The struggles of life all around us can easily become overwhelming. It seems at times there is nothing but bad news. That may have been how the Israelites felt in slavery to the Egyptians and in their journey to the Promised Land. There were challenges and difficulties at every turn. It may be how you are feeling about your world as well.
When Moses and Aaron first went to Pharaoh to tell him God says to let His people go, he made things harder on all the Israelites who were making bricks for him, making them find their own straw each day. Then the leaders turned against Moses and Aaron, and they in turn questioned God – whether God was keeping His promises to deliver Israel. And even after God sent ten miraculous plagues on Egypt for all to see His power and did deliver His people from Egypt, the people continued to grumble each time a new problem arose and repeatedly turned against Moses and Aaron for leading them out of Egypt. God continued to be patient with them and show them miracle after miracle providing for all their needs. But they kept on being obstinate and disobedient and fearful, constantly complaining about their living conditions. (Exodus)
This account and “everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) What we learn from them is that the true struggle is not with external people and circumstances but the fight of our lives occurs within us. The real struggle is to trust God completely, every moment of every day, come what may. The problems the Israelites faced were not really physical ones, but problems believing God. They failed to understand the significance of the miraculous power God displayed before them. They didn’t let it reach to and change their hearts toward God and toward life. They continued in their old fleshly ways of thinking and feeling and behaving. The result for them was they missed out on the blessings God had planned for their lives. Only their children ended up entering the Promised Land. They spent their lives wandering around in the wilderness forty years because of their bad attitudes and refusal to trust and submit to God until that whole generation died… except for Joshua and Caleb who chose to trust God and obey His voice when everyone else was going the other way. We are often going to find the same – that we are in the minority when it comes to trusting God and obeying His Word. Are we prepared to stand alone when necessary?
Do you know your enemies? They are the world, the flesh and the devil.
“Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (James 4:4) Are you allowing any of the past or present influences in your world to control you?
“The mind set on the flesh is death … is hostile to God….Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” (Romans 8:6-8) “Put to death therefore whatever belongs to your earthly nature…” (Colossians 3:5-9)
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.”(1 Peter 5:8-9) “He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.”(1 Jn. 3:8)
Do you know your battlefields? They are your mind, your attitudes and desires, and your behaviors – your habits in words and deeds.
“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:2) “Whatever is true,…honest,…just,…pure,…lovely,…admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)
“Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15) “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:…He humbled Himself and became obedient…” (Philippians 2:5-8)
“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgement for every careless word they have spoken.” (Matthew 12:36) “Whatever you do whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col. 3:17)
Do you know your weapons? They are the Holy Spirit within you, the Word of God, prayer, and faith.
“…Be continually filled with the Spirit.” “ So I say, live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the lusts of the flesh.” (Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:16)
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) “Take… the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17) “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but pray about everything…and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil.4:6-8)
“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6:16) “And without faith, it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6)
Do you know when you are being victorious in the fight? When you are displaying the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), humility before God and men (James 4:6-10), and contentment (Philippians 4:11-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Colossians 3:15-17).
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble…. Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up.” “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”
So the real fight of my life is within me – to keep trusting and depending on God no matter what the people around me do or don’t do, and no matter what happens in this fallen world. It is the good fight. Do not give up or give in! In the end, we will be rewarded by our Lord.
About the Author:
Steven Armstrong M.A.C., M.Div., L.P.C.
Steven is a Licensed Counselor at Rapha Christian Counseling. Steven Armstrong brings giftedness and experience as well as scriptural and psychological insights to help individuals, couples, and families. He has the experience to help with various forms of relational struggles and personal brokenness. Steven sees every person as a creation of God with immeasurable value and eternal worth. He extends to all the unconditional love and mercy God has shown him. His caring sensitivity and genuine acceptance provide a safe place for clients to share their thoughts and feelings, enter into the healing process, and receive assistance in adjusting to life transitions. Steven’s greatest joy is to see people experience God’s transforming love and healing grace!
Steven has a Master’s degree in Counseling from Dallas Baptist University and a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His undergraduate degree includes concentrations in psychology, Biblical studies, and music. Steve is licensed as a professional counselor (L.P.C.). As a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors, Steven receives updates on ongoing training opportunities and the latest counseling resources available from a Christian perspective.