Israel lamented that they had disobeyed God from the beginning and throughout their history. They declared, “Let us lie down in our shame, and let our dishonor cover us. For we have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even to this day, and we have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God.” (Jeremiah 3:25)
The older I get and the more I understand the will of God, the more I realize that I am no different than they were. I’ve been guilty of bad attitudes, unkind thoughts and words, and selfish deeds, and I have fought those things. Some of these wars were short and easily won. Others have taken years to conquer. Yet in the winning, there is no recall of the foe or the battle, for such is the grace of God. He keeps me moving through life, not dwelling on the former things or the shame of them.
Right now, my concern is those sinful issues that seem to stick like crazy glue. Perhaps the reason for their tenacity is that I’m fighting some of them in the wrong arena. Like Oswald Chambers says, the battle against sin is lost or won in the secret places of the will before God, never first in the external world. I cannot wait until the temptations come before engaging in the battle.
If you return, O Israel, declares the Lord, to me you should return. If you remove your detestable things from my presence, and do not waver, and if you swear, ‘As the Lord lives,’ in truth, in justice, and in righteousness, then nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory. (Jeremiah 4:1–2)
Israel could not defeat their enemies unless their hearts were right with God. This is as true for me as it was for them. When the Spirit of the Lord convicts me of sin, then I need to get alone with God and realize how I have been opposing Him. The battle is always first with God and until I yield to Him, I will lose all other battles.
In those wrestling matches with God, my resistance involves: not trusting Him, thinking that I know better than He does (how silly), and putting up some kind of substitute (idol) to take His place, if not me, then another person, plan, or ideal. The battle may take one minute or a year, but that depends on me, not Him. He is patient and holds on to me just as He did in the wrestling match with Jacob (Genesis 32:22-32). Like Jacob, I need to cry “Uncle” and yield.
When that renunciation happens, then nothing has power over me, but if I wait until I get into the tempting or testing circumstance and think I will trust God there, I cannot. It does not work that way. I must get the issue settled between myself and God in the secret places of my heart. Then I will be certain the battle is won regardless of when or how I will be tested. If I do not yield first to God in that secret battle, then disaster and calamity are certain.
Chambers says that every now and again, not often, but sometimes, God brings His people to a point of climax, a Great Divide in life. From that point we either slide downward into a procrastinated and useless type of Christian life, or move upward into a life that is increasingly set on the glory of God. He did that with Jacob who yielded and from that point on, walked with a limp. But he also glorified God with a different attitude and new strength gained by losing that wrestling match with the Lord.