of me, I always get trampled by the giants.
One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received is about writing a gratitude list. Start your day with one. End your day with one. Maybe even in the middle of the day remind yourself with one. You can obviously just pray your list. But on tough days I urge you to write your list down. Something about writing it makes it real.
What are you thankful for today? Breathing, walking, eating, clothing, cars, home, friends, wife, kids, job, church, ability to read, ability to speak, ability to move, opportunity to read “God’s Way Works”… This list can go on and on. As I unload all the blessings I have received, I begin to realize God isn’t picking on me. I really don’t have it that bad. Actually, lots of things are going my way. Maybe I don’t need to turn to my sins after all. Maybe I can ignore them for another day.
Way #4: Conscious Contact with God through His Word
In Acts 20:32, Paul commended the Ephesian elders to God and the word of His grace. Why? Because it would sanctify them and prepare them for the inheritance God wanted to pass on to them. Like prayer, this was not a daily homework assignment to trudge through and prove they were good enough. It was a source of life. If only God can beat the giants, then connect to Him in His word.
Don’t read the Bible like a newspaper, just trying to get through the day’s news. Listen to God’s word for the help it is offering. Find passages that help you in certain situations and return to them again and again as needed. I return to Psalm 119:145-152 over and over again to remind me that I don’t observe God’s testimonies so He will save me, but I need Him to save me so I will observe His testimonies. I go to Psalm 141:1-5 repeatedly in the face of temptation to remind me to ask for God to take over, setting a guard over me and providing me with others who will provoke me to righteousness. I go to Isaiah 40:28-31 to remind me that God is with me and will get me through whatever I’m facing. I go to Psalm 18:1-3 to remind me how great God is. God’s word really does give life when we use it as a life-giving connection to God instead of a dead homework assignment.
Way #5: Pack the Right Bags
Romans 13:14 says, “…make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Providing for the flesh is not the same as pursuing the flesh. “Making provision” is a picture of getting ready for a trip. When you are going on a trip you to have to make your provisions. That is, you have to pack your bags, plan your lodging, prepare your food, get your money together. You can’t possibly take your trip to Disney World if you haven’t made provisions for that trip. But making the provisions is not exactly the same as the trip itself. So, quit asking yourself if what you are about to do is actually a fleshly, sinful trip. Maybe it isn’t. But maybe it is packing your bags for one. Don’t do that either.
Sometimes the giants beat us because we rely on our own strength. That is, we pack our bags and make provisions to travel in the flesh. We think we can do that for a while but keep from actually taking the trip. The fact is if we pack our bags to travel into the flesh, we are going to submit to the flesh. We just aren’t that strong. Relying on God’s strength means packing our bags to travel with the Spirit. We make preparations to walk in the Spirit and by the Spirit.
Consider an example. Going to a buffet is not the same as committing gluttony (I choose this as an example because I still haven’t met anyone who ever commits, or should I say confesses to, gluttony). Is it a sin to eat at a buffet? No. Can some people eat at a buffet and not commit gluttony? Absolutely. But what if your giant was gluttony. What if it was whooping your backside every time you came onto the battlefield? Then eating at your local Chinese buffet is going to be packing your bags to walk in the flesh. Don’t spend all your time defending how eating there isn’t a sin. That’s not the issue. If you keep walking into a place where gluttony beats you every time, you are packing your bags to get beat by the giants. Rely on God’s strength instead by packing your bags to walk with Him.
Alright, this has gotten long enough as it is. Thanks for sticking with me this far. Come back next Monday and I’ll provide 5 More Ways to Rely on God’s Strength to Beat Your Giants.
I ran across this video the other day and thought I would share. There is only one way to keep the rug from being pulled out from under you. I know this should probably be a Monday post, but I didn’t want to wait until then.
Can you guess what it is?