Tuesday, January 10, 2017


Soooo...have you made any New Year's Resolutions this year?  I'm generally not a fan of them because, actually, I can't remember a single resolution I've made at the New Year that has stuck with me.  Good intentions, always, but the deeply-rooted patterns of my life have always prevailed.

This year feels different...mainly because my "resolution" this year comes at the tail end of a long, progressive series of battles in one particular area of my life which God has been working on.  And I do mean working on!  For years and years. 

Some time ago, God began whispering to me something quite counterintuitive about my problem.  He told me that, rather than focusing on the "problem," I needed to be focusing on "Him" instead.  He said that focusing on the problem all the time kept me "in" the problem, and that focusing on Him instead would take me "out" of the problem...would put it into the background as I brought Him to the forefront.  So, I began to explore what that would look like, and I tried to make changes.

I began to notice that when my heart drew near to God through prayer and reading my Bible, I did "do better." But, my "resolve" didn't last long and I seemingly, "inevitably," soon went back to my "old, familiar ways" and to the sin which so easily beset me.

One night not long ago, as I was mulling over "my problem" and what to do about it, the Lord whispered into my ear:  "What does the Bible say about "the fruits of the Spirit and self control?"  So, I turned the light on, got out of bed, and googled "fruits of the Spirit and self control."  Google sent me to Galatians 5.  If you are a Christian, as I am, God gives you a tremendous gift: Truth.  So, when I hear truth, I know it.  A comforting warmth engulfs my body and settles around me like a soft, cozy blanket on a cold winter's night.  God gave me these words of Truth from Galatians 5:  

"But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us."   

"What is important is faith expressing itself in love."

"You have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters.  But don't use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature.  Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.  For the whole law can be summed up in this one command:  "Love your neighbor as yourself."

"So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives.  Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves.  The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants.  And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires.  These two forces are constantly fighting each other so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.  But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses."

"When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear:  sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these."

"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  There is no law against these things!"

"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.  Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit's leading in
every part of our lives."

This was all well and good...and I had read this passage many times, but I wasn't gaining the fruit of self-control I was seeking.  I consider myself a Christian truly trying to live a Christian life, but failing to obtain a fruit of the Spirit was frustrating me to no end!

So, immediately I googled, "How do I let the Holy Spirit guide my life?"

These were the phrases and words God led me to in my search:

"Don't accommodate your sin.  Get rid of it!  You can't "manage" sin!"  (This was written in the margin of my Bible as notes I took from my pastor's sermon one Sunday.)  

"Read God's Word"


I realized that just "wanting" a fruit of the Spirit wasn't enough.  So, the first thing I did was to begin a new Prayer Journal for 2017.  I labeled one column "Request" and across from it another was labeled "God's Answer."  I decided this year to make most of my requests quite specific so that when God answers I can definitely "see" if His answer is "Yes," "No," or "Wait for My Timing."  I have 40 Requests placed at Jesus' feet in my journal so far.  Request #7 is about my "problem."  I was very specific.  Over the course of time, God has shown me some specific steps I can take to gain self-control in this area of my life.  My request is for God to help me do the things He has shown me to do.  I have asked for Him to make me successful in it.  I am asking God to help me do the things I need to do so the Holy Spirit is free to work in me.  

The next thing I did was to begin a new plan for reading the Bible through in a year.  I'm praying and I'm seeking the Holy Spirit's guidance in my life through God's Word.  I am seeking to not just read, but to obey what I read.  I am placing "my problem" in the background, leaving it in my Prayer Journal and trusting God with it, and I am purposefully bringing God to the forefront of my life through the specific disciplines of prayer, meditation on His Word, and really trying to "obey" and put into action what I'm reading.  I have recently also moved from a position of just "sitting and soaking" in a Sunday School class and am out of my comfort zone, working as a volunteer in our Children's ministry.  I am trying to "express my faith in love" as Jesus teaches in Galatians 5.

Something very obvious has happened.  Soon after I finished my Prayer Journal, I was tempted.  This time, however, instead of just numbly giving in to the temptation with no thought, I heard very distinctly in my mind, "No."  Just, "No."  This happened 3 times in a row, and each time, my mind responded to the temptation with, "No."  You need to understand that this did not come from my own will and I knew it didn't each time it happened.  It was the Holy Spirit guiding me! Tears are streaming as I write this because it was such a breakthrough for me.  I was immediately aware that this was the Holy Spirit when it happened and I instantly filled with great joy and understanding.  I laughed, grinned, and looked up to God and told Him, "Thank you!"  "Thank you!"  "Thank you!"  "I get it!"  Leave the "problem" with you and place my focus on you!

Today I felt God nudge me to write about my experience, so again I googled "How do I let the Holy Spirit guide me?  The article (below) from gotquestions.org came up and is so good!  It repeats what God told me, as He so often does for me when He wants to teach or tell me something important.  I want to share it with you because it explains so perfectly how to overcome "problems" of sin in our lives, and it tells us how we are able to gain victory and let the Holy Spirit work in us in practical ways.

So....this year, I have hope.  A New Year, a new resolve.  I resolve to try as best I can to place God at the forefront...by focusing on Him instead of my problems.  As I do this, the Holy Spirit will be free to work and act in my life to fulfill God's plans for me.  I can trust Him!  My part is easy...focus on the One who loves me best.  I know the more I focus on Him, the more I love Him, and the more I love Him, the easier it is to focus on Him!  "The Problem" has distracted me from Him and taken away my focus on "The Answer!"

God's part is to do the heavy lifting!  Praise God!  God tells us in Matthew 11:28-30, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you.  Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle at heart and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light."

My sleep has become so sweet!  No longer do I "mull and ponder" my problem.  Now, I go to sleep after reading His Word to me and, when I do this, I sleep with a smile rather than a frown.  God's got my cares...they're written down and given over to Him in my Prayer Journal.  I can mull and ponder God's goodness to me and I can imagine what He looks like, what all He has stored up for me in Heaven, what adventures He has yet for us to go on together! Peace...sweet peace!

Precious Ones, my prayer for you in 2017 is that you will resolve to give your resolutions over to the only One who can fulfill them for you.  Resolve, instead, to love with all your heart the "Resolver" of all your problems!  I love you and pray God's richest blessings for you in the coming year!

(Here is the article I promised you taken from www.gotquestions.org:)

"Question: "How can I overcome sin in my Christian life?"

Answer: The Bible presents several different resources to aid us in our effort to overcome sin. In this lifetime, we will never be perfectly victorious over sin (1 John 1:8), but that should still be our goal. With God’s help, and by following the principles of His Word, we can progressively overcome sin and become more and more like Christ. 

The first resource the Bible mentions in our effort to overcome sin is the Holy Spirit. God has given us the Holy Spirit so we can be victorious in Christian living. God contrasts the deeds of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:16-25. In that passage we are called upon to walk in the Spirit. All believers already possess the Holy Spirit, but this passage tells us that we need to walk in the Spirit, yielding to His control. This means choosing to consistently follow the Holy Spirit's prompting in our lives rather than following the flesh.

The difference the Holy Spirit can make is demonstrated in the life of Peter, who, before being filled with the Holy Spirit, denied Jesus three times—and this after he had said he would follow Christ to the death. After being filled with the Spirit, he spoke openly and strongly to the Jews at Pentecost.

We walk in the Spirit as we try not to quench the Spirit’s promptings (as spoken of in 1 Thessalonians 5:19) and seek instead to be filled with the Spirit—that is, to be fully under the Spirit’s control (Ephesians 5:18–21). How is one filled with the Holy Spirit? If sin is what grieves the Spirit and hinders His filling, then obedience to God is how the filling of the Spirit is maintained. We should pray that we be filled with the Spirit, immerse ourselves in God’s Word (Colossians 3:16), and walk in obedience to God’s commands. This gives the Spirit freedom to work within our thoughts and actions.

The Word of God, the Bible, says that God has given us His Word to equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It teaches us how to live and what to believe, it reveals to us when we have chosen wrong paths, it helps us get back on the right path, and it helps us to stay on that path. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God is living and powerful, able to penetrate to our hearts to root out and overcome the deepest sins of heart and attitude. The psalmist talks about its life-changing power in-depth in Psalm 119. Joshua was told that the key to success in overcoming his enemies was not to forget this resource but instead to meditate on it day and night and obey it. This he did, even when what God commanded did not make sense militarily, and this was the key to his victory in his battles for the Promised Land.

The Bible is a resource that we too often treat lightly. We give token service to it by carrying our Bibles to church or reading a daily devotional or a chapter a day, but we fail to memorize it, meditate on it, or apply it to our lives; we fail to confess the sins it reveals or praise God for the gifts it reveals to us. When it comes to the Bible, we are often either anorexic or bulimic. We either take in just enough to keep us alive spiritually by eating from the Word (but never ingesting enough to be healthy, thriving Christians), or we come to feed often but never meditate on it long enough to get spiritual nutrition from it.

It is important, if you have not made a habit of daily studying and memorizing God's Word, that you begin to do so. Some find it helpful to start a journal. Make it a habit not to leave the Word until you have written down something you have gained from it. Some record prayers to God, asking Him to help them change in the areas that He has spoken to them about. The Bible is the tool the Spirit uses in our lives (Ephesians 6:17), an essential and major part of the armor that God gives us to fight our spiritual battles (Ephesians 6:12-18).

A third crucial resource in our battle against sin is prayer. Again, it is a resource that Christians often give lip service to but make poor use of. We have prayer meetings, times of prayer, etc., but we do not use prayer in the same way as the early church (Acts 3:14:316:413:1-3). Paul repeatedly mentions how he prayed for those he ministered to. God has given us wonderful promises concerning prayer (Matthew 7:7-11Luke 18:1-8John 6:23-271 John 5:14-15), and Paul includes prayer in his passage on preparing for spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:18).

How important is prayer to overcoming sin in our lives? We have Christ's words to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane, just before Peter's denial. As Jesus prays, Peter is sleeping. Jesus wakes him and says, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Matthew 26:41). We, like Peter, want to do what is right but are not finding the strength. We need to follow God's admonition to keep seeking, keep knocking, keep asking—and He will give us the strength that we need (Matthew 7:7). Prayer is not a magic formula. Prayer is simply acknowledging our own limitations and God's inexhaustible power and turning to Him for that strength to do what He wants us to do, not what we want to do (1 John 5:14-15).

A fourth resource in our war to conquer sin is the church, the fellowship of other believers. When Jesus sent His disciples out, He sent them out two-by-two (Mark 6:7). The missionaries in Acts did not go out one at a time, but in groups of two or more. The Bible commands us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together but to use that time for encouraging one another in love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). It tells us to confess our faults to one another (James 5:16). In the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, we are told that as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17). There is strength in numbers (Ecclesiastes 4:11-12).

Many Christians find that having an accountability partner can be a huge benefit in overcoming stubborn sins. Having another person who can talk with you, pray with you, encourage you, and even rebuke you is of great value. Temptation is common to us all (1 Corinthians 10:13). Having an accountability partner or an accountability group can give us the final dose of encouragement and motivation we need to overcome even the most stubborn of sins.

Sometimes, victory over sin comes quickly.  Other times, victory comes more slowly.  God has promised that as we make use of His resources, He will progressively bring about change in our lives.  We can persevere in our efforts to overcome sin because we know that He is faithful to His promises."

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