See Part 1 here.

See Part 2 here.

See Part 3 here.

See Part 4 here.

See Part 5 here.

See Part 6 here.

See Part 7 here.

See Part 8 here.

See Part 9 here.

See Part 10 here.

See Part 11 here.

See Part 12 here.

See Part 13 here.

Discouragement

 

Job 28: 28: “And he said to the human race, ‘The fear of the Lord– that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.'”

I hope those who read this journey understand my goal. I want to be a better Christian. I want to be more sanctified with each day.

I recently finished reading the book of Job, and that passage struck me.

The first part makes perfect sense. How could it not be wise to fear our God who is sovereign over all of us. Fear his wrath.

But how well do I understand?

My most powerful temptation is one I’ve struggled with my whole life, and, thanks be to God, I’m improved in that area.  In this, I show my understanding by turning from that sin. I fear saying so because the last time I felt I had a handle on my lust I got battered and fell to temptation.

Even if this sin is one I’ve finally turned from completely, I’m sometimes devastated over how much more sin is in my life.

In order to better process my testimony today, I searched for “How does the Bible define sin?”

I found this webpage from the United Church of God’s Beyond Today.  I’m unfamiliar with this, but it referenced several Bible verses, and I feel more confidence when a church bases it’s sermon on comprehensive Bible study.

The first frustration is the seemingly (important adverb) vague definition of sin.  “All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.” 1 John 5:17.

I’ve read Deuteronomy, and that’s a quite comprehensive list of God’s laws, including the ten commandments.  As I read the Bible, I’m taking note of the books I feel are important to me to study.  Job, 1 John, Romans, and Deuteronomy are up there.

When I look at all the wrong in my life, even in comparison to how far I’ve come, I can feel such discouragement.

That discouragement, according to mutliple books from John MacArthur (Saved Without A Doubt is the one that most comes to mind), is a powerful weapon of Satan.

“You’re never going to be perfect!”

“Look at you! You’ve worked this hard just to overcome this one thing, and you still have this much other filth in your life!”

I’m resentful. I’m lustful. I’m prideful. I’m lazy (my friends would dispute this, but consider please that I only, and I mean only, do what I want). I’m judgmental.

All of those are sins. To think how much I’ve grown because I’m so much less lustful I am when compared to how lustful I was.

I feel weighed down by that discouragement at the moment. I pray more than I ever have.

“You still don’t have a mindset of permanent prayer.”

I make more of an effort to be understanding and compassionate.

“You still fly off the handle when you hear something you consider wrong.  You still judge.”

I don’t know about you, but this tool, this single whisper is something I wonder sometimes.

“If you’re never going to be good enough, why not just give up?”

To give it context, I was raised near a church I’m not of the opinion bases it’s beliefs on the Bible. One well-respected member of the church would stop me on my way home every day and tell me in great detail how destined for damnation I was. He even went once so far as to say he was “concerned” for me because of the company I kept.  That company? The man who is now my brother in law. I stated what a kind man my now-brother was, and he immediately replied with, “So Native Americans go to Heaven now?”

Can you imagine how devastating that was to my journey? What an effective tool it was to think this hateful, clearly-racist man was a respected representative of God.

I’m currently reading the Bible. There are many reasons why people would be concerned for the company one keeps.  Those are hot-button reasons alone. The point needed to be made here is that I have yet to find any scripture that summarily condemns any one race to Hell.

First off, the Bible is quite clear on the only requirement for salvation:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17.

There are ways to evaluate and have assurance in your salvation, and absence of sin in your life isn’t such a way.

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us-whatever we ask-we know that we have what we asked of him.” 1 John 5:13-16.

One must truly believe in Jesus to be saved.  The next part is the trick though, and this is where discouragement comes in.

“We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them.” 1 John 5:18-20

A saved person’s life changes. He becomes more holy. Some call this the process of sanctification.

I need to remind you I’m not regarded as an expert in the Bible. I haven’t even finished reading it yet, and I promise you I don’t understand a percent (not one) of what I read. I have to study.

What I think I understand through bible and reference to Mr. MacArthur’s books is that it’s a fallacy to think a saved person will never sin again. The point is, you’re life is changing, and it never stops changing.

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” 1 John 3:2-4

We’ll never be fully sanctified and without sin until Jesus returns. What saved people do, however, is purify themselves. The cleanse sin from their lives each day.

Where does the discouragement come from? For me, it’s the thought that I could erase a sin a day from my life and still have a multitude of sins.

I try to target sin.  I try to say, “This is the sin I’ll stop.”

I go a week or a month avoiding it. I might even go that long without ever thinking about it. However, I can’t confess I don’t do any of it anymore.

There are things I haven’t done for some time. There are things I haven’t done for quite a long time. But we sin with our thoughts, and I still think about sin.

This is where my discouragement begins.

Readers, my prayer for you, and what I hope you pray for me, is that you don’t allow your discouragement to become an excuse to give up. Neither should you treat sin as an inevitable opponent. I discussed this in Part 11.

The trick is to be confident in your salvation and diligent in your efforts to change your life. I still have such a long way to go. That list above is a real list. Those are my real sins. I don’t wake up in the morning and say, “I think I’ll be lazy today.”  I just look at my day and realize how lazy I’ve been. My condo is a mess.  My car is in worse shape. I haven’t worked out in two weeks.

Be better.

That’s the option. Our efforts to have permanent change in our lives should be the goal. If we are truly saved, we’re saved. It’s permanent. One effective way to know we’re saved (and there are others) is that our life is changing. My life is changing. I can’t let the fact that my life isn’t “changed,” past tense, trick me into doubting it will.  I can’t let how much more I have to change cause me to want to stop trying to change.

When I dwell on my sins, I hear myself thinking, “Now you don’t deserve to have your mother healed. Now you don’t deserve to marry the woman you’re dating. Now you don’t deserve to see your students succeed or your friends comforted.”

“Fear of the Lord, that is wisdom.”

Yet I lack the understanding to shun evil. Perhaps I have the understanding to know I should shun evil. I do shun some evil, but that’s not the same.

My weapon against this discouragement is the sword of the Spirit (see Ephesians 6:10-18).

The sword of the Spirit is defined in that verse as the word of God.

My current discouragement is that I still sin too much. So today, the verse I look to is 2 Corinthians 4:8-10. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struct down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”

Sure, I have a  was to go, but I need to keep going.

“Do you not know that in a race, all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” 1 Corinthians 9:24. (NOTE: More than one person may attain salvation. What I take from this is running is what matters.  Never stopping. Never trying.)

I will face trials and receive blessings.  I’ve received quite a few of late (a good review at work. Students all passed their last test. My home. My girlfriend (pretty much a blessing every day).

I just can’t get caught looking at how far I have to go any more than I can stop thinking I’ve come far enough.

 


 

Questions and Revelations

Do the verses help?

When I’m smart enough to look for them. Every time I look for scripture on a subject, I feel better. I feel more resolve. I feel more certainty that I know what to do because I went to the bible to find out what that is.

Sometimes I put the sword of the Spirit down, and that’s a mistake for me. The Bible implies by sentence structure that there are parts of the armor you never take off and parts that you occasionally pick up. At this point in my growth, I sort of feel the need to wear the whole thing.

You still think your mom’s health rests on your sin?

No, my mom’s health rests on God’s will. When I sin, I’m not doing a very good job of showing my faith and trust in him though, am I?   I show my faith in him by obeying. I don’t do so based on the belief that “I’ll get what I want.” That’s not really how it works. We show our faith by enduring trials and resisting temptation.  Each failure to resist, I think, is a discredit to God. It hurts your standing. This is compounded when you fail to ask for forgiveness and repent (knock it off). So if I’m not staying true to my faith and trusting in him, wouldn’t it be reasonable to think he’d be less inclined to answer my prayer?

Let’s be clear at this point. This story isn’t the story on my “deal with God.” It’s not a demonstration of what a great Heavenly Walmart manager God is. This isn’t an exchange. There is no exchange. Get saved, or be forsaken. I am saved. I will be saved regardless of my mom’s health.  I’m not trying to be a better Christian because I think that will save my mom. I pray God will do that, but it’s not a transaction. God is glorified in all that he does. He will be worthy of praise if he saves my mom, and he will be equally worthy of praise if he allows my mom to perish. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,” Jeremiah 29:11.  This ordeal humbled me. It yanked me closer to God more quickly than I was walking at the time. To pretend God will give me what I want simply because I’ve given him this lip service would be a contradiction of the very point of this testimony.  I pray for my mom’s help every day, and I ask you all to do the same for me. However, my mom’s health is not the condition on which my Christianity hinges. If it were, I’d already be lost.

If you have other questions regarding my faith or thoughts or actions at this point, feel free to ask, and I’ll add them to the blog.  I try to ensure these passages are self reflective. My chaplain told me to take this opportunity to look at myself, but at the moment, those were the only real thoughts going through my mind. Questions might help me remember other thoughts or parts of The Bible I’d overlooked while typing this post.

Thanks for reading

Matt

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19 thoughts on “Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 14

  1. Hey, a few thoughts for you that hopefully are of some help and encouragement: First, I think that you are progressing tremendously in your spiritual maturity (e.g. your answer to “You still think your mom’s health rests on your sin?” shows a lot of growth).

    Something that might be helpful for you is expanding your understanding of “the fear of the Lord.” While it certainly contains an element of a recognition that God disciplines his children when they sin (e.g. Hebrews 12:3-13), it is not primarily about having a cringing fear that God is going to smite you (e.g. 1 John 4:17-19). The biblical idea behind “the fear of the Lord” is primarily one of proper awe or reverence; of recognizing how great he is and how small and dependent on him I am in comparison…this proper perspective should inspire not only a desire to obey, but also trust and love.

    In your “important to study in the near future” books I might suggest replacing Deuteronomy with Galatians. Church-age believers have a different relationship to the Old Testament Law (the lists of rules found in Exodus-Deuteronomy) than national Israel did (see especially Galatians 3:1-14, 3:23-4:7, all of chapter 5). Our righteousness is through living according to the fruit of the Spirit, not by following a list of rules that was already fulfilled by Jesus (and if you want a good verse that makes it very clear that ethnicity, social status, and gender make no difference in one’s standing before God, you can find that in Galatians too – Galatians 3:28).

    One other thing (also from Galatians) that might be an encouragement to not give up is the reminder that while our actions, whether self-centered or Spirit-led, have consequences, there is coming a day when faithful service to God WILL be rewarded (Galatians 6:7-10).

    Blessings, Brother.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re comments on this are simply invaluable! Always scripture based. Always helpful. Always encouraging. Always informative. I’m so thankful for the time and effort you spend on these comment. I’ll absolutely consider replacing Deuteronomy with Galatians. God bless you! I really can’t express what your fellowship in this medium means to me.

      Like

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