I spoke last week about the importance of training a child. I'd like to continue that thought this week, but this time, turn the focus toward ourselves. If there is one thing I learned as I've gotten older, it is that I still need a great deal of training in my own life.
You see, despite my status as a redeemed child of God, sin is still a struggle for me each day. The truth is that I have a constant war taking place within me between my sinful flesh and the Spirit-filled, new life I've been given in Jesus.
"For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law." - Galatians 5:17-18
The simple route is to go along with the pull of my sinfulness. It's easy; it's what I know. But that's not the way of the Spirit.
So how do we keep in step with the Spirt? How do we find ourselves led by the Spirit of God in our every day life? I would suggest through training. No one ever accomplished incredible athletic achievements by sitting on the couch enjoying a bowl of popcorn. No, athletic achievement takes training your body to push harder, run faster and keep going longer.
The same is true in our walk with Christ. We can't spend the week living for ourselves and enjoying the things the world offers and then expect to have a life that is marked by the Spirit.
"So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." - Galatians 5:16
So how do we walk by the Spirit? We need to be connected with God, not just for an hour on Sunday. If we believe that it is true that there is a constant war inside us, then we need to be finding our strength routinely in the Word of God. We need to be in prayer throughout the day.
I love the story of Daniel from the Bible. Most of us know him because of his being thrown to the lions for choosing not to pray to anyone other than the Lord. But the truth is that we see Daniel other times before that story. We first meet him in Daniel chapter one choosing to hold fast to God's laws even in captivity in Babylon. Next we find him in chapter two calling on God in prayer, that God would allow him to interpret Nebuchanazer's dream. In instance after instance that we see him in Scripture, he is in prayer, seeking God and choosing to follow God despite the costs. So when a law was passed forbidding prayer to anyone but King Darius, how did Daniel find the strength to pray boldly in public despite the risk of death? The answer is stated clearly in Daniel's story:
"Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before." -Daniel 6:10
Daniel stood firm, because he had done it every day before that. This was who Daniel was. Daniel was a man of God's Word and a man of prayer. God was his everything and his lifestyle was marked by that.
We need to train ourselves the same way. We need to stop thinking that sanctification will just happen while we stumble through the world without any time in God's Word. We need to be connected to God through prayer. We need to train ourselves to turn to God in our moments of weakness, not just rely on ourselves for strength.
As we daily win the small battles we face as Christians, God is training us and preparing us for the real battles and the big struggles that will come. Then in those moments, I pray that the Spirit gives us all the strength to stand firm and hold unswervingly to our hope in the ONE who will not disappoint.