I had this thought today, as my daughter is whining about sitting down for her devotional & school time. Shouts of “I’m going to be so bored” (her newest phrase , thank you, Sofia the First) and “But I’m going to be exhausted after this and not be able to play with my shopkins” where heard throughout the land, demands that the unjust and not fun rulership be overthrown and for the young citizens to have their way!
Despite the compelling arguments, we still proceeded with a time-out for an attitude adjustment and started again. In the authority that God has given me as her mother, I stood my ground and let her know that she’s not going to determine the agenda and that she needs to go sit in time out until she can have a better attitude and to pray for God to help her in this.
But this was such a great picture of my flesh often does when it’s presented with anything opposed to its nature (meaning anything of the Holy Spirit, that is actually good for me). It whines and throws tantrums, balking at the idea of anything remotely constructive and life-giving -getting into the Word, exercising, praying, serving others, saying no to myself (gasp!). But the Holy Spirit inside of me, like I did with my daughter, tries to encourage and lead me to what is really good for me.
And that is exactly the authority that I’ve been given in Christ, to now say no to my flesh, that it doesn’t have the authority to tell me what I am or am not going to do anymore.
But how often do I let the screaming child inside of me win? How often have I wanted to avoid the battle or struggle or pain, and just do what feels good or easy in the moment?
The Holy Spirit nudges me, suggesting that I get up early to get into the Word before my day starts.
“Nah – I would rather sleep in. I mean, I need to rest to take care of the kids, right?”
He nudges again – ‘You need to start an exercise routine so you’ll have more energy and be healthy, and to be a good example for your kids in this.’
“Nope, I think I’ll rest while they do. I mean, I need whatever energy I would use for exercising for the rest of the day, right?” (enter the enemy’s scarcity tactic, the lie that there is limited amounts of _____ and I better conserve and hold on to and control instead of surrender and release and trust)
I could go on. This is the usual dialogue that I’ve struggled with for a while in my head, easy rationalizations in response to life-giving suggestions in order to stay in the same stuck routines and rhythms.
BUT, as I’ve shared, the Lord is doing a new thing with me. He’s not leaving me alone on this anymore. And He’s revealing more and more truth to reveal where I once fell into traps that have kept me stuck.
See, if you notice above, all my responses above were still questions. I still had a choice to agree with myself – my own logic and understanding and preference (my flesh) – or, by the power of the Holy Spirit, choose differently.
Do you believe that? Do you believe that you have a choice? That even in the deepest, most dark struggle and ingrained habit that you may have, that you still have a choice?
Because you do, if you’re a follower of Christ. As a believer, you have the Holy Spirit inside of you, and scripture says that we can now say “No!” to sin and to ourselves and to our old nature.
“1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,”
If I believe that the Gospel is true, and I do!, then part of that amazing truth is that I am now freed to live a life by the Spirit, no longer held captive to sin and my old way of thinking and living. I can trust that the Holy Spirit will reveal what are life-giving choices for me, and I now have the ability to choose them over the old ways.
A new way exists! Where I used to succumb to laziness and selfishness, I can ask God for a picture of what a different response looks like. And He will give it. He will!
He gives us vision and inspiration and encouragement. I have seen it and experienced it first-hand. And it is personal and will cut you to the core, as it should. But it needs to be personal, so that you’ll know that He is personal and knows You intimately.
That’s usually the first step for me, asking the Lord what it looks like. Because I don’t know where to go if I haven’t seen it before. And this is why sharing your stories of victory with the Lord is SO important! It shows people that there is another way, that progress and freedom and change are possible, and gives them a jumping off point.
And a first step may just be as simple (but not easy) as admitting there is a problem. That you are stuck. That there is a bad habit. A sin. A struggle. A hurt that you can’t seem to get over by yourself.
Admitting this to yourself, to God and to someone else is a very powerful first step! It may not seem like much compared to where you want to be, but it’s necessary and it is the first step to freedom.
And so back to my responses. I had a choice – to agree with myself and stay stuck. Or to say No.
“No, I need to get up and get into God’s Word and connect with God personally MORE than I need sleep. Because I need to know what He has written in my day today. I want to be in step with His Spirit and to receive all that He has for me and my family and others I will interact with today. Because this isn’t just about me. I want to be able to abide in His Spirit so that I choose patience when my temper wants to flare, or I can have discernment through His Spirit when I have a run-in with my child, to see the heart of the matter instead of just addressing the behavior. I need His sight and His empowerment to live differently than I have in the past, and therefore I must get up and get into His Word.”
“No, I will choose to start to exercise, as much as my body resists and hurts and I don’t enjoy it at first. Because I know, that even though it seems counter-intuitive, that it will eventually give me more energy and You have designed my body to need this type of activity, and it will function better if I am using it how You designed it to be used. And so I’m going to choose to start to take better care of myself so that I can honor You and take better care of my family. And I’m going to trust that what energy I do expend in pursuit of obedience to You that You will cover with Your grace and will provide for that as well.” (take that, scarcity tactic. My God will provide for all my needs in Christ Jesus.)
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17
Freedom means we have a choice, and we have the ability to choose well! Not perfectly, but to make imperfect progress.
So, back to this morning. Once Natalie and I got into things, she actually enjoyed herself. Once she submitted to the authority in front of her, she was able to receive all that this morning’s activities had to offer – the routine, the discipline, and the fun. We had a great conversation and she was able to see that what she predicted this morning was going to look like wasn’t the case at all. Instead, it was time connecting with her mother, talking about God’s love, and writing a little bit. And she loves connection. And she loves writing (once she pushes past the whining). She didn’t realize that I had tailored this morning to fit her personally, things I know she enjoys to do.
Isn’t that so how our loving God works, too? That once we push past the whining and submit to receive what He has to offer us, we discover that He actually shaped what He is handing us to be exactly what we need, and if we really offer Him our hearts, He’ll even give us a desire for it, too. It’s really unfathomable goodness that He offers us.
Every single time I choose surrender over selfishness, the Holy Spirit reveals to me more of Who God is, more of His love and compassion and extravagant grace, and I get a closer glimpse of what this whole life is really supposed to be about.
So, is your inner child screaming today? Do you need to send yourself to time-out to consider your choices, your attitude, and to pray for God to help you? I know that I need that prescription A LOT.
And don’t forget that last part. It’s essential. Ask God to help. Because it’s really not about us trying our best to be good or pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. It’s about acknowledging our dependence on Him to help us to make any good and lasting changes in our life. By confessing that I have a sinful heart and faulty vision, and that I need Him to give me a new heart and His perspective, so that I can really see.
Oh, how humbly and incredibly exposing parenting can be. I’m thankful that as I’m walking through this years of training my kids through time-outs and other various things, that it’s also a reminder to me of how I need the same exact training, and He’s offering it, if I will surrender and receive it.
Proverbs 3:11-13 (AMP)
“My son, do not reject or take lightly the discipline of the Lord [learn from your mistakes and the testing that comes from His correction through discipline];Nor despise His rebuke,
for those whom the Lord loves He corrects, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.”
Or a better word picture for my whiny heart:
Proverbs 3:11-12 (MSG)
“But don’t, dear friend, resent God’s discipline; don’t sulk under his loving correction.
It’s the child he loves that God corrects;a father’s delight is behind all this.”
“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,and chastises every son whom he receives.””
And the promise:
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”