And the fact that Paul prayed three times for God to remove some undefined "thorn is his flesh to which God's reply was: "NO." He assured Paul His grace was sufficient.
I reposted on my Facebook today a blog from November of 2009. It was about anxiety, and the constant battle I have had with is since 2004. Here we are in 2012 and it is still a nemesis. It's, perhaps not as powerful as it used to be. I am certainly able to call it out and recognize it for what it is, which in reality is a HUGE first step in the battle. (Think of little David calling out big old Goliath as the "uncircumcised Philistine," who had no shot against the him with the Living God on his side.)
But there is something disheartening in the fact that the battle keeps coming back around, a little different, and yet somewhat the same. And for me, I see this with many of my "constant battles." They seem chronic. So when I read Paul's words, the man God chose to use more than possibly any other person ever on the planet, it gives me hope. Because what I understand from my reading here, is that it's not so much the battle that I define that's chronic, but it is the battle that is "the flesh," that is lifelong.
Today in the news there is talk about the fact that Josh Hamilton, MLB outfielder for the Texas Rangers has been seen drinking in bars. I've read Josh's book, and seen his I Am Second video, and the man has had a radical experience with Christ, and been blessed tremendously, and yet, his battle rages on too. You can click on the link of his video and hear him say for himself, HE KNOWS BETTER, and he knows that just one drink is a slippery slope for him toward decisions that could end his career. The first line in the video says in effect, "drugs and alcohol, I never used one without the other," so for him, just a beer in a bar is NOT, "no big deal."
When I told my kids this morning about Josh so we could pray for him, my Jake's response was "He should go watch his 'I Am Second video'," and Jake was right, he needs to remember where he has come from, and be reminded this is a battle he cannot fight on his own. I imagine he too would appreciate Paul's words above. I just hope his desire match's Paul's as well, and that whatever caused him to drink on Monday, he wants Christ more.
Josh makes reference to a particular scripture in his video that is appropriate for any of us to remember as we struggle and fight our own personal battles "of the flesh." Whether it is an issue of alcohol and drug abuse like Josh Hamilton, or something considered more benign like food, or something emotional like anxiety or anger, it's important to recall that we have an enemy of our souls who is studying our weaknesses with one purpose, to destroy us. If he cannot destroy our lives or our salvation, he will find some satisfaction is destroying our witness to the world around us.
Sometimes in our minds,I think, we think of "resistance" as some sort of defense mechanism. I can picture someone backed in a corner slapping or striking at someone coming at them. But I don't think this is the kind of resistance referenced here. I think it's far more proactive. It's a pushing back, started perhaps even before the attack begins. And it's done in submission to God, which to me speaks of abiding, praying, meditating on God's word. I know Josh Hamilton has had many "safety nets" in place since his sobriety (though this is his 2nd public slip) and I know recently his accountability partner moved away and the position not yet refilled. It speaks volumes about how we cannot get comfortable in the "status quo" of things when they seem to be going well. The bible describes Satan as a lion prowling about- waiting to pounce. And I suspect it's that moment that we relax in confidence, like Josh thinking, "One drink won't hurt," that the enemy comes out claws drawn.
I know for me the anxiety always comes first thing in the morning because I am in that sleepy unfocused state. To battle it back I have to engage immediately with the Word and use it to resist the sense of fear that tries to overwhelm me.
The battle rages on. Diligence is required in this Walk of Faith, because if we are not focused, we risk falter. And in that moment that we do, the enemy is ready to capitalize. Not for a moment should we ever consider ourselves to have "arrived" to a place where we can get by in the battles of life. If we don't keep the constant mindset that we are in battle, we will never find the victory God has called us to. And most important of all is to remember that that victory is never of our own doing, but is always in our relationship with Christ.
And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
Who is he who overcomes the world,
but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
1 John 5:4-5
Stand firm, be diligent, resist your enemy- fight the good fight submitted to the Lord, and say a prayer for Josh Hamilton that the Spirit of God would rise up in him and help him do the same, in Jesus' name!