"Resisting the Urge to Compromise"
Life is full of situations that can open the door for obedience or compromise. On a daily basis we all face decision points ranging from small matters to matters of high importance and everything in between. Often times many of us succeed and sadly other times we fall short at one point or another. I think it is our responsibility as men and women of God to evaluate our areas of strengths and weakness. When we evaluate where we triumph, and also where we fail, even our failures can be viewed as opportunities. These instances of failure are actually disguised opportunities to acquire knowledge and we may use them for our benefit. Seeing where we fell short and why can help us understand how to avoid the pitfall the next time we encounter it. For example, I may have an area of weakness in my spending habits at a certain store or in shopping in general. Let's assume for hypothetical purposes that the last time I went to the electronics store I made a couple of impulse purchases. Later on I had buyers' remorse about spending that kind of money on a whim on things that I did not truly need. Instead of dwelling on the guilt of spending frivolously on unnecessary purchases, I can let go of that mindset and try to consider how I can avoid this circumstance the next time. Now I know that it would be in my best interest to avoid the expense, so I can think strategically about why I was vulnerable and how I can avoid that vulnerability in the future. If I recognize that my weakness is compulsive spending, and I also recognize that I particularly tend to spend on electronics the most, I now have a framework for resolving the issue based on a clear identification on what the problem is. First of all my subconscious is now acutely aware of this weakness, and secondly I can avoid the scenarios where I am most compulsive. I may not be able to eliminate the compulsion all together through simple understanding of the weakness, in many cases I will have to go beyond that and pursue safeguards against compromise. I can decide that instead of going aimlessly to a store of this kind, I will instead only go when I have something specific to buy. If I only go in armed with the idea of buying one or two specific things, I may avoid the act of browsing the store all together and simply leave afterwards. If someone identified the similar issue within himself or herself, they should ask themselves how serious the issue is for them. If the issue is more than a matter of will power, one may do themselves good to pray about the issue and avoid electronic stores all together. Get a friend or family member to get something you need instead and try to stay away from the situations that lead to that compulsiveness. Reading a magazine about the latest gadgets, going to the mall, or going to a large electronics retailer would be places you may want to avoid.
Although the instance outlined above is a matter of self-control, I think that it is worth noting that surrendering these situations to God opens the door for help beyond self-help or any human help. No issue is too small or too big for God to listen to your request, and we can come to our Heavenly Father with confidence when we need help in these ways. Often we make the mistake of assuming that we should be able to resolve all these things on our own, but we forget that it is okay not to have all the answers. Self-control and discipline are worthy of striving for, but they may let you down in areas of weakness. In these areas we should surrender to God and make it clear in our prayer that we cannot do it on our own strength.
One thing I wanted to point out, as an aside, is that different people will have different areas of proficiency and others of struggle. We may also have some areas of easy resistance, and still others that have a dangerous allure to us. I personally have no trouble avoiding alcoholism; I can easily have a small drink with dinner and not think about drinking again for a month or more. To someone else that one small drink can open the door to many more drinks and can cause much more trouble in a life. On the same token, I have had issues avoiding pornographic content on the Internet. Sometimes even a mildly provocative picture of a woman in a bathing suit can prove to be a tantalizing draw to seek more. I have sometimes been able to shift my focus immediately and move on with the task at hand, but many other times I have fallen victim to the desires of the flesh. Those times that I have succumbed to the temptation, I have asked God for continual forgiveness. Despite knowing that I am forgiven, I know that this is an area of weakness in my life that deserves attention, prayer, and a very real caution if I am to resist it. I don't like falling into sin, much less habitual sin that I have struggled to repent from, but at the very least I can confidently submit my struggles to God and seek His supernatural help to overcome the allure of them. I have identified that when I am home alone and when I am tired I am most easily overcome by fleshly desire. The devil is not in the business of attacking you when you are fully rested, equipped fully in Gods' armor, and close to His word. He will attempt to find an opening where you are weak; unfortunately he is aware of those situations in our lives that give us this kind of trouble. Despite all this, God always provides a way of escape from these compulsions, and it is up to us to exercise that way of escape. The Bible says we should "flee youthful lusts" (2 Timothy 2:22) and the instructions to "be on guard" (1 Corinthians 16:13) and to "resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7) are also imperatively stated.
This brings me to my next point about how we shouldn't judge others in a harsh matter. We all fall short and sin from time to time and it isn't our job to measure how much we sin compared to others. When a professional runner in track and field is running a race, he is not focusing on the other runners if he wants to win. He is focusing on his own race and performing as best as he can given the circumstances that come for or against him. He may have had poor sleep the night prior to the race, but then he should stay focused. He isn't concerned about the gentleman 3 lanes to his left who seems intent on his own race; his mission is to stay as focused as possible on his own race in his own lane. The Bible tells us in Hebrew (NKJV) 12:1-2 "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Let's focus on Jesus and pay attention to the race He has set before us. It does us no service to compare our own race to the race of another. We should view life as a race that is worthy of our utmost effort. Our results in this race will echo into eternity, and despite the relative brevity of this life it has significance beyond any humans' capacity to measure it. Let's not worry about measuring any of our achievements or lack of them, leave those responsibilities to God. Our responsibility is to run it with endurance, focus on Jesus, and lay aside all those things that distract, ensnare, or deter us from ultimate victory.
As Christians we can all be assured of the security of our eternity through the salvation that God has provided through the acceptance of His Son Jesus Christ. We are eternally grateful and thankful for that provision, and we should all be joyous of the price that was paid for us all on the cross by Jesus. Let's rely on the strength that only God can provide to run our race daily, and try to encourage one another in love and truth to do the same. If you fail do not dwell too long on your shortcomings, but instead try to learn from your own mistakes. I have made many mistakes and to this day I still have to remind myself to make the best of what has already occurred because the past cannot be changed. It can, however, be forgiven and we can make better decisions in the future. You are not alone in the good fight of faith! I will leave you with this set of verses from 1 Peter (NKJV) 5:5-9 that puts it all in perspective and encourages us to stand firm against the devil and resist the urge to compromise:
"5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world."
No struggle is too insignificant or too small for His attention. Nor is any of it too daunting or large for His providence to address. God knows you better than you know yourself, let Him help you when you aren't capable of helping yourself.
To God be the glory, God bless you.
Victor Nunez (www.fatherspiritson.com)