What do you do when you feel jealous or discouraged? Or when you are bitter towards someone, or love fame more than Jesus?
Do you try using will-power to change your heart? Do you feel guilty and go into a tail-spin? Do you press on with life and hope time will change you?
I’ve done all these — and none of them helped.
But there’s good news
The good news is that everything in the Christian life flows from faith in Christ — joy, peace, and hope (Rom 15:13), love for others (Gal 5:6), victory over sin (I John 5:4), power over Satan (Eph 6:16), and obedience (Rom 1:5; Heb 11:8).
So when we lack any of these, the problem is with our faith. Which means that to strengthen these areas we need to fight the fight of faith (1Ti 6:12; 2Ti 4:7).
Here’s steps I take to fight this fight —
Turn immediately to Jesus and trust Him to help you.
Don’t try to change yourself first. You can’t. But Jesus can — and will.
So turn to Jesus with your worry, lust, or laziness — and trust Him to help you. Because of His mercy He accepts you as you are — and He will change you into what He calls you to be.
Earnestly plead with the Father for more of the Spirit’s work.
No matter how weak your faith, no matter how unspiritual you feel, the Holy Spirit has the power to transform you (Luke 18:27).
So earnestly ask the Father to increase the work of the Spirit in you — to strengthen your faith, show you His glory, and break the power of sin. Pray passages like Psa 13:3; Mark 9:24; Eph 1:17-18.
See your unbelief.
Don’t be too introspective — focus more on God and His promises than yourself. But it does help to look inside and see what you are trusting to satisfy you more than Christ.
So ask — what are you desiring more than Jesus? And — what is causing you to disobey Jesus? That’s what you are trusting.
It can also help to ask — which of God’s promises am I not trusting?
- the promise that I can be forgiven through Christ?
- the promise of heart-satisfaction in knowing Christ?
- the promise that God will use trials to bring me even more joy in Him?
- the promise that obedience will bring me more joy than sin?
- the promise that God will provide everything else I need?
Confess your unbelief.
See and feel how you have dishonored God by trusting other things to satisfy you more than Jesus — or by not trusting God’s precious promises.
Understand that your unbelief has been sinful. Confess it to God without excuses. Ask Him to forgive and cleanse you through Jesus’ death on the Cross. Trust Jesus to forgive, help, change, and satisfy you in Himself.
When you do, you can be assured that you are completely forgiven and that God is passionately committed to helping you.
Find powerful Scriptures.
The Spirit uses the sword of the Word to defeat Satan’s lies (Eph 6:17). So find Scriptures that display the all-satisfying glory of Christ — like Dan 7:13-14; Mark 14:61-62; Hab 3:17-18; Zeph 3:17.
And find Scriptures that proclaim whatever promises you are not trusting — like
- 1John 1:9 (I can be completely forgiven through Christ),
- 1Pet 1:8 (full joy is found only in Christ),
- 2Cor 4:17-18 (trials can bring me more joy in Christ),
- John 14:21 (obedience will bring me more satisfaction in Christ),
- 2Cor 9:8 (God will provide everything else I need).
Direct your heart towards Christ as He is revealed in His Word.
This might be difficult. Let’s say you are working too much because you want to impress people. That shows you are trusting people to satisfy you more than Christ. And it will take intense, Spirit-empowered effort to turn your heart from trusting people — to trusting Jesus Christ.
But pray for the Spirit’s help, and then set your heart on Christ as He is revealed in His word.
Pray passionately over the truths of God’s Word until you feel the Holy Spirit changing your heart.
Ask Him to increase your faith in God’s promises (Mark 9:24). Plead with Him to free you from sin’s lies (Jer 13:25). Call upon Him to open your eyes so you see the all-satisfying glory of Jesus (Psa 119:18).
God might do this quickly, or He may take some time. Before your heart is changed you may need to leave off prayer to pick up your kids from school. But then return to prayer, because in time God will meet you. Even seeming delays are part of His loving plan to bring you the greatest joy in Him.
So trust His timing. Continue battling in prayer. He will deliver you.
Invite believing brothers or sisters to pray with you.
Jesus promises even more of His presence when we gather with others (Matt 18:20). So confess your struggle to them. Ask them to pray with you.
The Holy Spirit will work
As you press in with prayer and God’s Word, the Holy Spirit will work. He will change your heart so you feel the beauty and certainty of God’s promises, the emptiness of sin’s promises, and the all-surpassing glory of Christ.
Once again you will trust all that God promises to be to you in Christ Jesus. And you will experience renewed joy and peace (Rom 15:13), love for others (Gal 5:6), and a passion to obey Christ (Heb 11:8).
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(Photo by soldiersmediacenter at everystockphoto.com.)