When I die, will my family and friends say to one another, “She was such a godly person, except for _________”? I hope not! I want them to say, “She grew so much in _________ (that area). She never stopped growing.”
I want to be like Paul, who said as he neared the end of his life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). I don’t want to wonder what might have been — if only I had not given in to my flesh, whether in big, glaring inconsistencies visible to everyone or in small, not-so-noticeable habits known only to the Lord and my family.
The fight is not easy. I think about the name of one publishing company I admire, WIGTake, which stands for “What’s It Going to Take to reach the world for Jesus Christ?” Sometimes I wonder WIGTake for me to see change in troublesome areas.
I know it will take death for complete victory. But until then, there are many things that can help us keep growing. One of them is common sense!
Once, I asked my friend and discipler for advice when I repeatedly got stuck watching too much late night TV after an evening exercise program. Her simple answer surprised me. “You know what to do,” she said.
She was right. I knew. Turn.It.Off.
A sucker for my own arguments
It was simple. But I can be a sucker for my own arguments, especially when I am tired. I hurry on, vaguely pretending I am making a wise decision and feeling all right about what I am doing, when inside I know I am not. If I want the Lord’s best blessings, I need to give Him my full attention and choose to follow His lead. Usually I do know what to do right from the start.
I love the old hymn that calls us to forsake every sin:
“Nothing between my soul and the Savior,
So that His blessed face may be seen;
Nothing preventing the least of His favor,
Keep the way clear! Let nothing between.”¹
Nothing preventing the least of His favor! I want my life to so honor God that He can lavish His favor on me and through me, don’t you?
Choosing blessings or curses
The Lord told the Israelites exactly how they could experience the favor of His blessings or the painfulness of His curses — obey or disobey (Deuteronomy 28). It was as simple as that.
David, king of Israel, knew this well. His faith and obedience had brought him and Israel much blessing. Yet at a time when he ought to have been leading his troops in battle, he stayed home. Gazing out from his rooftop one fine evening, he spied his beautiful neighbor Bathsheba as she bathed. David decided she should be his next conquest. She did/could not refuse the king. To shorten the story (2 Samuel 11), David had her husband murdered and married her himself.
The prophet Nathan soon came with God’s message to David: I would have added to you many more blessings, besides the many I already gave you. But you: 1) despised My Word; 2) despised Me; and 3) have given occasion to My enemies to blaspheme. You will bear the consequences of this sinful act the rest of your life (2 Samuel 12:7-14, paraphrased, emphasis mine). What sorrowful words these were for this man who truly loved God.
What God might have done
As a young man, David had galvanized a nation to trust in the living God when he slayed a giant with just a sling and a stone. He was the “sweet psalmist of Israel,” the “man after God’s own heart.” God had helped him “wherever he went.” But even he could give in to pride, lust, adultery and murder. His life is a warning to us.
At the same time David’s life is an encouragement. David repented, and God forgave him for his evil choices, and He will forgive us for ours. God’s forgiveness was so complete He even placed Solomon, one of David’s sons with Bathsheba, on the throne after him. Most gracious of all, God sent the promised Messiah, Jesus, to the earth through David’s descendants.
If God would do these things for David after his fall, what might He have done if David had averted his eyes from Bathsheba and run the other way? Or better yet, been where he was supposed to be — with his troops in battle? Instead, the severe trials he and Israel endured after this were reminders that God is not mocked. Though he was forgiven, David reaped the harvest of what he had sown.
As the American poet John Greenleaf Whittier famously wrote:
For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”²
We’ll never know what might have been in David’s life, or our own. We can do something about the future, however. What are we going to do now about the areas holding us back from God’s best blessings?
A contract with God
The life of Dr. Bill Bright, founder of Cru, shows us an important principle. Early in their marriage, Bill and his wife Vonette wrote out a contract with God, surrendering their lives and everything they had unequivocally to Him.
Bill related, “Approximately 24 hours after we signed the contract to be His slaves, He gave me a world-changing vision, which we call Campus Crusade for Christ [now Cru]. I believe that had there been no contract, there would have been no vision.” God has been able to bless millions of people around the world with the gospel through the ministry of this imperfect, but surrendered man.
In his last book, The Journey Home, Bill wrote, “I have prayed on thousands of occasions: ‘Holy Father, if there is a chance that I will ever do anything to dishonor You or be unfaithful to my beloved Vonette, please take my life before it can happen.’”
Dr. Bright’s radical prayer is similar to the covenant the people of Israel made, many years after David lived. They had experienced exile and slavery after straying from God’s ways. Finally they returned to Him. They wrote and signed an agreement, “taking on themselves a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law” (Nehemiah 10:29).
We may love God’s Word and try to obey it, yet may not have not been this serious. But if we really want to honor Him, we will surrender our lives to Him, fully, every day. We will be as careful and as prayerful — in areas big and small.
The good fight
If the struggles I’ve had while writing this post are any indication, the battle is still raging at our house. It has helped me to build discipline when I focus on the winning strategies of prayer and reading my Bible before reading anything else each morning. I become stronger in more than one way when I obey the phone alarm that tells me it’s time to exercise. Being where I’m supposed to be might mean being in my bed, being fortified by rest.
I’m learning that taking the time to examine each troublesome area and decide on an actual battle plan is crucial. Wearing our spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:10-18) and close fellowship with other believers (Proverbs 27:17) are vital as well. Appropriating the filling of God’s Spirit, though I mention it last, is the most essential thing to do, each time we confess a sin.
I am not who I would like to be, but I am not who I used to be. I know the stubborn areas still plaguing me now will change as I earnestly and repeatedly apply each one of these strategies.
Friend, let’s find out all God has in mind for those who obey. The stakes are higher than we think, not just for us but for those around us, and even beyond.
The gladness of pleasing our Lord and walking in close fellowship with Him — these are the best of all rewards, until we see His face in heaven. I hope for the warm welcome due those who “fought the good fight.” Are you with me?
Let’s rewrite Whittier:
For of all glad words of tongue or pen,
The gladdest are these: “I honored Him!”
Pray with me?
Help us, Lord! It’s hard. Too often we give in to the desires of the flesh. Let there be no glaring or “secret” inconsistencies in our lives. All are glaring to You. Forgive us. Teach us to listen and obey quickly when You prompt us. Help us have a battle plan for each difficult area. Fill us with Your Spirit. We want to walk worthy of You, Lord Jesus, and make a giant difference in this world. In Your mighty name.
¹Nothing Between My Soul and the Savior, by Charles Albert Tindley.
²”Maud Muller,” by John Greenleaf Whittier.
If you haven’t discovered life in Christ, don’t hesitate to check it out. Life is too short to miss His love and perfect plan for you. Read About “The Nearness of God” or see everyperson.com for more information. You can also read my story of coming to faith in Christ: How My Song Began.