As expected, Emmanuel Macron won reelection in France’s presidential contest yesterday, defeating far-right rival Marine Le Pen. However, there’s more to the story: Le Pen’s party received more support than ever before and, as Reuters reports, many “only voted for [Macron] reluctantly to block the far-right from winning.” As a result, “Protests that marred part of his first mandate could erupt again quite quickly.”
Closer to home, this headline caught my eye: “Hot, hungry alligators are taking lonely strolls in Florida.” Why is this story “closer to home” for someone who lives in Texas? My brother lives in Florida not far from where these alligators are roaming, which makes this news an existential concern for me.
Here’s another story I found interesting: a woman whose left leg was amputated below the knee due to cancer has completed 102 marathons in 102 days on a prosthetic leg. Why would she embark on such a staggering undertaking? She explained that running “helped me accept myself as an amputee. It gave me a sense of freedom.”
Let’s consider one more story: you probably heard that former world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson punched a man on a flight last Wednesday. This sounds like a boxer picking fights outside the ring. But we now know that the passenger he punched has a long criminal record. And a spokesman for Mr. Tyson explained that the man “began harassing him and threw a water bottle at him while he was in his seat,” precipitating Mr. Tyson’s reaction.
These stories make this point: There is often something we don’t know about people or events that puts them in a new light. This fact is more relevant to our souls and to our culture than we might imagine.
The solution for “besetting” sins
Jesus called his followers “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14, my emphasis). The definite article points to the fact that Christians are the only “light” of the entire “world.” However, to be effective in the dark, our light must not be hidden (v. 15) and must “give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (v. 16). To “be the change we wish to see,” we must be changed before God can use us to change others.
As a result, we know that we need to “be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:15) if we are to serve and represent our holy God faithfully (v. 16). We must “give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4:27) by resisting him (James 4:7) and refusing temptation (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:18).
However, many Christians face what theologians call “besetting sins” (cf. Hebrews 12:1 KJV), defined as sins “we continually struggle with and have a weakness toward.” These are temptations we cannot defeat in our own strength.
What are yours?
The good news is that our omniscient Lord knows us better than we know ourselves (1 John 3:20). He therefore knows what we do not know that explains the “besetting” sins with which we struggle. And he stands ready to guide us, forgive us, and empower us by his Spirit so fully that we are “more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
How can we experience such victory today?
“The only concern of Christian workers”
Our Lord promises, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13, my emphasis). To this end, Oswald Chambers noted: “The only concern of Christian workers should be their concentration on God. This will mean that all the other boundaries of life, whether they are mental, moral, or spiritual limits, are completely free with the freedom God gives his child.”
He warned us: “A worker who lacks this serious controlling emphasis of concentration on God is apt to become overly burdened by his work. He is a slave to his own limits, having no freedom of his body, mind, or spirit. Consequently, he becomes burned out and defeated. There is no freedom and no delight in life at all. His nerves, mind, and heart are so overwhelmed that God’s blessing cannot rest on him.”
By contrast, “Once our concentration is on God, all the limits of our life are free and under the control and mastery of God alone. There is no longer any responsibility on you for the work. The only responsibility you have is to stay in living constant touch with God, and to see that you allow nothing to hinder your cooperation with him.”
Chambers concludes: “God engineers everything; and wherever he places us, our one supreme goal should be to pour out our lives in wholehearted devotion to him in that particular work.”
“Invade all my thoughts”
I plan to focus tomorrow on practical ways to “concentrate” on God so fully that we find victory over “besetting” sins and thus become catalysts for spiritual renewal in our broken culture. For today, let’s close by choosing to take these sins to Jesus in the knowledge that only he can give us the victory we need.
Commenting on Paul’s assurance that “we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37 KJV), Charles Spurgeon encouraged us to “take your sins to Christ’s cross, for the old man can only be crucified there.” If you are struggling with “your besetting sin,” he added, “you will never be delivered from it in any way but by the blood of Jesus.” He concluded: “You must be conquerors through him who hath loved you, if conqueror at all.”
To this end, I have found Scottish minister John Baillie’s prayer helpful and encourage you to make its words your own today:
Invade all my thoughts. Pervade all my imaginations. Suggest all my decisions. Make your home in the most secret place of my will and inspire all my actions. Be with me in my silence and in my speech, in my hurry and in my leisure, in company and in solitude, in the freshness of the morning and in the weariness of the evening; and give me grace at all times to rejoice in the comforting mystery of your companionship.
Why do you need such “companionship” today?
NOTE: A long historical precedent exists for Christians being pushed to the margins of society. In fact, the early church began that way under Roman rule. Yet how did they choose to live and model what it means to follow Christ? That’s one answer that Ryan Denison, PhD, seeks to provide in our latest book, How to Bless God by Blessing Others. I encourage you to request your copy of our new book today so that you too may see how the past holds a blueprint for our future.