Sunday, May 13, 2007

Are You Worth Fighting For? Overcoming Insurmountable Obstacles and Addictions (original posting date 8/29/06)

I have been overweight almost my whole life. I have tried to lose weight, and failed, time and time again. In October, something in me just changed and I returned to Weight Watchers. Saturday I weighed in to find that I’ve now lost 51.8lbs. Wow. I’ve lost over 50lbs and three clothing sizes in the last 10 months! I look and feel better than I have in 10 years. They asked me to speak, to offer encouragement to others. All that came to mind was… “You have to fight for it.”

I shared that in the past 10 months I’ve stumbled time and time again. I’ve possibly had as many setbacks as victories. But I keep pressing on toward the prize. I know who I want to be. I want to get it right this time. As I drove home I pondered on what has really made the difference this time. It hasn’t just been discipline or anything else of this world. It’s been the work of Christ in my life, building my faith, my self esteem… and a huge cheering section of close friends, reminding me that in Christ I could do it. You see, I had to love myself enough to want to change. I had to believe God loved me enough, that I could change. I needed other people to remind me of these things, regularly.

The enemy would like nothing better than for us to live in discouragement and despair. To live in the belief that we can’t change frustrates us and paralyzes us to all God could do with our lives. We may be able to see the sin in our lives, but we often hit a wall in thinking there’s no way we can handle it. It’s a sin wall. We need to learn to not only see the sin in our lives, but believe we can really overcome it. Otherwise, all we do is suffer in our secrets and our shame. But the truth is, we’re children of the living God and there is no sin we can’t resist, no obstacle we cannot overcome, no addiction we can’t thwart. Our sin nature is our past, not our present.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

My weight problem is not the first real struggle of life I’ve had to fight to overcome. In 2002, I fought with a fairly serious bout of depression. I have never had to work so hard to be well. There were times that I felt it was just my lot in life to have this thorn and there was nothing I could do to overcome it. Now years later, I am depression free. I can’t guarantee I’ll never suffer from it again, but I haven’t felt “sick” for a very long time. God freed me with some hard work. This is clearly a little different than a straight sin issue, but it still at the time seemed like an insurmountable obstacle. But it wasn’t.

We need to believe in God’s power to transform. We need to fix our eyes on him, not on our sin. You see, I can’t lose weight by sitting around and thinking about it and trying to will the temptation of food to go away. I have to fix my eyes on something else. If all I think about is my sin, it will actually lead me to sin. I need to think on Christ, in full confidence that he understands my struggle and can free me from my sin, if I give him all I can. The more tightly I’m knit to him, the more of him that is in me, and the greater success I’ll have. A friend gave me a great analogy. You know those jersey barriers they use during road construction? Those ones that create tight tube-like lanes? Well, it’s almost a sure guarantee that if you keep looking to the right or the left in an effort to not hit them, you will. The road is too narrow. You have to focus forward and keep moving. You have to fix your eyes further down the road and then you’ll stay in the center.

Christ died for all our sins, those that are fairly moderate and those that are pretty ugly. I have friends that have struggled with alcoholism, drug addiction, same sex attraction, pornography, eating disorders, fall out from sexual assault, obesity, anger issues, gossip, rampant insecurity, and all sorts of other stuff. But 75% of them are living victorious right now, because of what Christ has done in their lives. I am living victorious because of what Christ has done in my life. The temptations may not have left, but the actions, the behavior, has been transformed.

“But God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 1 Corinthians 10:12-14

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, or love and of self discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

God meets us where we’re at if we’re willing. Understand there is no sin too great. One sin is not bigger than another. If we are willing to acknowledge it, he can free us.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful life.” 1 Peter 2:9

This is not to say it is easy in any sense of the word. I would not bother to write this if I thought it was easy, but instead I write b/c it’s terribly hard. In fact, it’s almost impossible without God and the loving care, support, encouragement and accountability of his people. But I beg you… fight. We all have secret sin. Whatever your secret sin, fight for righteousness. Fight for yourself. Fight for the very best you can be and all the joy you can experience. Don’t settle for the enemy’s lies… lies that will keep you stuck in shame and discouragement, thinking nothing can ever change. Such thinking has no home in the heart of the believer. You can overcome in Christ. Don’t give up. “Lord, help me overcome my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)

I want to pause for a moment and talk to you about your friends who may be struggling with a secret sin. A lot of people will tell you that people may have to get to the bottom to really deal with their stuff… that you can’t push them but wait until they’re really ready. This may hold some truth to it. But I urge you, as brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t give up too easily. I wish my girlfriends would had pushed me sooner on my weight issue. Not nagged me or criticized me more… but called my using food to deal with life the sin that it is and come along side me to overcome it. This isn’t something the tempted can overcome alone. We need encouragement. We need to be reminded that we’re worth it… and that God is big enough and strong enough and loving enough and his plan perfect enough to bring us true healing and out of our struggle. If you love your friends, you have an obligation to not let them get stuck but to walk with them through it.

Do you believe God REALLY loves you? I’m not sure I always did. I believed he loved everyone else, just not me. Because I didn’t really believe, I didn’t think he could possibly understand, but scripture says that’s terribly untrue.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” Hebrews 4:15

Do not give up. You’re worth it. Are you hearing me? GOD LOVES YOU AND YOU ARE WORTH IT! FIGHT!

“I lift up my eyes to the hills- where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He will not let you foot flip – he who watches over you will not slumber.” Psalm 121: 1-3

Ok… read that again…

“I lift up my eyes to the hills- where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He will not let you foot flip – he who watches over you will not slumber.” Psalm 121: 1-3

Your help comes form the God who created the heaven and the earth. Do you really think your little temptation, struggle, trial, sin issue is too big for him to handle? Its just not.

I guess I’ll conclude with this. I’m very practical. If I had read this written by someone else, especially if I’d been struggling, wrestling for a while and feeling I’d hit that sin way… I’d ask, but what do I really do, in its most tangible form. Well here it is… you need to fully engage with God, in prayer, worship, study and fellowship. More specifically…
 Confess your secret sin to God, out loud or in writing. Make it real. Get it out in the open, at least between you and God. Have an honest conversation with him on how you feel.
 Acknowledge God’s ability to handle the situation. Praise him for his power to help you overcome. Be determined that with him, you can beat this.
 Identify what makes you vulnerable to this sin, temptation, thought pattern. Ask God what deeper healing my need to occur in you to keep you from this sin (praying it will go away almost NEVER works). Take steps toward this end.
 Get in biblical fellowship. Get in a small group, a church, an accountability group or fellowship group… any place where like minded people, those that love the Lord and believe in his strength, can live life with you. You can’t do this alone.
 Confess it to another believer, maybe your small group. Find someone who is strong and mature enough to pray with you, listen to you and hold you accountable.

Father God, I praise you for how you’ve worked in my life. You are bigger than anything I can throw at you. I am created in your image and can live a holy life, free from the sin that so easily entangles. You want me to live free, not in bondage. You want me to be all I can be, not suffocated by shame and pain. I pray for every person that may read this. I pray you lead them not in to temptation and deliver them from evil. Fill them with courage and confidence. Help them to fix their eyes on you in such a way that resisting the temptation is second nature. Bring to them loving encouragers and accountability partners who will keep them on track. God, I praise you. AMEN.

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