Many people I know are struggling with difficulties and pressures from life. I see it on people’s faces. I read it on the Facebook newsfeed. I hear it on the news. As we approach a new year, many hope for a new beginning that ushers out the hard times and brings in better times.
I will start with this. God wants to bless you and to prosper you. It is His plan and purpose that your life would fulfill his purpose for you. “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 30:19–20, NIV84)
Jesus came to restore the promise of life. ” I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” (John 10:10–11, KJV 1900)
So there is a good question to ask in the midst of hard times and that is this: WHY? Why am I not living life to the full? Why am I in this place?
There are several answers to this question. Each of us must determine which answer is correct for our situation and then follow the path to peace.
The process of change requires many times that we let go of the old to embrace the new.
First, is our difficulty the result of sin?
Everywhere that we allow evil a foothold in our life, we will reap the consequences of sin, which is death. (Romans 6:23). We are also told that our actions have consequences. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7–8, NIV84)
Sometimes, the sin and it’s consequence are easy to spot. Did you lie at work and now no longer have a job? Did you steal and now have problems with the courts?
Other times, it is not so easy to spot sin and its consequence. Know this, every place we allow sin a foothold in our lives is a place and a doorway to reap destruction. “and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:27, NIV84)
We must always examine ourselves for sin. “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5, NIV84)
We must know what God considers sin. “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19–21, NIV84) “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (Romans 1:29–31, NIV84)
We must ask God to search our hearts and embrace the conviction of the Holy Spirit. “When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer;” (John 16:8–10, NIV84) “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23–24, NIV84)
Hardships in our lives will not change until we repent of our sin. We will never be able to embrace the blessing and purpose of God while at the same time walking in rebellion and disobedience to God. Repentance involves admitting our sin, acknowledging that we deserve the consequences of our sin, asking for forgiveness and receiving the grace of God to leave the sin behind. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” (1 John 1:9–10, NIV84)
We make a choice to let go of sin and to repent and to begin to obey God. “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24, NIV84) It is the process of repentance which will bring us to change and to life. “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:11–14, NIV84)
Second, is our difficulty the result of spiritual warfare?
We know the devil seeks to destroy us. “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, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Peter 5:8–9, NIV84) The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10, KJV 1900)
When we are faced with spiritual warfare, our greatest weapon is the Word of God. Every promise of God is a weapon. Our tongue speaking the truth of God will send the enemy away. “no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 54:17, NIV84) We must fight! “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:10–18, NIV84)
Third, Is our difficulty the result of a season of testing?
Job, Joseph, Daniel, David and many others faced the testing of their faith. “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.” (Hebrews 11:32–38, NIV84)
It is in this season where we learn the joy and outcome of endurance. “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:3–5, NIV84) Our character grows. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2–4, NIV84)
Endurance produces growth. “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.” (2 Peter 1:5–9, NIV84)
We become overcomers and conquerors through endurance. “He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Revelation 21:7, NIV84) As we endure, we understand the love of God never leaves us even in difficult times. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37–39, NIV84)
Hardships due to the consequences of sin must change through the process of repentance. Hardships due to spiritual warfare must be fought until we overcome. Hardships due to testing require endurance and perseverance.
In every hardship, there is a path to blessing. Be Blessed in the coming year.
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