When it isn’t working!
When it isn’t working
By Sheila Jacobs
Me, Myself and I
One of my favourite books in the Bible is Ephesians. I love the picture of who I am in Christ – and the amazing picture of grace. And of course, this book majors on spiritual warfare. We are all in a battle, as soon as we come to Jesus. We have switched sides, so to speak (Ephesians 2:1-5). The apostle Paul spends time exhorting us to stand firm against the wily devices of the devil, in Ephesians 6.
But much of our struggle as Christians is against ‘the flesh’ – that is, our worldly inclinations. What I want. It’s all about Me, Myself and I! This is the world’s view of life; it’s what we used to be before we were born again (see John 3:3). However, for so many of us, rather than following the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane – ‘not as I will, but as you will’ (Matthew 26:39) – we are found saying, ‘God, this is what I want. OK?’ and expecting God to act as some heavenly Father Christmas and tick all the boxes for us! In effect we are praying ‘not as you will, God, as I will’. And of course, even worse, there are times when we carry on without a second thought to what our loving God thinks about our latest decision, and wonder why we end up in a bit of a pickle. Or get frustrated because life just isn’t working.
Psalm 127 tells us, ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain’ (verse 1). In other words, if God isn’t in it, it won’t work. Or at least, it won’t work as well as if we were in the will of God. We will find ourselves in the flesh, trying to do things our way, and asking God to bless what he simply hasn’t led us into.
The trouble is, we like to be in control. It’s very difficult for many of us when we become Christians and see that God’s will is one of complete surrender to him – which means he wants us to obey him; i.e. we are not in control. And yet we often act as if we are. We know we can’t save ourselves – only Jesus could do that, as our sinless sacrifice, on the cross. However, when we come to know him we can often behave as if he is not really interested in our life choices. But he wants to be intimately involved. He knows the right way for each of our lives, individually, and wants us to seek him and know him and trust him enough to lead us in the way of his choosing. And that way may not be what we would have chosen for ourselves. We have to be open to that.
When we come to Jesus, it is by grace. When I first became a Christian, I had no real concept of what grace actually was. It means God’s free, unmerited, unearned favour – for me. Dead to our old ways, it is by God’s free favour (grace) that we have been saved (Ephesians 2:5). More than that, God has raised up with Jesus and seated us with our Saviour in the heavenly realms. Read Ephesians 2:6 for that extraordinary truth, and let it sink in. This is who we are positionally, in reality. How could we ever place ourselves in Christ? Only God can do that.
We also have to remember that Ephesians talks of our enemy – as I mentioned above. The enemy doesn’t want us to know God, or his plan for our lives. In fact, the enemy wants to ‘steal and kill and destroy’ (John 10:10, NIV). When we choose our own way rather than God’s way we can stray into the enemy’s turf, and that is at best an unproductive and at worst a perilous place to be. When we ‘go it alone’ or actively disobey what we know God is saying to us, we have to face the fact that we are not actually making a neutral choice.
But what does all this mean when we come to looking at relationships with the opposite sex? I think it means this.
When we are thinking about a life partner, we are potentially thinking about making one of the biggest decisions ever. The wrong choice can lead us away from God’s purposes in our lives – or even lead us away from God altogether. Simply put, unless we are choosing to listen to and obey God, we are putting our own will and desires first. And that is dangerous. It is idolatry.
Hearing from God
If you are not sure whether you are hearing from God, then I have two suggestions. First – make more time to be with him and listen to him, so you can recognise his voice (see John 10:14-16). It is only when you spend time with someone that you get to know them, and are able to trust them. Make your relationship with Jesus number one priority. ‘But I never hear from God!’ you might say. Try turning the TV with its constant secular worldview off. You might be surprised how much you hear from God when you aren’t being inundated with ungodly values.
Secondly, when you do hear him – ‘Do whatever he tells you’ (see John 2:5). It might be uncomfortable, but there is always a blessing in obedience. Sometimes we forget that God says ‘If’ we make him our dwelling, then ‘no harm’ will come to us (see Psalm 91:9-10). It’s a big little word, If!
Thirdly, you don’t have to see demons everywhere to know we are in a spiritual war and that our enemy doesn’t want us to live in the blessings God has for us – in relationships as well as in other areas of our lives. He wants to take away our peace and our joy. He whispers in our ear that God isn’t really interested in us; that he doesn’t care; that he doesn’t want the best for us. This is a lie.
So if you feel ‘something isn’t working’, read Ephesians; study it and meditate on it. If you need it, get prayer. Interestingly, the key to hearing from God and living in the freedom this brings is forgiveness. If you need to forgive someone, don’t just brush it under the carpet. Deal with it. If you feel you can’t do it, remember Jesus gives us power to live – and power to forgive.
Unforgiveness brings us into a prison of our own making. The enemy loves it when we don’t forgive. He tells us that we shouldn’t let the one who hurt us ‘off the hook’. But we need to see that when we forgive we let ourselves off the hook – the one who hurt and damaged us will still need to answer to God; their only forgiveness is in the cross. In effect, it is God’s problem, not ours. But we also know that our own forgiveness and freedom is dependent on forgiving others (see Matthew 6:15).
Let’s not live as if we haven’t surrendered to Jesus. Let’s not give the enemy a foothold in our lives. And let’s make sure we are moving forward into the life God has for us!
Sheila Jacobs is a Christian writer and editor, and an award-winning author of eleven novels, including Watchers (Authentic). She has also written non-fiction (Insight into Forgiveness, with Ron Kallmier). Single, she lives in rural north Essex, loves the countryside, and is a deacon in her local Elim church.
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