Praying in the Tension

A little while ago we spoke about Fight Time. It is the idea that there comes a time when the bell rings and its go time. We spoke about how we fight from a place of victory in Christ and being sealed with the Holy Spirit. We also mentioned how the fight is a fight and it can be hard. Today I think we should pick back up on that idea of tension. Specifically, I think we should look at praying in the tension.

When the bell rings there is this initial excitement where we are ready to go and have the faith to move mountains. We are ready for whatever the world, the enemy, or our flesh throws at us. Like He-man we proclaim, “I have the power!” but the problem is that same excitement and proclamation of power does not last. Maybe after a week, two weeks, three weeks, or four weeks we start to get tired. We wonder why the victory is not yet won. We start to question what God said. We start to wonder if we missed something. Surely if God was speaking, He would have wrapped this up by now. Surely if God was in this it would be easier right?

Well no, not necessarily. The tension we feel between what God said and what we see could be part of the plan. It could be that God is using this tension for a purpose. Honestly, I don’t want to list possible reasons why because I don’t want you to limit God, but He can use the tension for His glory and purposes.

The Apostle Paul has some words of encouragement for us. Writing to the church in Philippi from prison he says, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (Phil 1:12). Paul was in jail for doing exactly what God told him to do. He was following the path placed before him and it got him locked up. I am guessing that Paul had his moments of wrestling with the tension of following God’s call and being in jail. A few verses later after talking about how people are trying to make it worse for him, he says, “yes, and I will rejoice” (1:18b). There is tension there, but Paul was praying through and telling us to pray through the tension.

It is not easy, and I am going through it right now, but we have to keep coming back to the place of praying through the tension between what God has said and what we see. One the first Bible verses I ever learned was Numbers 23:19 which says “God is not a man that He should lie nor a son of man that He should repent. Has He not said, and will He not do, or has He not spoken, and will He not make it good?” the verse has always come back to me as a reminder that God is God and I am not. I cannot understand His ways, but I can trust Him.

I believe that one of the reasons God allows the tension is so that we will keep coming back to Him. The tension is hard, but it is necessary. For me, I can see part of the reason is for humility. It is humbling to ask for help. It is humbling to ask for support. It is humbling to not be able to accomplish the task on my own. So, I accept the tension. I don’t really want it but I accept it because I trust that God is good. If we are going to fight then we have to accept that God is good because He is the one leading the battle, and He is the source of strength. So, the tension is real but so is God. Pray in the tension. Pray to the God of peace. Use the tension to draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

Just a thought,

Mike

Know Your Enemy

Sometimes I think we give the devil way more credit than we should. That being said the devil is our adversary. After all, Satan means adversary. We should also understand that he does have a vast network of demons that do his bidding so while we should not give him too much credit it is important to know his tactics. That all being said I want to look at three tactics found in Genesis 3.

First, the devil “perverts language” as Bruce Waltke says, using it to confuse Adam and Eve.[1] Before the fall language was wholesome and only communicated truth or was used to ask questions but never for deceit. The idea of using language to confuse or tempt was completely foreign to the minds of Adam and Eve. This is not to excuse Adam and Eve because they clearly had God’s words regarding the tree. But we should understand that to them there was language was pure, so the statements and questions of the serpent made sense to a degree.

For us to combat this we need to constantly remind ourselves of what God has said. Personal revelation about Scripture and direction in life are good but we need the revealed Word of God to fall back on in times of trouble and question. The devil can easily make us question a direction we believe is from God and he can attempt to use Scripture to confuse us. We fight this the same way Jesus did and that is by rightly dividing and knowing the Word of God.

Second, I see that the devil turns God’s command regarding the tree of knowledge into a general question about all trees in the Garden. This planted the seed of doubt in Eve’s mind because later she sees that the tree was good for food (v6). Additionally, the serpent goes on to contradict God’s words in verse 4 when he says, “you will not die.”[2] The devil makes Eve think that “God is jealous and makes lavish promises” introducing the idea that God does not have their best intentions at heart.[3] The trickery here was to make Eve think that God was keeping something from them. That there was more that could be had but to get it they must get it on their own.

The devil can often confuse us (or at least me) about things that seem to contradict. Genesis 2:9 says that all the trees in the garden were pleasing in appearance and good for food including the tree of knowledge of good and evil so the devil can say if it is good for food then you should eat it. If God wants me to be happy and live in abundant life, then why shouldn’t I get what I need? I am not under the Law I don’t need to give tithes or offerings. I need to live an abundant life, don’t I? This is just one example but in truth, the devil comes at us with all sorts of temptations that for things we can justify. The problem is again that we must go back to the Word of God and see what God has truly said on the matter. We cannot philosophize the Word of God or His commands. Paul writes in Colossians 2:8 that we should not be carried away by teachings, philosophies, and traditions that are not based on Christ. We cannot turn God’s specifics into questions about abstract and general things and we must hold fast to the promises of God and trust in Him.
Lastly, as Walter Brueggemann says in his commentary on Genesis, God was objectified by the serpent. [4]  God was not included in the conversation that the devil had with Eve. The devil will attack us this way. He will get us to question God, His motives, His previous commands, and so on all the while being sure that we talk about God but never to Him. We must always be careful not to let God become an academic study. We cannot allow God to become just another subject we study. Our endeavors to learn about Him must be married with a desire to grow closer to Him. These two things must never be separated. God is not an abstract concept and should not be treated as such. Christ’s life and death was not only simply to save us from eternal separation from God but to give us union with Him. It is Christ in me the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). We can treat it as salvation from sin and death but more than that it is a call to relationship. Just as our salvation does not exist outside of Christ our knowledge of Him should not exist outside of Him either. Galatians 2:20 says that the life we now live we by faith in the Son of God.

When we better understand our enemy, we are better prepared on how to fight. We should understand that we fight from a place of victory, but it is a battle nonetheless. The victory is ours in Christ, but we still live in the flesh. So, arm yourself today and know how to fight.

Just a thought,

Mike

 

[1] Bruce K. Waltke, and Cathi J Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2001): 91.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Didymus, and Robert C. Hill, Commentary on Genesis. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 82. accessed March 12, 2018, eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost.

 

[4] Walter Brueggemann, “Genesis,” (Louisville, Ky: Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, 2010), 48, accessed March 12, 2018, eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost