I am a person who is easily surprised by the consistant appearance of the same sin manifested in a multitude of ways. I think this says a lot about my proud heart. When I am convicted of a specific sin I become ready to battle. In general I will write out my convictions pray and confess the specific sin, mourn over the sin, and immediately go to my battle plan. In my heart I am convinced I can overcome this....sounds like a godly pursuit..but shamefully Ive got it all wrong, there is something vital missing. Time and time again I use this plan when the Holy Spirit brings conviction, and find myself very soon discouraged and weary in the fight.
Today is an example. I woke up convicted of a grumbling complaining spirit, definately not a new area of struggle. I have become very aware of how often I am complaining in my heart and how drastically this is hindering my ability to grow. It's polluting my thoughts, my beliefs and my actions. The main way I was seeing this manifested was through my interactions with Lew (poor Lew!). In my heart I want things my way, I have a plan in my mind of how I want things to go, and when things don't go according to plan I begin to grumble in my heart, and then my complaining attitude shines through... most commonly Lew is directly in the line of fire. So this morning after God was kind enough to show me my sin, I went through my usual routine... I journaled on my conviction- how I had seen it manifested and how I wanted to grow. I spent a lot of time this morning praying through it and asking God to help me to battle this out. I created my battle plan and felt very empowered...ya know that spiritual sense of euphoria that comes when you feel like you've done something "right". Well, then reality hit and very soon after my "very spiritual morning" I was hit "smack" right in the face by my sin. I had not only down right complained in my heart but in my actions too-- The very thing I had spent all morning praying through, confessing, and battling out. Soon after followed the feelings of discouragment and more complaining. I thought: I did all the right things, how could this happen?? After wallowing in pity for a little while God gave me grace to humble myself and confess to Lew what was going on in my heart, he was able to ask two profound questions that brought the truth that I needed to hear.
The first: "Did you expect to see immediate growth?" According to God's word He controls every aspect of our growth
Romans 8:29-30: For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many bretheren. Moreover whom he predestined, these he also called; whom he called, these he also justified; and whom he justified, he shall also glorify.
So knowing this I should not expect to see growth based on my time schedule, but I should in faith wait on Him, knowing that "He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it" (1Thes 5:24) This is a promise that as we are called as His children he will surely complete our sanctification and growth. This also reminded me that my growth is not based on my own effort, just as I cannot earn my Heavenly Father's love...I cannot earn my right to grow. Though practicing repentence and taking sin seriously will help a Christian to grow, they still will only grow at a rate that God has planned for them in that specific season. So we must in faith sow seeds towards godliness, but not be surprised when we still see traces of our sinful hearts, this is a sweet reminder of our complete dependence on Him!
The second question was: "What are you more commonly thinking of- your sin and your inability to grow, or God's grace and His power that can enable you to grow and overcome your sin?" It was simple, my thoughts were geared more towards my inability and my failure, rather then on the power of Christ to help me to overcome. The promise I have is that Christ willingly gave his life as a ransom for my wicked soul to be redeemed. He faced all tempation yet never sinned so that all temptations I give into and every wicked deed I commit can be forgiven, but even greater I receive not only grace to be forgiven but grace to be transformed. Because of Christ I will grow-- it's a promise all throughout the New Testement. It is a promise that as believers we must preach to ourselves by the week, by the day, and some days by the hour. If we neglect to remind ourselves of this truth it will affect every aspect of our lives-- and if we sow to this pattern long enough it can and will lead to discourgement, feelings of condemnation, and despair. But the good news is we have a Savior who's gone before us ...
"Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ"
-1 Cor 15:57
Victory is ours-- Let us rejoice!!
So my hope is, by God's grace that I will continue to grow in dependence on his grace and that when I am convicted of sin I will first take it to the foot of the cross-- the cross of the one and only Savior- the only hope for victory over my sin...Though I continue to see my sin I can rest assured that He isn't finished with me yet.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen