What is the area of sin or temptation that is most tenacious in your life? What’s that problem area you can’t seem to change?
We live in a consumer-driven culture, so we’re conditioned to approach a lot of life from a consumer perspective.
Is this a good deal?
What does this offer me?
What do I get out of this?
Is this worth it?
I walk with a lot of men and women who have struggled for years with sexual sin, or despaired they’ll ever feel relationally whole, or felt since childhood they were gay, or have lost hope to find that special someone, or wrestled for longer than they could have imagined with a painful marriage.
Journeying with God is a long journey, one that is not fully illumed for us. And sanctification is a lifelong process. Sin is not a neighbor to holiness, nor addiction to freedom, nor brokenness to wholeness. I don’t know why these things last longer for some than others, and I don’t know why healing and change sometimes don’t come this side of heaven.
But I do know God loves each of us and is with us wherever we find ourselves.
In the book of Daniel, three Jewish boys named Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, were given the choice by king Nebuchadnezzar to worship a false god or be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire. They responded:
If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:16 – 18).
They had been stripped from their home and taken into captivity in Babylon, with no promise of ever being able to return. Everything around them was Babylonian. Everyone around them was bowing. Who would have blamed them if they bowed, too?
If these three boys related to God with an attitude of entitlement, they would have reasoned, “It’s not my fault I’m in Babylon, threatened with death. God can’t blame me if I bow to another god.”
If they related to God with a consumer mentality, they would have reasoned, “The God of Israel didn’t keep me from captivity, but the king of Babylon has treated me well, so I’ll bow to him.”
If they related to God as many in our day relate with God, they may have reasoned, “Since I’m in Babylon and can’t see that changing, it must be God’s will for me to bow to their king.”
• Remembered God is able to deliver them even though it looked impossible.
• Trusted God would deliver them.
• Affirmed their commitment to God even if He didn’t deliver them, no matter the cost.
Their faithfulness wasn’t contingent on what God had done for them (remember they were in exile), was doing for them in the moment, or would do for them.
For all who wrestle with sin or temptation (or any difficult situation for that matter) these three Jewish boys lead the charge for us. However foolish our choice appears to those around us, however lonely, tempting, or long our “exile” feels, we can choose Jesus.
But let me also add: We have great reason to hope not just for the life to come, but also in this present life. The three boys were forced into the furnace, where they came face to face with Jesus and were delivered completely.
For all who walk a long, difficult road, who knows what is yet in store for you?
I’d love to hear from you. How do you maintain hope even through all the ups and downs of your struggle? Leave a comment here.