Tag Archives: spiritual growth

Resolutions, Determination, and Godliness

1Timothy 4:7-10 “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”

If you could choose one word to use as a label for your year in 2016, what would it be? I know mine. It would be determined.

 I started this year with a desire to break away from everything that reeked in the previous year. My mind was set as far as resolutions go, that as far as it depended on me, physical pain was not going to be my master. That might sound weird to people who haven’t lived with chronic pain, but this is where I was at. As far as I was even remotely able to this year, I went to the gym three times a week. If I was in pain, I didn’t really care, I was going anyway. If I was utterly exhausted (which I generally was since I have been anemic most of the year), I didn’t care, I was going anyway. Sometimes that meant slow cycling with my eyes closed, but at least I was moving. Sometimes that meant leaving the gym feeling worse off than when I started- but for me, it was a way of taking back control. It was a way of saying that pain could never bring me back to that horrifying black corner of helplessness. Get me as far away from that corner as possible. Basically, exercise was my way of kicking pain in the face.

I also went back to university this year and took a Creative Writing course, which I really enjoyed. Sure, completing each writing assignment meant my hands ached for a week, but once again, I did not really care. I was determined. Pressing on. Taking my life back. Kicking pain in the face.

And treatments. I tried so many treatments that it is almost funny, just trying to keep on functioning.

Often I have not tempered my determination with open hands. At times I have had this huge piece of my heart that just hasn’t wanted to trust God’s will in this area, to be honest. My eyes have been on temporary things so often that they don’t feel temporary anymore. When we set our eyes on temporary things, they simply take over our whole view.

It has been the most difficult part of my Christian life, to balance determination and contentment, or in other words, to balance desire and surrendering. There is nothing wrong with my wanting to be free of life hindering health issues, and there’s nothing wrong with setting goals and striving for them with determination.

But it’s wrong to want something so badly that you are no longer willing to accept your circumstances when God doesn’t give you what you want. It’s wrong to stop trusting Him in an area and to go chasing after it apart from Him. And it’s wrong when you put more effort into reaching temporary goals, goals that don’t even hold a promise for you, rather than exerting much of your effort into becoming more like Christ. Continue reading

The Christian Life Is War

Before you came to Christ you were spiritually dead. Among other things, there was one thing you had no ability to do: wage war against yourself (see previous article for more on that).

Trying to grow spiritually apart from Christ looks like chopping down one idol only to swiftly replace it with another. It looks like propping yourself up on the backs of other people, and when they fail you everything falls apart. Parting from sin feels like putting a knife to your own heart. Perhaps you turn to self-help books, and build a great facade, but inside, there is nothing but empty deceit (Colossians 2:8). Spiritually you are headed nowhere but closer and closer to death.

Pretty depressing isn’t it? But it is not so for the redeemed! Believers have new spiritual realities, as they have been “born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God (1Peter 1:23).” That “word is the good news that was preached to you (1Peter 1:25).”

You believed in the gospel with faith, and have been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1Peter 1:3).” Your hope is alive, and your hope is a person, who is always faithful and ever present.

Nevertheless, the Christian life is war. It is war that we declare primarily against ourselves, against the sin that remains in our flesh. We must wage this war every single day. If we don’t engage the flesh wins out.

I think of Jesus’ words to the disciples as they slept through Christ’s turmoil in Gethsemane: “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41).”

Galatians 5:17 expresses this so well: “The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”

There is a sense in which the same old reality remains: You cannot wage war against flesh in the flesh. Paul said “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out (Romans 7:18).” Notice that Paul qualifies his statement by saying “that is, in my flesh.”

So then, we have an enemy within. The good news is that God’s word teaches us that Jesus Christ died and was raised so that “we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).” This abundant “newness of life” is something we have been granted, and something we must “walk in.”

How can you walk in a reality that you are not remembering? Paul acknowledge that he could not live out Christianity in his own flesh. Do you know what that means? It means that this is not a battle to be fought by personal resolve and willpower alone. Why? Because your flesh has no strength to obey. Neither can it be silenced just by grieving its’ reality and hating its’ presence. To quote a great hymn “Could my zeal no respite know, could my tears forever flow, these for sin could not atone…”

You can’t begin to war against your flesh today without remembering and walking in the new realities that have been granted to you in salvation. Sorrow over sin and resolutions will quickly drive you low if you fail to cast yourself on His promises. Stay tuned for my next article (God willing)- which will be on God granted realities for waging war.

Still: A Poem For Christians Awaiting Perfection

Learned, but have I really learned
To trust?
Hoped in God, yet other times
In dust.
Treasures high, but also some
That rust.
Desired God; not always,
But I must.

Hungry, thirsty, satisfied
And filled,
Yet other times all empty
Wanting, nil.
Reaching for His word I must
Be still,
It’s there dry bones ignite to
Do His will.

Overcame, but still more fears
To find,
Surrendered all, I thought, but
Still blind
To fortresses tall standing
In my mind.

Arrived- not ever, not yet
Perfected- not close, but press
Onward- to where salvation lies
Forward- straining for the prize
Upward- rising to His throne
Why? For Christ made me His own. Continue reading

Sanctification: Ugly, Hard, Beautiful, and Full of Grace

I recently asked myself the question: what word would I use to describe my own (slowly) progressing sanctification process? The first word that came to mind was “ugly.” The second was “hard.”

When God first took out my heart of stone and gave a heart of flesh, life was good. Life was in fact the best it had ever been. Salvation was awesome. The relief from shedding the weight of sin tangible, and I was ecstatic. Jesus was my new best friend and His word was my treasure. God kept me safe, if somewhat secluded, and gave me a peaceful year to sprout.

God knew what He was doing then, and He knew just how I needed to begin my Christian walk. It wasn’t so hard, or so ugly at first- it was mostly awe and reveling.

Life had become profoundly deep and meaningful, but looking back now I can see that my faith was still shallow. A seed in good soil to be certain, but vulnerable, with threadlike roots barely taking hold of ground.

But God is a faithful vine dresser; One wholly determined that His people bear fruit. And the best fruit doesn’t grow from trees planted in shallow soil, so He sets out to dig and to nourish (Luke 13:6-9). He labors to prune and cut every branch in me He sees that could bear more fruit. He wants me to see, and to feel that apart from Him I can do nothing (John 15:5). Continue reading