January 17, 2012

Good vs. Evil

I’ve thought a lot about changes lately. Is it because of the new year and all the hype about resolutions and self-improvement? Perhaps that's a good thing. Maybe we need to have time to focus at least once a year on improving ourselves in order to get rid of bad habits or begin new, better choices that will benefit our health and our outlook on life.

Along with the idea of letting go, we embrace the positive aspect of new beginnings. Healthier eating habits are on many of our self-improvement lists, right along with exercising more regularly. These are certainly both at the top of my list.

Taking on a new life challenge may seem like just another thing to do. It isn’t until we embrace this new lifestyle that we begin to understand the rewards of changing our habits. Feeling slimmer and more energetic are the byproducts of healthier living choices, and who wouldn’t desire to feel better physically each day.

Our church has encouraged a similar philosophy when it comes to our Lenten season and indeed, our spiritual growth throughout the year. Instead of “giving up” something for Lent, we explore the option of “taking on” a new spiritual discipline. Perhaps it might be a small group study that will encourage us to read more or be in the Word on a regular basis. Accepting the challenge of self-improvement is exciting at the onset.

When we begin, we have high hopes for great change in our lives. It is when we try to adapt our lifestyles to accommodate our new ideas that we struggle. We still have the same time constraints as we had before, and now we are trying to cram in something more. While we know it is in our best interest, why do our best laid plans fall to the wayside as we choose instead to grab a bag of chips and plop down in front of the tv for our favorite program?

The self-improvement we seek cannot be considered for only the short term, and must reflect our desire for wholeness in all aspects of our lives. Weight loss is at the top of my list for this year, but so is spiritual growth. I am eating healthier and exercising. I love taking walks in nature and that is one kind of exercise I can easily keep up with.

Maintaining spiritual discipline in my life is so much harder. Not only do we have the busyness of our lives to deter us, but the evil one is so good at knowing our weaknesses and will dangle that golden carrot just beyond our noses for distraction. We can sense the aroma of something promised, something just beyond our reach, that seems so much better than what we have right in front of us.

What a challenge it is to discern if the desires of our heart are laid there by our loving Father or discretely placed by the evil one to sabotage any forward progress we are trying to make.  Both can appear to be our heart’s desire, and pull strongly on the direction of our lives.

How then can we know the difference? The answer is through prayer. Take your desires to the Lord and then wait for an answer. If it is the direction we should travel, the pull on our heart will feel stronger when we pray and lay our concerns at His feet.

If our pathway is divergent because of the glow of desire, it is probably our own insecurities reflecting off the golden carrot.  Satan is a master artist so do not be deceived. He can make something look so perfect and promising, when what he is really attempting to do is pull us away from God. 

I can speak from experience that he can make a choice in your life seem to shine like gold, and indeed seem to come from God Himself. Satan delights in putting a doubt within us that provides dissatisfaction in our lives, pulling us off our path and away from God.

We often can’t see the truth of the deception until we have chosen the wrong path and have begun to follow it. Then the devastating truth is revealed, and I hear Satan laughing with delight. But he will not have the final victory.

God is always there, waiting for us to return to Him. He is like a loving Father with outstretched arms and we only need to run to Him to be saved. The best time to turn to Him is before we make a decision that will change our lives. Pray for discernment, and for direction. And wait patiently for God to make clear the path He knows is best for you.

And if we err, as we sometimes will, and find ourselves on the pathway to destruction, cry out to Jesus to rescue you, and come to Him in repentance. Pray for forgiveness, and it will be given to you. Then pick up the pieces of your life and find the right pathway once again, the path that will lead you to happiness and peace, walking side-by-side with your Savior in harmony with all of creation. 

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