No man fails on purpose. Yet, spiritual and moral failures abound.
A few years ago I taught a lesson to our men’s group which focused on temptations men face. The workbook we were using quoted C.S. Lewis on this subject and was a turning point for many in the group. Lewis wrote,
“It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the person away from the light and out into the nothing… Indeed, the safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
The truth communicated by Lewis rings true. It reminded me of something a former mentor of mine once said. He emphasized repeatedly that comprise comes through the smallness of our daily surrenders.
It’s giving up that little bit of personal conviction each day. It’s the little piece of candy no one will ever know you ate. It’s watching that program or visiting that website when you are all alone. You get the picture.
Usually the first surrender to “small, insignificant sins” makes it easier to fall prey to them again and again. The damage comes from the “cumulative effect” Lewis was pointing to. Few men wake up in the morning planning to sin spectacularly later in the day. Yet those daily surrenders build up over time. Give a little ground here and there and before you know it, you’re in trouble. In fact, you become practically unrecognizable, to even yourself. You didn’t plan in advance for this to happen, but those daily surrenders were enough to do the trick.
Therefore we must be vigilant. We need to work from the foundation of knowing who we are in Christ. We need to count ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11). Those “daily surrenders” needn’t reign over us. The same Spirit who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead dwells in us as well.
Yet, we also need to exercise the self-awareness that recognizes those areas in our lives wherein we are weak. We ought to ask ourselves: Are we being less watchful in some areas of our lives than others? Even the small, seemingly insignificant areas? Are we overly confident we would never again fall prey to that particular temptation? A member of my church used to remind me often, “to be forewarned is to be forearmed.”
Brothers, if you want to avoid those small daily surrenders, then pray for God to deliver you from temptation. But don’t forget to do your part. Name those temptations in advance. Talk with a godly brother you trust and ask him to hold you accountable. Renew your mind daily in God’s Word. The Apostle Paul shared God’s wisdom on this point when he wrote in Philippians 4:8-9,
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
What are you thinking on?
Walking Points: What are those areas in your life that tempt you the most? What are some practical things you can do to resist them? Set an appointment today with a brother in Christ and ask him to pray for you and to help keep you accountable.
Grace and Truth,
If you would like to learn more about how to grow in your faith, please check out my website, DaleTedder.com. We've also started a new podcast called, Walking Points. Its purpose is to help men follow Jesus Christ in every sphere of their lives. We're working on enabling it to be downloaded, but presently it can only be listened to via streaming. Our most recent episode is an interview with a member of our church on the topic of what it means to represent Christ in the workplace.
Psalm 63:1 – O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Longing for God
I think I know what it means to thirst for God, to long for him, to hunger for him.
When I Feel Close to God
I believe there are two different circumstances in which I experience this longing. One is when I have been walking closely with the Lord. I feel it when I am spending much time with him in his Word, in prayer and meditation, in worship, in the reading of books by godly authors, and so on. The more I am with him, the richer my time with him, the more I discover I want to be with him, the deeper I desire to go in my relationship with him. There is a true sense of longing during such times.
When I Feel Far Away
And yet, as strange as it sounds, during those times in my life of spiritual draught and depression, I also long for him. However, there’s something qualitatively different about the feeling. When things are going well in my walk with the Lord, it seems my deeper longing for him will yield great fruit. I almost expect a rich encounter with him. Yet, when I feel distant from him, though I still long for him, I wonder if I’ll ever have again with God what I once had. It’s almost a “longing of despair.” Have you ever experienced that?
My experience is a good example of why it’s often unsafe to put too much stock in our feelings. Our feelings are fickle and they have the capacity to lead us astray. Not only that, but there are many things that can affect our feelings, such as our health, our sleeping patterns, our diet, the time of day, and our relationships. I often treasure my feelings, but I am very aware of how unreliable they can be.
It’s when we gauge our spiritual life based on our feelings that we can get ourselves into trouble. For example, one day with the Lord may be a wonderful blessing and you may be tempted to think you should be canonized as a saint. Yet, another day might yield the opposite experience and you may begin wondering if you’re even a Christian at all.
Instead of living on that sort of spiritual roller-coaster, wisdom calls us to trust in the Lord always and continue plodding along with him every day, regardless of our feelings or circumstances.
God Himself is Our Reward
Hebrews 11:6 says God rewards those who earnestly seek him. Deuteronomy 4:29 tells us if we look for the Lord with all of our heart and soul, we will find him. In these verses, and others throughout Scripture, we are encouraged by the Lord himself, to seek him. His promise is we will be rewarded by finding him. You see, God is the reward!
Feelings are great. God gave us feelings. But they too are affected by sin which often makes them unreliable. Therefore, don’t put all your trust in your feelings but in the God who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He alone is the One we are called to seek, thirst, and long for. He alone is worthy of such a grand pursuit.
Walking Points: When do you find yourself most desiring God? During what circumstances in your life do you feel the greatest distance from God? Closest to God? What can you do today that will help you more faithfully “plod along” with God during the good times and the bad times? Share your insights with a friend.
Grace and Truth,
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