The Struggle

This morning, we’re going to discuss something that we all deal with; the struggle.  No, not the struggle about whether Michael Vick is really a Steeler, not the struggle on getting that french fry out from between your seat and the center console of your car, not the struggle to find the beginning of the tape, not even the struggle of which way the toilet paper roll should be installed.  This morning, we’re learning about a struggle that the enemy often uses to discourage us and deceive us away from God.  This is the struggle of doing the will of God.
Now when it comes to the will of God, most of us get caught up on the one big thing that we are supposed to be or do.  However, I’m convinced that God is more concerned about us doing His will in the every day things.  When God knows that we are trustworthy in lesser things, greater things will come our way.  Jesus summarized the will of God quite simply when He said that all of the law and the prophets hang on the two simple commands to love God with our everything and to love others as ourselves.
Especially in our culture today, it is not difficult for us to understand the will of God.  God’s word is very easily and readily available to us all.  In fact, His word states:
Deuteronomy 30:11-14
11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
Although it is easy for us to know and understand God’s will, it sure is a struggle to walk it out!  Paul said it this way:
Romans 7:15-25
15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
If it weren’t for this struggle, we wouldn’t need the deliverance of Jesus Christ, our Lord.  And if we think that we do not struggle in this way, we’re most in need of it!
There are two specific struggles, however, that I feel the enemy uses as a trap to ensnare us with shame and guilt when there is no need at all for it.
The first trap is that we have failed God when we are tempted.  When we are tempted, that does not mean that we have sinned.  When we are tempted, we have not failed God and we have not lost our right standing with Him.  Jesus was tempted, yet was without sin.  To be tempted is to be human.
Immediately after Jesus is water baptized, receives the Holy Spirit, and is publicly announced as God’s own son, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted.  The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted.
Matthew 4:1-11
1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Notice that even though Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to the place where He was to be tempted, the devil waited until just the right moment of weakness to come along and tempt Him.
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.
Not exactly where we would anticipate the devil to take Jesus to be tempted; to the temple in the holy city.
6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
This time, Satan tempted Jesus to give Him what was already His.  However, Satan promised to give it to Him without all of the trials, pain, and suffering that He knew He had to endure in order to receive it from His Heavenly Father.
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Jesus was tempted by Satan, himself, yet was without sin.  Never in the midst of His temptation did He walk outside of God’s will nor the favor and approval of Him.  In fact, it was the will of God for Jesus to be tempted.
When temptation comes on strong, that doesn’t mean that we have lost the battle and failed God.  Temptation simply is the battle and it absolutely can be won!  However, if Satan can convince us that to battle at all against our flesh is to have lost the battle, well, he has a guaranteed win.  Do not believe this lie of your enemy!  Don’t let him get in your head and convince you of failure when, in reality, the battle has just begun!
There is actually an entire field of study and career based on this truth known as sports psychology.  They study and learn how to help athletes get in their zone.  They are able to assist athletes in playing with their peak performance by remaining fully aware and engaged in their sport, while still maintaining a balance of peace while playing.  They are fully aware of the battle and struggle before them, yet they are at perfect peace and focused on the victory.  This is exactly what God desires us to do when temptation comes on!
1 Timothy 4:7-10
7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 9 This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. 10 That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.
God permits us to be tempted to train us.  Although God allows us to be tempted, He will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear.  He will test us and stretch us, but He will never allow us to be overtaken by temptation.
1 Corinthians 10:12-13
12 if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
When you are tempted, you have not failed God.  When you are tempted, you are being put to the test and in training. Don’t allow the enemy to get into your head and convince you that you’ve already lost the battle!  When tempted, the battle is on, but press on through it with your focus not on the temptation nor on what the enemy tells you, but on our faithful God who provided a way out of temptation and into victory!
Jesus warns us as He did Hid disciples on the darkest night of His life:
Matthew 26:41
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Jesus was tempted even as we all are, He knows what we’re going through!
Hebrews 4:14-15
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
Don’t give in to temptation and don’t believe the lie of the enemy!  Take that way out and overcome the enemy in victory!  Jesus is rooting for you!
The second struggle that the enemy often traps us in is that if we do not desire to do the will of God, that we have failed God and sinned.  He has us convinced that it is wrong to disagree and tell God that you are struggling to do what He asks you to.  This couldn’t be farther from the truth!  We just established that Jesus was completely without sin, right?  Let’s look together at this account of Jesus struggling to do what His Father asked Him to do and praying that it be done another way:
Matthew 26:36-46
36 Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
Jesus prayed to His Father.  He confessed that it was not His will to take on the suffering, shame, and pain that brought our salvation.  He asked that His Father provide our salvation another way if it were possible.  He was struggling to do His Father’s will and told Him so in prayer.  He did this not one or two times, but prayed it at least three times before He was interrupted by Judas and his band of soldiers.  He told God that it was not His will to suffer, not His will to endure the painful journey onto the cross.  However, in all of this, the scriptures remind us that Jesus did not sin.  Why?  Because He still submitted to His Heavenly Father and chose to do His will instead.
Although the enemy wants us to believe that if we struggle to understand and do the will of God, that we have let God down, it simply isn’t true.  It is OK and normal to struggle in this area.  Even Jesus struggled with this!  What matters to God isn’t that we fully understand and agree with His will, but that we trust Him enough to walk it out in obedience by faith.
We all know how this ended for Jesus.  He, who knew no sin, was spit on, punched, ridiculed, beaten, flogged, and crucified on the cross of a sinner.  However, He also was raised again to life, completely healed and restored, and was given the name above every name along with all authority over heaven and earth.  He made a way for us to be restored to God and to be given eternal life.
This morning, if you are struggling, you’re doing well.  This indicates that you are aware of the will of God, desiring to do what pleases Him, and yet also still aware of your own weaknesses.  That’s exactly what Jesus did!  However, don’t trip and fall when you the finish line of victory is so close!  Don’t believe the lie of the enemy!  Press on through the struggle into victory as you trust in your Heavenly Father and follow His lead.  The struggle is intense, but everything gained through your victory far exceeds any sacrifices made along the way!
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