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Friday, March 10, 2017

My worst enemy is me

Charles Spurgeon reminds us we must beware of one enemy - ourselves. As he says, "Beware of no man more than of yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us." Some of the toughest battles we face are those where we are battling against some desire with ourselves that is not easily dissuaded. Don't believe me? Think about the last time you went on some fad diet. How did those first few days go? Probably pretty well because you had all this newfound determination to lose a couple of pounds. In about two weeks or so, how much of that determination was actually left? How about after four weeks? It doesn't take long for us to realize eating ten grapefruit a day, or living without carbohydrates is just not all that practical or easy! The determination just doesn't carry us - because we have embraced something that is going to constantly be "at war" with us internally! What about the last time you tried to squelch some feeling of being wronged because you were left out of some decision, or you weren't given credit where it was due? What kind of war within was actually giving you more of an issue than the original issue itself? Yep, as Spurgeon said, the most effective enemy we may actually have is yourself!

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.  So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.  That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.
(Romans 8:5-8 NLT)

I turn frequently back to the Book of Romans because Paul did such a nice job of talking about real issues we all struggle with in this Christian walk. He reminds us of the "war within" that presents the greatest challenges to us - getting our minds and hearts to perfectly align and then keeping them in alignment with God's. It is a "control thing" - this is the battleground. Who is it we place our trust in? Some would say it could be us, God, or a combination of both. I'd have to challenge that last one, for anytime we cannot squarely put our trust in God alone, we are trusting in ourselves! So, the real enemy within is us!

I like how he reminds us that our sinful nature never did like keeping the rules, nor did it like being told what to do. In fact, it likely rejected the rules and chose a direction contrary to what God declared to be right more times than we can count. As my pastor often reminds us, we place our trust in something - all of us are people of faith, as a result. Our faith may not be well-founded, but we have faith IN someone or something - perhaps it is one thing today and another tomorrow, or something we hold onto a bit longer, but it is faith nonetheless. When we give credence to the thoughts which rise up within from the level of our emotion, we may find those thoughts don't always produce the most "sound" or "reasonable" actions. 

We might not like to admit it, but faith is a matter of control. What controls us? What motivates us toward a certain course of action? Is that "force" sustaining the action? If so, is the force driving us or setting us into a certain course of action actually sending us in the right direction? These are questions that might just help us to determine if the enemy we think we are facing is maybe just a little closer than we might imagine - because it could be we find the enemy is really us. We all struggle with rightly aligning our thought life as scripture reminds us is so important to taking right steps. If we know this is a very real and present struggle, why is it we continue to struggle with it? Could it possibly be we still haven't decided to let go of the control of some particular "internal battle"?

It doesn't matter what we call the "enemy within" - what matters is that we recognize the very "real and present" struggle we engage in because we have difficulty with letting God take control of that area of our life. The sooner we recognize there is a battle for control, the sooner we can lean into his grace to see that change of control occur. It won't be easy, but as we consistently take the steps to embrace the attitude of thinking on things that are pure, of good report, worthy of our attention, we begin to think "differently". It won't come overnight, but as soon as we ask for him to set in motion the things that help us align our thoughts with his and our actions with those he will find pleasing, we begin to act "differently". To sustain this thinking and action, we need to continually examine where it is we are placing our trust in this moment. If it moves back toward that trust being in what we can "think through on our own" or "work out in our own efforts", then we need to stop, confess we are taking control again, and allow his grace to set us back on course. Just sayin!