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In order to persevere when life throws curve balls at us, we need to mount our convictions on a rock solid foundation. Some people make New Year’s Resolutions, and their motivation doesn’t go any deeper than a fresh calendar. These are typically the people that we’ll observe going back to the gym, reading more, or aiming to excel at their jobs for a few weeks before the novelty fizzles out. Like a stale soda that was left out of the freezer uncapped, they likewise become complacent on their commitment. The culprit being that their convictions for change were superficial. They wanted the rewards, but the sacrifice to obtain them didn’t appeal to them. They preferred to settle for some element of what they had before, and the new activities didn’t become habits. They didn’t have an opportunity to flourish. Perhaps the results weren’t as immediate as they would have liked. In some other cases there’s the possibility that they fell victim to distractions. Whatever the case may be they caved in to a fundamental problem. Their “why” for doing what they were doing was faulty.
Firstly, if something is worth doing now in the New Year, theoretically speaking it was also worth doing a few months ago. Granted in some instances there may have been timelines that needed to be seen through, but in many cases “New Years Resolutions” were established as an excuse to procrastinate. Once the new year arrived they gave it a shot not to go back on their word, but then eventually realized their desires were too superficial. They weren’t rooted in a deep enough longing to keep them going. They didn’t have a good enough reason to sustain the sacrifice until more of the perceived, and actualized rewards for that matter, were enjoyed.
The second problem, before we take a close look at some practical solutions, is that people enjoy instant gratification. When we turn on Netflix we can instantly watch any movie or T.V. series without interruption. We don’t have to settle for a cliffhanger when our favorite show starts to appeal to us even more, we can simply hit play and get right to the next episode. Trust me I know first hand how appealing this is! We don’t want things done now, we want them to have been done yesterday.
A problem with this outlook, is that some of the most valuable aspirations in life involve a long time horizon and hard work. The difficult things to obtain, the challenging mountains to climb, and the biggest sacrifices often command the greatest rewards, satisfaction, and lasting fulfillment. For instance, nobody expects for a long-term marriage to be established overnight. You don’t think to yourself “this must be love at first sight”, drive over to a courthouse, sign the papers, and live happily ever after.
You must realize that it’s easy for us from the standpoint of human behavior, and our fallen human nature, to idealize people. We see 1% of the 99% a person stands for, and we fill that other 99% of them with what we’d optimally want to see in them. They may be nothing close to what we imagine, but we naively trick our minds to suspecting it. I do it and you do it, we all do it to some degree. The question is whether we realize we’re doing it, and what safeguards we have to making sure our hearts don’t get prematurely stolen in the process? I for one don’t plan to get married until after I have courted a girl for at least two years. Someone may tell me, “but Victor isn’t that a little ridiculous? What if you just know she’s the one sooner, and know things have a high likelihood of succeeding?”
The issue is to be sure I have overcome my infatuation with her, and actually arrived at true love, I need more time. I need to see her in more situations, I need to learn more of her strengths and weaknesses, to see her under stress, to see her when she’s on top of the world. This and many more experiences will help affirm to me that we’re a better match. Then and only then will I know what I am really getting myself into, and it’s for her best interest as well. I am not only assessing whether she’s a good fit for me, but she’s also considering whether I am for her.
Another problem with superficial reasons for exploring new life habits is found in our lack of self-discipline. When we give too much credit to our own will-power and self-control, we have failed before we’ve even begun. I know all too well what it’s like in the context of battling pornography addiction. Do you think it’s easier to take only seemingly practical steps, or do you believe there’s a Spiritual war at hand? The latter is the reality, and so we need the provisions of God to obtain a lasting victory. Since this is a real weakness of mine, every single day I need to rely on the provisions of God to stay clean. I need to humble myself before Him, and submit to His sovereignty.
Once I have come to the realization of my continuous need for the Lord, I can also request His provision in my life. He puts on me His full armor (V*1), He guides me by His Holy Spirit (V*2), and He continuously provides me with ways of escape when He knows the temptation is insurmountable for me alone. (V*3). This deadly sin has caught me victim in more battles than I would like to admit, but I know that when I stand in victory for any significant period of time, it’s not due to my own self-control. It’s not even due to my intrinsic desire to see that I don’t stumble. The flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and that is to give in to selfish desires. To appease the bottomless pit of the flesh is to fall into the dead end traps that are never fulfilled. An appetite that is continuously attempted to be appeased, but never satiated in any meaningful way. So a temporal pleasure that flees as fast as it comes or faster, is then met with guilt, worry, anxiety, unnecessary stressors, regret, and hopefully Godly conviction and sorrow. The kind that produce repentance, the ones that change your mind and help you turn away from your sins. (V*4).
This isn’t of course limited to pornography. Such a train of thought can be applied to many vices, addictions, and sins that we particularly hold dear. For some it’s compulsive gambling, others alcoholism, yet others covetousness or lying. Whatever the case may be, we know that for our biggest weaknesses and even strengths, we’d fall short constantly outside of the grace of God. (V*5). The grace of God is the only reason I stand today. I live by His grace for His glory, and I operate on His timetable.
So now that we’ve analyzed some of the shallow convictions that don’t suffice, we need to ask ourselves what produces lasting commitment. How do we commit ourselves to God’s work? How do we do everything as if it were unto God, at a high standard not as if it were for other mere men and women. Well, the best way to motivate ourselves as believers, is to find motivation rooted in the Word of God. If we know that it’s a high priority in God’s heart, and we know ourselves to desire to obey God, then we can arrive that it should also be important to us. If we are in the process of sanctification, to become more Christ-like in other words, we should see some fruit of that transition taking place in our lives. (V*6). I know that I delight God when I align my views with His views. When my actions are weighted towards His desires for me, instead of my own self-seeking desires. This continuous decision will impact every aspect of our lives, our entire being is commited to the work of God. The fruits of that deliberate choice will be seen in all areas both small and big.
We don’t need to promise God in order to inspire ourselves. It’s best not to make a promise, than to violate that promise. How much more so is it valid in the eyes of our Creator? (V*7). We need to find motivation in His conviction. If it is to repent from sin we need to remind ourselves what we felt when we compromised. We knew we grieved the Holy Spirit in our habitual sin. We might have sinned against other people, ourselves, or even both! This should inspire us on the inside by reminding us the ramifications of disobedience can be both temporal and eternal. Who knows what blessings we may have blocked in the past from being given to us based on selfish, short-sighted decisions? Additionally, the rewards of obedience should be readily remembered. When I committed myself to a life of purity, I felt more peace inside of me. God’s presence was more readily available, and my prayer life more vibrant. I should aspire to protect such beautiful, Spiritual assets. How can I not value fellowship with the Creator?
Any real Christian who thinks it over diligently will tell you that the biggest fear of hell is not the weeping, pain, gnashing of teeth, or fires. The biggest punishment by any reasonable consideration is absence of the presence of God. Those who have tasted and seen that He is good know this to be a fact of life. It’s similar to thinking about a Heaven without God in it, it just makes no sense logically. Having anything and everything, but not having God, is like having all the money, power, influence, and intellect in the world but nobody to share it with. Except the scale as it pertains to God is infinitely higher and more meaningful. So the believer knows that they’d not consider Heaven to be Heaven without God, and that the biggest punishment those who end up in Hell will cope with is the realization they cannot be in the presence of the Almighty ever again.
That my friends is a sobering thought, and if that doesn’t convict you for evangelism I don’t know what will. How many people do we know that are so close to knowing the truth, but are missing the ultimate mark of salvation? They know theology or have even read the Bible intellectually, but they have no relationship with Jesus Christ. We need to pray for our brothers and sisters who may come to the faith at a later time, but whom God has not called. For their protection as God mercifully provides them more time on earth to repent and turn to Him. For it’s not by our own strength or merits that we can obtain salvation. It’s only by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. (V*8). Even the demons believe, but they aren’t saved. Their hearts aren’t in submission to God. They are in rebellion against Him, and they have fallen away from His grace. Let’s not allow ourselves to come to such a desperate place. Those of us who are saved cannot lose our salvation, and our motivation for serving God is out of gratitude. Gratitude for His grace and infinite wisdom. Grateful that His foresight saw that we needed a Savior, His Son Jesus Christ, to be the propitiation for our sins. That there would be no other way for us to be reconciled with Him. No other way to be justified, begin sanctification, and after we will have arrived in Heaven to have been glorified.
Rest in His sovereignty today, and make sure that your convictions run deeper when you want to make lasting changes. Make a habit out of the values you hold dear. It may take around a month to establish a habit, and eventually those habits make up our lifestyle. Let our lifestyle be one that glorifies, honors, and acknowledges the King of Kings. He is worthy of all praise and infinitely more!
V*1- 10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,[a] against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
Ephesians 6:10-20 (NKJV).
V*2- 5 “But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. 12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.
John 16:5-15 (NKJV).
V*3- 13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
1 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV).
V*4- 8 For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. 9 Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter. 12 Therefore, although I wrote to you, I did not do it for the sake of him who had done the wrong, nor for the sake of him who suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear to you.
2 Corinthians 7:8-12 (NKJV).
V*5- 9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
1 Corinthians 15:9-11 (NKJV).
V*6- 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:20-23 (NKJV).
V*7- 5 Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil.
2 Do not be rash with your mouth,
And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God.
For God is in heaven, and you on earth;
Therefore let your words be few.
3 For a dream comes through much activity,
And a fool’s voice is known by his many words.
4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it;
For He has no pleasure in fools.
Pay what you have vowed—
5 Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.
6 Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error. Why should God be angry at your excuse and destroy the work of your hands? 7 For in the multitude of dreams and many words there is also vanity. But fear God.
Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 (NKJV).
V*8- 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV).