Sometimes life is just hard. God never promised it would be easy - but He did promise He would walk with us every step of the way. Going through this Breaking Free Bible study has been quite the challenge. It always amazes me, the timing that God has planned whenever I go through a study. This has been no different. Even all the events leading up to this study and the previous studies that we've gone through - Believing God, Living Beyond Yourself and now Breaking Free. What a journey it's been. I've been going through some difficult stuff in my personal life and with reviewing some things from my past and walking through a tough season in my parents life. Aging is no fun....but it can be! It all depends on where the attitude is! You can be in the worst of circumstances and see all the good around you and be a joyful person - "The joy of the Lord is my strength". Or, you can be one that holds on to years and years of hurts, bitterness, disappointment, resentment and anger. This will only cripple you and rob you of all that God has to offer you - all the goodness that He has stored for you because you hang desperately onto grudges and hurts of the past. "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person's strength" Prov. 17:22
We can choose to live life in such a sorry state and constantly be fighting the demons of frustration, bitterness, anger, hatred, discord......or we can choose to dance with our Heavenly
Father and his many angels who help us each day and minister to us just as they did to Jesus after he was tempted by the Devil in the desert for 40 days and nights. Jesus knows our failures, weaknesses, and frustrations of each day but we gotta choose to give them to him and let the Holy Spirit take over.
Life is too short to live our days in defeat and unhappiness. We can live in the captivity of our negative thoughts until it takes us to the grave or we can allow the Truth of God's Word, the Bible to captivate us and take over. I know I want to wake up to the Truth and have my eyes opened up to the deception that is in the world all around me. God's Word is my truth serum. The more I use His Word, the clearer my mind will become. To get the lies that are in my mind to bow to the truth, I need to believe, speak and apply God's Truth as a lifestyle - it's gotta be something I live, not just do. Working on my thoughts will be the only thing that will keep them from working on me. Either my thoughts have control of me through the power of the enemy or I have control of my own thoughts through the power of the Holy Spirit. "Neutral doesn't exist among the mental gears." I love the way Beth Moore says that.
Have you ever come across such a godly person that she/he just radiates and draws you to what is inside of her/him? They are such wonderful people to be around. Staying at work on my thought life is the very essence to godliness. It means giving my heart, my soul, my mind and my body to God and to desire to obey Him more than anything. Until I see Christ face-to-face, surrendering the inmost places of my heart and mind to God is the essence of godliness. If I am striving daily to give God my heart and mind and I'm sensitive to the sin in my personal life and my thought life, then I can be a godly person. But there is a very important rule of thumb to the thought life and it will be the key to bringing victory in my life: starve the flesh and feed the spirit. Do you know what that means? I don't always, but I'm learning.
Romans 8:5-8 says "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."
I don't have to wake up in the morning and choose to be self-centered - that comes very naturally to me and to all human beings. I go into that automatically....unless I deliberately choose to submit to God and His ways and receive the fullness of His freedom that I can have in Jesus Christ. So, even if the Holy Spirit convicts me of sin, the purpose for that is life and peace - it's never to condemn me or defeat me. The Spirit of God edifies the believer, he never ever tears us down. When I'm thinking according to my flesh, to my own selfish needs and desires, I am often anxious, insecure, frustrated, fearful and feel defeated because I'm not getting my own way - not to mention the countless times I feel jealous or greedy or even lustful thoughts and a ton of other negative thoughts that I was never meant to think or be as a Christian.
I continually need to pray to ask God to give me a heightened awareness of how I'm feeling and thinking. "I can't change the way I feel" but I can sure work at changing the way I think and therefore that will change the way I feel. Even in the worst of situations, in the midst of pain and tears, the Spirit of the Holy Living God can still speak life and peace into my heart. Why? Because He is in control of everything...nothing passes through our lives without being sifted out by Him first, God only allows things to happen when He knows we will become a better person at the end of it. There's always a reason why things happen - a divine reason.
So, what can I do to feed the Spirit and starve the flesh? I can choose to listen to Christian music, good music that lifts my soul and teaches me good things, I can listen to uplifting speakers and teachers that teach on the Word of God without putting themselves on a pedestal for me to worship, I can study God's Word and put His Truths into my mind and not listen to lies of the enemy or this world, I can surround myself with Bible believing individuals and positive people that speak the Truth and encourage me to follow God, I can attend Bible study and church, I can choose to have fellowship with other believers, I can memorize Scripture....the list is endless.
There's nothing wrong with being friends with other people of different faiths or taking vacations or being busy at times or taking part in clean entertaining activites....but to continually fill our lives with all those other things won't bring us closer to God. I know for myself, I need to have a balance and be sure to have time to walk along the still waters and just focus on the good things of the Lord. And if God's presence is not invited into all these extra activities, the Spirit within in me is not being fed by these activities. The less I feed the Spirit of God within me with things that energize Him to fill me, the more His presence "shrinks" within me. But Praise God that the more I feed the Spirit of God within me and yield to His control and not mine, the more His presence will fill and engulf me with life and peace.
So, the more I allow the Truths of God engulf me and consume me, the sooner the chains of depression, frustration, defeat, unforgiveness, bitterness, hatred and all those others things will break free of their hold on me. I so yearn to live FREE in Christ - "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Freedom." I can come out stronger than ever because in my weaknesses, God is strong. God wants me to enlarge my borders and be more free than I ever have been before. He wants me to give Him my failures, surrender my most dreadfull times to Him, give Him my most humiliating defeats....and then He, God and God alone, can use them to make me twice the victorious warrior than I've ever dreamed of being. God can chose to use the very thing that I have been defeated in, He can turn that very thing around and use it to teach me and help me become victorious in. I just need to take His Hand in mine and walk with Him and trust Him the whole way through - just like a small child.
Oh how I want to discover the glorious satisfaction in Christ!! I want to be a compassionate person for Christ. It's the real thing! I want to find a place to pour the overflow of His Goodness in my life into others. "The satisfied soul is never a more beautiful display of God's splendor than when willing to empty self for the lives of others." Beth Moore
I absolutely LOVE the analogy of the River. Through all of life, I can have "peace like a river" when I pay attention to God's commands and follow where He leads me. The key to having peace in my life is to submit to His authority through my obedience to Him. Obedience doesn't come easily for anyone - we all wanna do our own thing and go our own way and live life as we please. Obedience to God is not going our way, not doing as we please and not even speaking as we please. Peace is the fruit of righteousness and joy is the wine from that fruit. Joy will ultimately flow from obedience. A river is a moving stream of water, it is a body of fresh water fed by springs or streams, it begins and ends with a body of water. God doesn't say we'll have peace like a pond....but peace like a river. His peace is a peace that we can have while life twists and turns and rolls over boulders. It's to have security and peace of mind and heart while life takes many bumps and unexpected turns along the journey of changes. Peace is submitted to God's authority, not resigning from all the activity of life. Peace comes from an active, ongoing, and obedient relationship with the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. He wants to feed us with the Living Water of His Holy Spirit and a steady stream of His Word until we have peace like a river. Peace flows from a continuing upland source, Jesus Christ, and is always a reminder that this life will eventually spill out into a glorious eternal life. This present life is not our destination! Hallelujah!! We who know Christ through a personal relationship with him, are continually moving over rocks, sometimes cliffs, through narrow places and other times wide valleys to a grand heavenly destination. This takes abiding with Christ, paying attention to God's commands through obedience through the power of the Holy Spirit within us. Why? Because God is incapable of making any mistakes whatsoever with our lives. He teaches us only what is best for us, He directs us only in the way we should go. God's way is the safe way, the right way, and the only peaceful way in a very chaotic world that we live in. "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts" Col. 3:15
Isn't that absolutely beautiful!!