Category Archives: The Spiritual Combat

8. Examination

 

The understanding must be freed from two great defects under which it frequently labors….The second is a persistent application to the serious and diligent examination of every object in order to distinguish the good from the evil.  (SC 14-15, Chapter 7)

The small red sports car appears out of nowhere within two feet of my rear bumper…then zips right, straight, and left again, two feet from my front bumper…before speeding forward and out of sight. What was that?

My mental prayer is broken, and a judgment is formed which is not in accord with external appearances.  In other words, I have condemned the driver of the small red sports car of multiple sins against humanity.

On my way to work, the driver of the small red sports car is only the first person to be subject to my “diligent examination.”  The two seconds required for him to speed past me was ample time for me to condemn him.

Maybe I am right.  Maybe he is an inconsiderate driver, just like all the others who buy hot red sports cars and take joy in speeding in and out of traffic just to show off.

Then again, maybe I am wrong.  Maybe his mother called him five minutes ago, distraught, trying to revive her husband…his father…who lays on the kitchen floor.  Maybe.

Right and wrong, good and evil…so quick to judge, I am quick to condemn and slow to do a diligent examination.  Is it good…or evil?

Sometimes my failure to examine the facts in accord with external appearances, the testimony of our senses, or the standards of a corrupt world[i] is of no worldly consequence.  What I think of the driver of the little red sports car will not change his life or the direction of the world at large.

Sometimes…my failure is life-threatening.  For how many years did I refuse to open my eyes and examine the truths involved in aborting unwanted babies?

Is it good…or evil?  It is greater to despise the world than to have it at one’s command.[ii]

How do I know what I see before me?  Good or evil?  The distinction between the two extremes is often blurred.  But it is never without consequence.

Abortion threatens God’s life-giving blessing of marriage and procreation.  The driver of the little red sports car threatens my personal pride and ego. In either case, how do I know how to proceed?

God must lead.

[i] SC 14

[ii] Ibid.


Question:  Lord, in Your eternal time frame, let me take time to consider what I see before me in Your terms.  What do I witness before me…good or evil?


PRAYER: 

Lord, let me pause and reflect.  Let me lay your statutes before me and measure what I see before me with your word laid up in my heart.

 SCRIPTURE

I have laid up thy word in my heart,
    that I might not sin against thee.
Blessed be thou, O Lord;
    teach me thy statutes!
[Psa 119:11-12]


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7. Understanding

 

If we engage in the spiritual combat with no other weapons than a distrust of self and confidence in God,…we must expect frequently to commit greater blunders….Let us begin with regulating the understanding and the will.  (SC 13-14, Chapter 7)

One thing leads to another.  It is inevitable.

Years ago when our kids were in their teens, I stumbled upon a medical fact unknown in the general culture.  Contrary to the safe sex message crafted by and taught in our school district, condoms were not a guarantee of “safe sex.”

As I began asking questions, it was only a matter of time before I came to reject my “pro-choice” acceptance of abortion and was soon working in the pro-life world.  Life of the unborn was a matter that stirred my passions.

After years of turning my eyes and covering my ears, my understanding was finally freed from the great defect of ignorance.[i]  No longer could I look at the photo of a child in the womb and deny its humanity.

Today, looking back on those years, I realize that my passion for life moved faster than my understanding of the subject.  Passionately, I wrote weekly blog columns posted on the new Internet.  I attended meetings, hearings and conferences.

But ignorance is reluctant to give way to understanding.  Quick to voice my opinions, I took time only to dig up a quote or fact that might help at the moment.  I interviewed, and I wrote.  Action was its own justification.  I was everywhere at one time…and nowhere in particular.

A new Christian in those days, I relegated prayer to my quiet time in the morning.  Today, dwelling in prayer throughout the day, I regret that my pro-life activity had not been covered at all times by unending prayer.

In general, I knew I was serving the Lord.  But specifically, I didn’t let the Author of Life lead me in the little moments and small decisions.  As one thing led to the next, my passion was unfocused and flailing in response, not to the Lord’s leading, but to the outside world.

I move slower these days.  Passionate as ever, I finally understand that my personal passion is not enough.  God must lead.

[i] SC 14


Question: Today, what passion stirs my heart?  Have I submitted this to the Lord?  And have I taken time to listen to His direction?


PRAYER: 

Lord, let me see you and trust you as the fountain of all truth and understanding.

 SCRIPTURE

The Lord looks down from heaven,
    he sees all the sons of men;
from where he sits enthroned he looks forth
    on all the inhabitants of the earth,
he who fashions the hearts of them all,
    and observes all their deeds.
[Psa 33:13-15]


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6. Perseverence

 

Consequently, although a soul is overwhelmed by sins…it must not be discouraged or abandon its spiritual works.  On the contrary, it must arouse itself to new fervor and redouble its efforts against the enemy….Persevere to the end.  (SC 12-13, Chapter 6)

Life was so much easier before I paid attention to sin.

Before God answered my knock, I was in charge of the world.  No I wasn’t perfect.  But neither was anyone else.  I was at least as good as most people I knew…and better than a few.

Yes, I did make mistakes.  Not that many.  And not that big.  Besides, so did everyone else.

Then God entered my world.  Or rather, I noticed that He had been in my world all along.  Or rather, I finally noticed that I had been in His world all along.  God’s world…on earth as it is in heaven.

As His love melted my heart, I slowly began to take note of all the little mistakes I had made…and was making…that would spoil heaven.

Before the light of faith, from the outside looking into the Christian world, I had thought the concept of sin was cruel…a punitive screed of do’s and don’ts from a harsh judge ruling from above with an iron fist.

In the light of faith and responding to Godly love, I saw the blemish my sin created on Perfect Love.  Repentance finally resonated with me as the Good News.  I could see a heavenly smile when I confessed that I had transgressed and when I asked forgiveness.

Not that it is all that easy!

Some days I just want to pull the covers up and make the sin go away by closing my eyes.  But to the One who sees all, I am a child playing hide and seek behind the palm of my hand.

The key to this internal struggle is to remember that the call to repent is the Gospel Christ preached.  It is the Good News.

Sin is unavoidable.  But there is good news.  The One against whom I sin, is the same One who created me, who loves me, who forgives me, who died for me.

He waits.  In trust, I pull down the covers…and tell Him I’m sorry.  And He smiles.


Question:  Today, Lord, where do I place my trust?


PRAYER: 

Lord, let me see this spiritual combat for what it is, an ongoing battle I must face every day.  And, Lord, with your strength and love, let me persevere.

 SCRIPTURE

And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  [Luke 11:9-10]


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5. Confidence in God

 

The man who has a deep distrust of himself and places great confidence in God is not at all surprised if he commits a fault…Thus he learns to distrust himself more, and he places all his hopes in the assistance of the Almighty.  SC 11, Chapter 4

I know what I am supposed to do.  But after my failures yesterday, how will I manage? The greater the anxiety and despondence, the greater is the certainty of my guilt.[i]

Why do I fail to turn my worries over to the Lord?  The answer is not what I expect.  The man who has a deep distrust of himself and places great confidence in God is not at all surprised if he commits a fault.[ii]

Do I really distrust myself?  So much of my worry is concerned with how I might fix a problem.  I have put myself in charge.  Where is God?  Christ?

From the beginning, Christ knew the outcome of His prayer in Gethsemane.  And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”[iii]

Should my life be exempt from the suffering of the life of Christ?  He is my example.  Knowing the cross He would carry, He still turned all things over to the Father.  He trusted.  He suffered.

But that was not the end.  Placing all his hopes in the assistance of the Almighty, he trusted in the Father’s love. Can I do any less?

It is easy to say I trust in the Lord.  Easier to say than to do.  Instead, I scheme, I plan, I press forward, trusting in my own resources. I should not be surprised to find myself taking the reins away from the Lord.

Trust in God is not a permanent fixture that I can push aside as I make my way through the day.  Each new day, in the light of dawn, my focus must be checked and adjusted.

Then, in the midst of my struggles, frustrations and anxiety, I must check again…adjust again…and trust again…but…

Trust is only powerful when I place it at its Source, with the Father.

I am not alone in this struggle.  With complete confidence in God’s eternal plan and goodness, I fall on my knees with Christ at Gethsemane.  “My Father…not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

[i] SC 11.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Mat 26:39


Question:  Today, Lord, where do I place my trust?


PRAYER: 

Lord, help me meditate on the life of Christ and His witness of the resurrection to come.  Let the trust of Christ in the Father become my own trust.

 SCRIPTURE

We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. [Rom 8:28]


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4. Presumption

 

The presumptuous man…if he yields to anger and despairs of advancing in the way of virtue, it is evident that he has placed his confidence in himself and not God.   (SC 11, Chapter 4)

All day long, my spirit has been unsettled.

First thing this morning, my ears caught the sound of my husband preparing his regular fried egg breakfast.  I wondered if he was going to leave another trail of egg on the stovetop to clean up.

An hour later, it was the driver who missed the left turn arrow and kept us at the red light a second time.  After that, I glared at the driver racing around me on the freeway entrance ramp.

Home from the store, working in the garden where God’s creation literally beckons me to stop and look to heaven, my mind continued to rehearse all the tensions of our neighborhood locked in a year-long dispute over management decisions.

Even as I prayed, “Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner,” my mind looped around to multiple unresolved problems.  Would our neighborhood come to a decision without involving attorneys, would I ever find a part-time job, were my husband and I prepared for retirement…?”  Each worry was linked to the next worry.

Finally, at the end of the day, I am worn out.  When I am honest with myself, we live a charmed life.  I am reminded every morning in the Lord’s Prayer that we have never suffered one day without our daily bread.  We live in a nation where we are secure and safe in our homes.

So, why don’t our blessings shine brighter in my spirit?  Why can’t I still my mind?  Why do I dwell on problems I cannot resolve and on problems that may never become a reality?  Why am I provoked by little things…egg on the stove…who makes it to the end of the freeway on-ramp first?

I know I am supposed to trust in the Lord, to take his yoke upon me and learn from Him.  If only I could truly trust in Him, I would find rest for my soul.  [Mat 11:29-30]

Night is here, the sliver of a moon is bright.  But how can I possibly rest?  I know what I am supposed to do, to trust in the Lord.  But after my failures today, how will I ever manage tomorrow?


Question:  Today, Lord, why do I fail to turn my worries over to You?


PRAYER: 

Lord, help me see the trust of a child who places his hand in his parent’s hand.  Help me to be that child, trusting in you, my Father.

 SCRIPTURE

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths. [Prov 3:5-6]


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