When The Training Kicks In (pt 2)From series When the Training Kicks In.
The Battle Within
Encounter is Essential
In Exodus 17 Israel is on the march. The people are tired, hungry and disappointed that there is no refreshment. The prowling lion Satan keeps up the pressure to find a place of weakness in the people of God. Some of us need to anticipate overwork and make contingency plans. It is not glorifying to God when we overwork. Our powers of discernment are clouded and we can become depressed and more open to the whisper of the enemy. It is a spiritual and a sin issue - we will get taken out if we don’t address this! Others of us may be hungry because we give out so much or do not get enough spiritual food. We need to learn how to feed ourselves – nowadays we can download podcasts from all over the world to prevent our spirits becoming dry. Encounter is essential!
How Do You View God?
But there is another problem with Israel – they are ex-slaves, and actually still slaves at heart. What is their ‘stronghold’, the place where they are spiritually vulnerable? For 400 years their ruler was unjust and ungenerous, and guess what? That’s exactly how they see God. They’ve seen miraculous plagues in Egypt and the Red Sea drying up, but though they know that the Lord is powerful they aren’t sure He is good. Power yes, but His goodness is still a question for them. The whole thing about a God of power of course is that He will do things we do not understand or agree with sometimes! I can cope with a lot of things in Christian ministry but I cannot cope with the question over whether God is good or not. But that is where the first attack always comes doesn’t it? (See Genesis 3:1).
The important question in the spiritual battle within is: Are we aware of and seeking to take ground in the place where we are weakest? John Eldredge says that Satan often has people say and do to us what he is wanting to. Each of us has our own place where the enemy either hits our confidence over and over or repetitive sins which cause us to despair sometimes of ever making any progress. We need to get to a place where we say to God:
"I want with Your grace Lord to face the place where I keep tripping up, or where people keep hurting me, or the lie I keep believing, and say I am going to take this area. I want to take this 'land' in my life for the King because then it will bless those for whom He died. I’m not going to be a slave at heart."
The good news is that the enemy can be very useful in targeting what is important in our lives. He targets the place where the Lord is going to bring the greatest victory. The weakest bit in us is the place God and Satan are fighting over because it’s the crucial place - where you can’t do it in your own strength! Corinthians says ‘God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong’ (1 Cor 1:27). From God’s point of view, the place where we are weak and rely wholly on Him is the high ground, the place where He can win the greatest battles!
Loving, Confrontational Truth
Sin is the final (and most obvious) attack within. In our day we seem increasingly to be teaching from a standpoint of grace or truth but Jesus was full of both (John 1:14). Only loving, confrontational truth will do, backed up by a means of grace and a way back. The internet has encouraged an addictive society; pornography is now an almost universal problem.
When are we going to wake up to the battle? There are so many secrets and so much shame sitting before us as we look from the pulpit (and sometimes in the pulpit) that discipleship is scuppered before it starts and the battle can be lost individually. We need good Holy-Spirit-filled prayer ministry in power, not simply encouragement. Our children are becoming addicted to violent games (such as Grand Theft Auto in which you have to rape a prostitute to go up a level) and more people under financial stress are turning to internet gambling … not always outside the gates of the church!
(Part two of a three-part series).
18th November 2014 Sermons