Battling Defeat During Midterms

It’s here! It’s that time of the year where it becomes progressively harder and harder to persevere. It’s that time of year when professors and parents are giving constant encouragement to “finish strong.” It’s that time of year where assignment after assignment comes due. It’s midterms week.

Before fall break, it is very academically, and emotionally, difficult for students. There is a great deal of pressure and stress involved with finishing final assignments and preparing for the first break of the year. Students lose sleep, and drink more coffee to keep them going. With everything that they have to do, it is easy to give into feeling defeated. It is easy to focus on this one week of academic strain and lose sight of the big picture. God has given each of his children strength for every moment. Anything one could ever need, they already have in Christ. He has given his children enough strength, enough patience, and enough perseverance to overcome anything they may face. With all the anxiety this time of year causes, it is easy to be consumed by defeat. It is difficult for students to juggle the greater amount of responsibilities and obligations given to them. With the high level of stress that accompanies this week, it is even more important to remember to keep one’s eyes set on things above, not on things below. As soon as one is consumed by anxiety, crippling defeat is not far behind.  An anonymous Toccoa Falls College Sophomore wrote a short piece of poetry concerning this week.

 

“Dear defeat,

It’s been a long battle between the two of us. You knock me down, and I’ll recover, then you’ll knock me down again. You haven’t given me a moment’s rest. You’ve come at me with everything you possibly could, but I will not be undone. I am in the palm of the one who crafted the heavens and the earth. You have no power over me. The things you attack me with are temporal. They are ultimately meaningless. You have lost. By the grace of my God and my King, it is YOU who are undone.

Dear defeat, you have been defeated.”

Battling the feeling of defeat is a primary part of spiritual warfare. Once a student stops fighting and succumbs to defeat, it is so much easier to fall into depression and despair. This principle applies not only to midterms week, but in all areas of life. God calls us to “fight the good fight of faith.” We as Christians are to “take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Timothy 6:12). God has called his people to live courageously and fight with strength and perseverance. This spiritual battle is challenging. After all, if it was easy, God would not have encouraged His people to fight with courage.

It is the midpoint of the semester, fight to finish well! Fall break is in sight, so fight the good fight.

Getting to Know God

One’s personal relationship with God is critical to maintain. Christians are called to grow in faith, and to become deeper with the Father. John 15:4 says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” A Christian cannot grow and bear fruit of he or she is not abiding in the Lord. Without having this deep relationship, one cannot hope to develop in faith. Maintaining this kind of deep relationship with God does not come easily. In the hustle and bustle of today’s world it can be easy to get distracted from spending time with God. How can one begin to strengthen this relationship? The following are three practical steps towards a healthy relationship with God:

1. Discipline
Form the habit of regularly reading Scripture and spending time in prayer. Friendships cannot survive without conversation, and spending time listening to what the other has to say. Hearing what the Bible says from others is excellent, but not sufficient for one’s personal relationship with God. Getting to know God by oneself by studying the Word and praying is critical to the relationship.
2. Structure
It can be difficult to know where to start when one sits down to spend some time in prayer. When one doesn’t know what to pray, one can pray Scripture. Psalms, for example, is good to pray back to God because many of the Psalms were written as prayers. Keeping a prayer journal can also be helpful. Listing and writing out prayers can keep one focused and clear-headed.
3. Accountability
Having the good intention to do all these things is great, but what is going to make or break the relationship is actually following through on all this or not. Have a trusted friend or mentor keeps a person to his or her commitment to grow in a relationship with the Lord through personal devotion. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Christians are called to come alongside one another and keep each other from falling away. Accountability is one way they do so.

Just as a person needs to put effort and time into a relationship with a friend, one needs to do the same thing in one’s relationship with God. It is the most important relationship one will ever have, and therefore needs to be taken seriously. Be encouraged! It is God’s desire to be close to his children. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” God will quicken anyone who comes to him for discernment. While one works to grow close to God, God will draw near to them.

Prayer: Routine or Relational?

It could be said that prayer is a fairly simple word that is very well-known among Christians. However, one might suggest that far too few Christians are putting this knowledge into practice. For example, many Christians may say that they pray once or twice a day. These prayers are probably spent before meals or directly before bed. Though it is not bad to pray at these times, a major problem arises when this is the only time Christians are spending in prayer.

There are countless reasons why prayer should be a dominant part of every Christian’s life. Perhaps one of the greatest of these reasons is found in the relational nature of Christianity. God created man to be in communion (or community) with Him. This special bond was broken when man chose to sin in the Garden of Eden. However, God’s desire for community with man did not cease. He sent His Son, Jesus, to provide a way to restore mankind’s relationship with Him. Once a person comes to know Christ, he or she can begin to commune with God once more. In order to grasp the full concept of what this means, one must consider what a true relationship looks like.

Relationships must be two-way. This means that it is necessary for both parties involved to be active participants in the relationship. If only one person is putting effort into the relationship, it will never grow. This principle can definitely be applied to a Christian’s relationship with God. Through the Bible, God has written an all-inclusive letter to the world. He seeks to communicate to people as they read His word. If Christians do not read Scripture, they will miss out on much knowledge.

Some may feel that prayer is unnecessary. After all, God knows everything—why would He need people to tell Him about it? However, if God did not think prayer was necessary, He would not have commanded it in His Word. God does know all things, but this does not make prayer irrelevant. God desires people to cry out to Him. He wants people to tell Him about their bad days and their good ones. When Christians regularly spend time talking with the Lord, the change in their lives is undeniable.

Intimacy is cultivated through deep conversation. The more intimately a Christian knows the Lord, the more he or she begins to look like Him. They begin to recognize where improvement is needed and the Lord begins to work in those areas. The opposite is also true—the absence of deep conversation results in the breakdown of intimacy. With the breakdown of intimacy, Christians may begin to look more like the world than like Christ. If a person is having a hard time, it can be extremely helpful to pray through passages of Scripture and ask the Lord to work while trusting Him to do so. God will work in the lives of His people. He has made a way for this to be reality—they must only ask it of Him.

People are not perfect. Christians are not perfect. This means that there is always room to grow. Some advice: never make prayer something to check off a list. It is so much more than that. With a check list mentality, prayer is no longer something pleasant. It can even seem mundane. When prayer is looked at for what it truly is—a way to intimately communicate with God—it becomes something to look forward to and delight in.

 

Article Resource: http://www.christiantoday.com/article/daily.bible.reading.and.prayer.is.a.struggle.for.many.evangelicals/36765.htm

Picture taken from: http://www.intentionalpursuit.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Woman-Praying1.jpg

High All the Time

Dave had just gotten back from his church’s annual youth conference. The speakers this year gave amazing messages, the worship sessions were incredibly powerful, and there were many teens that had come to Christ. Dave came home with a feeling of elation. He decided he was going to be more proactive about spending time with the Lord and becoming a more godly man. He determined that he was going to talk to that kid in his math class who he knew need to hear about Jesus. He would begin a new chapter in his life. Dave woke up the next morning and went to school as usual. He complained about how terrible the cafeteria food was, as usual. He did not even think about talking to that kid in his math class until he got home from school. Dave’s routine and behavior were unchanged despite the strong feelings he had at the conference.

Dave’s story may be fictitious, but it is something many Christians experience, especially in today’s culture. Feelings of elation and closeness to God are actively sought after, but many fail to realize that these feelings are not critical to faith. Christians often call this feeling a “Spiritual High.”

Having this spiritual high is not bad or wrong. This feeling of nearness to God is beautiful and should be cherished. God uses these times to fill one’s heart and sometimes cause a dramatic change. However, these times of elation do not last forever. Feelings can change from one end of the spectrum to the other in an instant. In the same way, spiritual highs do not last very long.

There has been an increasing desire for these spiritual experiences, especially among today’s youth. Tangible experiences have become more important. This type of experience is not what Biblical faith consists of.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Faith does not mean one always feels the presence of God. On the contrary, faith is being confident in God when one cannot see him working in one’s life; especially then. God is ever-present, and tells us so in Matthew 28:20, “…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” God is not limited to working in the hearts of his people only when they can feel it. However, this has been the approach of many Christians today.

Many Christians go through their lives in search of their next spiritual high. They will go to every chapel, worship session, prayer meeting, conference, and Bible study looking to feel God’s presence. While there is nothing wrong with these things in and of themselves, the motivation to go to these things has become corrupted. The motivation has changed from a desire to learn and study God more to a desire to feel something. This desire transfers over into other aspects of life. Many Christians are so obsessed with tangibly experiencing God that they find it anywhere and everywhere. They may see a message from God in the shape of the clouds, or in a passing remark from a friend. While He does choose to work in these ways sometimes, these Christians interpret these mediocre things as divine messages from The Lord. They see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear because they are so desperately trying to feel God.
These Christians are so desperate to feel that spiritual high because, without it, their faith is weak. Spiritual highs, especially in today’s culture, have replaced fostering a deep relationship with The Lord and spiritually disciplining oneself to obey God’s commands. Instead of strapping on the armor of God, Christians are strapping on their guitars to plan a really good set for the next worship session. This practice is crippling. Spiritual highs don’t last forever, so when the feeling stops…What then? There is a strong need for Christians to get back into the practice of spiritually disciplining themselves and grounding themselves in the Word of God. Many have chosen to base their faith on experience because it’s easier and more comfortable. However, God hasn’t called us to lead comfortable lives. He has called us to follow him and his commands and expand his kingdom over all the earth. To have this kind of active faith, one cannot substitute spiritual discipline with spiritual highs.

Are You King Saul or King David?

A person’s personality and actions say more about them than their physical attributes. The first two Old Testament Kings can exemplify this statement. Saul, the very first king of Israel, was everything the Israelites wanted in a leader. He had a very strong physical build and was a great military strategist, but he was not the king God had in mind. Saul was the Israelites’  ideal king and God gave them what they desperately wanted. He seemed perfect, yet he was not. David, on the other hand, was a young boy when God told Samuel that David would be king. He was a shepherd boy and the youngest son of Jesse. David had no military training, yet he killed Goliath with one smooth stone and a slingshot. Saul was part of the tribe of Benjamin. His lineage would not have been the promised line of kingship because Jacob named Judah the leader of the twelve tribes. David was part of the tribe of Judah, but that is not the only reason David’s genealogy was the chosen royal line.

Who are the real King Saul and King David?

King Saul

God set Saul to be king, but had plans that would cause his kingship to be terminated. Saul was the epitome of a true earthly king. He was strong and charismatic; his tragic flaw was that he did not turn to God when things were hard. During a battle, King Saul was to wait for Samuel, the priest. Samuel was going to offer a sacrifice to God. However, Saul became impatient and prideful; he decided to take matters into his own hands. When he saw that his men were suffering and discouraged, he offered a sacrifice to God himself. This was very bad because only priests were allowed to make sacrifices. Saul made a mistake in letting his pride and fear take over his actions. He did not wait for God’s provisions, but provided for himself. King Saul did not repent for his mistakes, but instead he decided it would be permissible to rely on his own strength.

King David

King David was a wonderful king and he prospered because of his faithfulness to God. He trusted in God and this gave him a smooth reign. He was a God-fearing king, but he was not perfect either. The biggest sins that David committed were adultery and murder. He did not try to cover up his mistakes by hiding them from God, but he repented. When King David got the message from the prophet about his mistake, he tore his clothes and wept. He begged for mercy. He turned straight to God. He did not choose to take matters into his own hands when things got tough. God answered David’s prayers because he was wholeheartedly sorry.  David was not like Saul because David did the right thing. He was blameless in God’s eyes because he repented for his wrongdoing.

Who are you?

When you realize that you are sinning against God, what do you do? Do you take matters into your own hands and handle the situation, or do you turn to God for forgiveness? Not many Christians can say they are like King David. Many Christians tend to turn to their friends or  manage their issues with their own knowledge and strength. God wants us all to turn to Him when we sin. Often, pride can cause us to try to cover our mistakes. We hide from God when we sin and think He will not notice. As Christians, we are supposed to trust in God and repent. We are supposed to be like King David, but sadly we are usually like King Saul. So who are you? Do you turn to God for help, or do you try to manage your own issues? Are you King Saul or are you King David?