Saturday, September 6, 2008

Battling My Biggest Opponent

I put this together almost a year ago from one of my treks up to Reddish Knob.  It seemed fitting for my thoughts this morning.  I have been reading a book by Os Guinness called God in the Dark.  It's a book about doubt - where it comes from and what to do with it.  The chapter I just finished talked about exactly, dead-on what I have been going through the last couple months.  
In the last 4 years, I have taken 3 years worth of seminary classes, I have read approximately 60 books on Christianity, have been involved with weekly Bible study, daily Bible reading, prayer, preaching (infrequently), and much discussion on matters of faith and spirituality.  I am not mentioning this for bragging purposes - no, in fact I am still a beginner seeking to learn more and more - I mentioned it to set up the context of the situation.  The thing that has been nagging me quite a bit (and increasingly more and more) lately has been temptation.  The areas that the temptations come from are things that I know to myself to be unquestioned, resolute areas that I flat out would never go.  But the thoughts have been coming more frequently, they have been getting more rationalizing, and more persistent.  
The conflict that arises is, how can I - someone so involved in my Christian walk, someone who reads so much, who studies and all that - how can I struggle so much with these temptations?  Am I really not such a good Christian?  Is my faith really weak?  I have prayed for help in this arena, but have seen only negative progress.  Why???  What's going on here?  What can I do to fix this?
As I was reading this morning, it was as if God was writing me a letter to provide me the answer I had been looking for.  Here are some of the quotes from different people in the chapter I read today:  
"Moods never go by praying, moods go by kicking.  A mood nearly always has its seat in the physical condition, not the moral.  It is a continual effort not to listen to the moods which arise from a physical condition, never submit to them for a second.  We have to take ourselves by the scruff of the neck and shake ourselves, and we will find that we can do what we said we could not." - Oswald Chambers  
"Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?"  - Martyn Lloyd-Jones
"...address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself"  - Martyn Lloyd-Jones
"Unless we train our emotions they will lead us around by the nose, and we will be captives to every passing impulse or reaction." - Oswald Chambers
"For my part, I run with a clear goal before me; I am like a boxer who does not beat the air; I bruise my own body and make it know its master." - The Apostle Paul in Corinthians

The problem was not that there was anything wrong with my faith.  Christian truth is still true, and my faith is as strong as it really is.  The problem is that I have been letting my emotions (that change with each passing situation around me) dictate my thoughts and suggested actions and I have been a slave to emotion - my faith has been captive to emotion.  I have been listening to myself (and we all know how our imaginations can run wild if not kept in check) instead of talking to myself (bringing the harsh reality check in when it's needed).  
My biggest opponent is my undisciplined self, and the emotional rollercoaster that is allowed to run free if I don't do something about it.  I prayed for outside help - what I needed to do was grab the bull I was sitting on by the horns and take charge myself.  When those temptations arise from now on, I will confront them with preaching, with reality checks, with menacing and bruising force (metaphorically).  I am a tough guy - and I'm tired of being pushed around and feeling like there's nothing I can do.  It's time to get tough with myself.
Emotion has its place in life, but that place is not in the driver's seat.  Think of all the times that people's emotions get out of control and how that dictates their actions - faith should dictate our emotions, not the other way around.  I feel strengthened today, and I hope you do too if you've been dealing with similar issues.  
C.S. Lewis says "Faith is the art of holding onto things your reason has once accepted, in spite of our change of moods.

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