Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Temptation and discouragement

Studying Luke with Good Morning Girls, we've reached Jesus' temptations. I've been teaching at school about it this last week, too.  Only to seven year olds, but that doesn't change Truth.

My truth is that I have been tempted severely. Not, of course, as much as Jesus, but it's been a big deal for me.
Tempted to give up on church.
Tempted to give up on reading the Bible.
Tempted to give up on praising and worshipping God.

You'd think that might have been enough. Oh no, I need to catalogue the whole long list. I need to stare Lies in the face and rediscover Truth.

Tempted to give in to self pity.
Tempted to give in to feelings of loneliness.
Tempted to give in to discouragement.

Tempted to refuse to forgive those who have hurt me.
Tempted to give up on loving.
Tempted to hate.

I've struggled.

I've been at the Point of Despair, worn the Black Dog of Depression around my neck, tasted the Fruit of Bitterness, gazed into the Pit of Destruction. 

Tempted to give up, give in,

My mind knew I needed to read Scripture. I managed, a little. Bits of a few Psalms.
My spirit longed to dig in, to study, to express my feelings in writing. I couldn't.
My soul recognised its thirst.

All I had left were prayers. Itty bitty, scattered, incoherent, doubting, inelegant prayers. At times, I could scarcely form the words.
I could barely pray for others, let alone myself.
Yet I found myself encouraging a friend recently diagnosed with cancer; another whose husband is struggling; crying out to God for my children.

I recognised I was tired.
I knew I had had a mildly stressful, draining time at work.
I tried to be easy on myself.

I can still barely pray, study - I am prevaricating now, as I write.

But I AM back here.
I DO have Bible passages open.
I WILL be reading the latest devotionals on the ongoing study.

There IS hope. Because God heard my broken prayers. He enabled me to read a little of his Word. He breathed TRUTH into my life...

Psalm 40
I waited and waited and waited for God.
At last he looked; finally he listened.
He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud.
He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip.

He taught me how to sing the latest God-song,
a praise-song to our God.
More and more people are seeing this: they enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to God.

Blessed are you who give yourselves over to God,
turn your backs on the world’s “sure thing,” ignore what the world worships;
The world’s a huge stockpile of God-wonders and God-thoughts.
Nothing and no one comes close to you!

I start talking about you, telling what I know, and quickly run out of words.
Neither numbers nor words account for you.
Doing something for you, bringing something to you—that’s not what you’re after.
Being religious, acting pious—that’s not what you’re asking for.
You’ve opened my ears so I can listen

So I answered, “I’m coming. I read in your letter what you wrote about me, and I’m coming to the party you’re throwing for me.”

That’s when God’s Word entered my life, became part of my very being.

I’ve preached you to the whole congregation, I’ve kept back nothing, God—you know that.
I didn’t keep the news of your ways a secret, didn’t keep it to myself.
I told it all, how dependable you are, how thorough.
I didn’t hold back pieces of love and truth for myself alone. I told it all, let the congregation know the whole story.

Now God, don’t hold out on me, don’t hold back your passion.
Your love and truth are all that keeps me together.When troubles ganged up on me, a mob of sins past counting,
I was so swamped by guilt I couldn’t see my way clear.More guilt in my heart than hair on my head, so heavy the guilt that my heart gave out.

Soften up, God, and intervene; hurry and get me some help,
So those who are trying to kidnap my soul will be embarrassed and lose face,
So anyone who gets a kick out of making me miserable will be heckled and disgraced,
So those who pray for my ruin will be booed and jeered without mercy.

But all who are hunting for you— oh, let them sing and be happy.
Let those who know what you’re all about tell the world you’re great and not quitting.
And me? I’m a mess. I’m nothing and have nothing: make something of me.You can do it; you’ve got what it takes— but God, don’t put it off.

HOPE. a.k.a. TRUTH.

No more lies.

This is the wise advice from Jen at Good Morning Girls. (I put it here as I don't trust weblinks not to break...)

" 1. His sympathy is wise.
He knows those who belong to him better than they know themselves. He knows his sheep (Jn. 10:14) God knows all the intricate bits of our lives and every single detail of the difficulty and temptations that we face. He knows exactly what we are going through, and is therefore best equipped to help.

2. His sympathy is practical
Jesus does not simply give us words of kindness or compassion. He goes beyond this by acting in our lives to bring about perseverance, joy, power and grace. “Not satisfied with a mere expression of sympathy, Christ imparts skill to fence, power to bear, grace to overcome.” (Octavious Winslow, Christ and the Christian in Temptation, 1877)

3. His sympathy is tender
It is easy for some to view Jesus as this stoic man who only ever talked about spiritual things. It is hard to imagine Jesus and his friends sitting around talking about the weather, sandals, marriage or the new restaurant in town. Though Jesus was God he also was fully man and had emotions like you and me. He laughed and was joyful, he felt love and anger, he felt compassion even to the point of weeping for a friend who had died (Jn, 11:35). He feels a tenderness for you when you are being tempted. He has been there, he is a “fellow sufferer” and knows how difficult temptations can be.

“He is touched with our misery, touched with our temptation, touched with our grief.” (Octavious Winslow, Christ and the Christian in Temptation, 1877)

4. His sympathy is prayerful
I love this. Jesus prays for you – for me! He cares so much that speaks to the Father on our behalf, for our good (Romans 8:34; Lk. 22:31). Do you see the endless amount of grace and kindness Jesus pours out on us? Do you see what a generous savior we have? His prayer for our perseverance ensures our victory.

Just as the devil tempted Christ he tempts us as well. While he cannot take away our salvation he will try everything in his power to rob us of our communion with Christ, to make us weak and useless for the advancement of the kingdom of God. He sets his sights on you and your destruction because in Christ you have everything.

“Pirates do not set upon poor empty vessels; and beggars need not fear the thief. Those that have most of God, and are most rich in grace – shall be most assaulted by Satan, who is the greatest and craftiest pirate in the world.”
(Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, 1652)

But while Satan’s goal is our ruin, God uses it for our good, for the testing and strengthening of our faith (James 1:12-13).

Here are three ways in which we can resist.

1. Stay close to God’s word.
The Bible is a grace that God has placed in our lives. We need to read it and know it well because it is for our salvation, our growth and our protection.(Prov. 12:24; Gal. 6:16)

If we let go of God’s word, then Satan will take us by the hand and lead us into his snares. (Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, 1652)

2. Seek Wisdom
There is a difference between being educated and being wise. Wisdom is God’s word applied to our daily lives. (Prov. 15:24)

“It is not the most knowing Christian—but the most wise Christian, who sees, avoids, and escapes Satan’s snares.” (Thomas Brooks)

3. Be watchful
Satan is watchful for any opportunity to damage us. Whether it be in small ways or in big ways. He wants to steal our peace, pervert our conscience, break our joy and feed us guilt and despair. (1 Peter 5:8).

Satan will try and whisper all kinds of lies and reasons for us to to give in. Do not reason with temptations, but resist them by running to Christ for help. Say with Catherine Bretterege “Reason not with me, I am but a weak woman, if you have anything to say, say it to my Christ; he is my advocate, my strength and my redeemer, he shall plead for me.”


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