Monday, February 19, 2018

The Inward Battle

I wonder if our most dangerous and important battles are those inside our heart?  There is the battle for control ... do we control or does God?  There is the battle for truth ... do we create our own truth or do we rely on God's truth?  There is the battle to define success ... do we follow the world or do we follow God's definition of success?  Hard questions, and the answers are equally hard.

One of the sports-related stories that has surfaced recently is the story of the Russian curler who has tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs (PED).  When I think of PED use I can't think of a sport less likely to need an "edge" than curling.  It is like taking steroids to become a better bowler (but what do I know?).  Anyway, as I read this story I thought about the three questions above.  What does a curler have to tell himself that will justify PED use, risking the possible penalty of loosing an earned bronze Olympic medal?

He must become very self-centered in taking control of things. "My ends justify the means to that end!"  "Self-exaltation is my standard and the standards of the sport are not adequate!"  "Life is all about what I need!"  Before you accuse the Russian ask yourself a question.  Have you ever prayed, "God, tell me Your plan for my life!"  Sounds good till you take that sentence apart.  First, is your plan the point or is God's plan the point?  Do you expect that you will be comfortable, fulfilled and "peachy" doing what is in God's plan, or will your joining God's plan be clunky, hard, uncomfortable and inconvenient?  Is it "my" life or is life a gift from God that has been given to me as a sacred trust?  Is life about me and my control or does God take precedence?  It is a battle!

He must rationalize truth.  Pilate asked Jesus "Quid est veritas" ... "What is truth?"  It is a human quest which can be noble but, I fear, is most often our attempt to shape the truth to meet our needs.  For the Russian curler the truth is whatever I can get away with.  For the alcoholic the truth is "I will be fine with just one drink."  For many of us the truth is whatever we can rationalize.  I hate that rationalization is one of my spiritual gifts (not given by the Holy Spirit I must say).  In a world of lies, a media-culture filled with misinformation (from every side) and even lies about God from prominent leaders, you can begin to understand why Pilate asks this question.  For one Russian curler, being decisively-evasive was his truth.  It is a battle!

He must define success in a very self-focused way.  I know a pastor at a prominent church in the Destin area that has told associate pastors they need a better car because they are "not portraying the image of our congregation."  I know many who value leadership by who makes the most money.  I know church leaders who value election to high offices and public accolades as measures of success.  Then I read the most prominent Biblical writer (by number of books, by volume of content) saying, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all" (1 Timothy 1:15, NLT).  Want truth?  That is the truth.  The inner battle rages between what we want to feel, what we want to think and what we have been given in the blessing of Scripture.  These 'truths' are different.  Which will we follow?  It is a battle!

These are the reasons Jeremiah (17:9) said, "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is!"  And these are the reasons that cliche' answers like "Follow your heart" should be removed from our pool of standard advice.  Follow (Worship) God, and Him only!  Randy

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