Struggles, Trials & Strife
What can I say about the struggles of mankind, and the strife that we deal with and live with in our every day lives? Perhaps the only credence I can offer this post is to speak from my own perspective, for we all have struggles, trials and strife in life, and we all suffer in our own ways.
There are times I feel like I'm stuck in a bog, in a pool of quicksand, and that every movement I make I become even more stuck, even more exhausted from struggling. As well, it feels as if this bog is in the center of a battle field, right in between two combatant armies, with blood and death all around. I could go on with metaphor after metaphor representing pain and suffering of this world, that each of us endure, but I suppose I wanted to ultimately post this thread to help each other come together with encouragement, and discuss why we have these struggles, and what is behind it all...
The first thing that comes to mind at this moment is a question. What would have Jesus done in times of struggle, trials and strife? I believe that answer is clear, he would have prayed.
Mth 26:41 "Keep on the watch and pray continually, so that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit, of course, is eager, but the flesh is weak.”
One of the biggest and most important changes I have ever made in my every day service to Jehovah is something I think is appropriate to share here. I'm sure you've had those moments when you pray at night, before falling asleep. What happens? Your prayers are usually short because you are tired, or you simply don't finish your prayer after falling asleep, and regretting it the next morning.
Instead, I would like to share what change I made in this regard. Subsequently I dedicated a room in the house that I could go to in privacy at a certain time of day, and I would dedicate that time to prayer, when I was fully awake, and with my full attention. I have to exclaim that this is no doubt one of the most important changes I have ever made in my service to Jehovah in my daily life. I would highly recommend everyone reading this post to consider taking such actions if they have found themselves in prayer at times where they could not offer their full attention.
From my experience I find that my struggles and strife are usually of my own making, from choices in life, to consequences of actions. Not least of which the thorns in my flesh are ever present due to inherited sin, however it is my closeness to Jehovah, and my relationship with him that is at stake, and my sin results in this perceived distance from him. I find that I can whether the storms quite tolerably if I only maintain that closeness with our creator, but all to often it seems it is my own weak flesh that pulls me away from that close relationship with our God, rather then anything in this world hindering me. In essence, I only have myself to blame...
Please read the following scriptures;
Rom 8:31-39 "What, then, are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who will be against us? Since he did not even spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, will he not also, along with him, kindly give us all other things? Who will file accusation against God’s chosen ones? God is the One who declares them righteous. Who will condemn them? Christ Jesus is the one who died, yes, more than that the one who was raised up, who is at the right hand of God and who also pleads for us. Who will separate us from the love of the Christ? Will tribulation or distress or persecution or hunger or nakedness or danger or sword? Just as it is written: “For your sake we are being put to death all day long; we have been accounted as sheep for slaughtering.” On the contrary, in all these things we are coming off completely victorious through the one who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor governments nor things now here nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
It is impossible for us to not sin, we have inherited this condition through our genealogy.
Rom 5:12 "That is why, just as through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because they had all sinned."
But just like everyone else in this world I have my own struggles in life, and I don't know if it's my desire to grow to perfection, or to simply write it down to visualize it, but I wish to share a bit of what's going on in my head at this time.
Recently I had a conversation about sin and the pleasures of life with one of our brothers. We discussed whether some pleasures of this world were a hindrance, such as alcohol, or activities that could push the limits of decency. I don't mean to say this brothers opinion was any more lackadaisical then my own, but just that the difference of opinion got me thinking. The statement that stood out the most from him was; "Personally, I don't think that we'll be approved by personal asceticism." What an interesting statement that was. Some may not have paused and considered that comment further, but to me it sparked a huge debate in my mind, and the very first thing I did was look at that word he used, "asceticism".
as·cet·i·cism = "severe self-discipline and avoidance of all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons"
While on the surface it seems that he's right, and we aren't saved by our fasting, but yet it remains a part of service to Jehovah. Let me explain...
The next thing that comes to mind are individuals in Biblical history, such as Moses, Jonah and John the Baptist. Moses didn't want to go back to Egypt, he killed a man and new that there was a possibility it was a very bad idea to return.
Jonah in no way wanted to go to Nineveh, but in the end he did. Why?
John the Baptist ate no delicacies, nor drank wines, but lived on locusts and wild honey in the wilderness, and was denoted by our Lord as the greatest man to have lived up to that point. Why did John sacrifice his fleshly desires in such a way that many others didn't, wouldn't have, nor perhaps even were expected too? That's the question I want to focus on for a moment.
Sacrifice of our fleshly desires is a part of service to Jehovah, otherwise there would be no such thing as sin. We would be able to do whatever our fleshly desire deems is appropriate, however we know this is not the case. But yet one could take the other extreme and live a life of complete physical asceticism. What is appropriate?
First, we do have clear cut understandings from our Lord as to what makes up sin, as we are all fully aware of, but there can be grey areas, where personal judgement must come into play.
The three men I mentioned all had similar circumstances as to the reasons they made the choices they did in their service to Jehovah. Moses spoke to God directly, Jonah spoke to God directly, and no doubt John was given the information that God spoke to his parents through his angel (Whether all were most likely representatives of Jehovah is irrelevant to the conversation). So then the choices they made in service to God, and their responsibilities were based on direct correspondence with God, except perhaps John (In these three examples). So then we have more in common with John, then we do with these others, as our service is not based on direct communication with God, but rather that of what we have learned from what has been given us through eye witness accounts.
This brings me to a question about sacrifice. At what level do we sacrifice or fast as to our personal indulgences in this world in order to do Gods will? Is it responsibility or the role we play in Gods kingdom that is the deciding factor? And given we don't have a direct communication channel with God, other then the Bible itself, how do we determine the correct level of service, or better said, the correct level of asceticism?
At which point I'm brought to the next statement by our brother: "I think that you must let some things go, I mean, what you think is important to fight against may not be what Jehovah sees as important, and let Jehovah's Spirit fashion you as He sees fit." And this statement got me thinking, this really is a huge part of our faith, as to what level of service or what responsibility we have in Gods kingdom.
Let me brake it down even a little further. Let's think about a few individuals that we are associated with in our modern world. Some of which may or may not have direct commissions from God, or may or may not be part of fulfilling prophecy, but unlike many of Gods servants in the past, none of these modern men have a direct communication channel with God, so the only thing they do have to go on is their own convictions, knowledge of scripture, and Gods Spirit that works within them.
Now, we do know that with extra responsibility more is expected;
Luk 12:48 "Indeed, everyone to whom much was given, much will be demanded of him, and the one who was put in charge of much will have more than usual demanded of him."
So here in lies the detail in this train of thought. Even though John the Baptist had knowledge of God speaking with his father, we are not told he had a direct communication channel with him, and yet he decided to live a life of fasting from many pleasures of life. Why? Is the answer; It was God's Spirit within him that directed him, and molded him into the style of life he lived because of the great responsibility he carried in Gods work? John was spoken of so gracefully by Christ Jesus because he excepted that life of fasting in accordance with the great responsibility he fulfilled in prophecy. It was by Johns acceptance of his role in God's kingdom, and by his ascetic lifestyle, that he was spoken of so well. It might be said that the Spirit in John directed him to live such a life, because of the responsibilities he carried in fulfilling his role in prophecy.
And this leads me to our brothers last statement: "Perfection isn't attained by working against our fleshly drives but by letting God's Holy Spirit deaden them, otherwise it's a losing battle"
As I get older, I am beginning to understand that when we get into grey areas of indulgences of life, or the fasting from them, this is a matter of conscience based on the Spirit that resides in us from God. When we have two faithful brothers discussing the struggles they face in the world, it appears that many times it is the struggles against the Holy Spirit within us we are fighting, or not fighting that brings about many struggles of life. The Holy Spirit that resides in us is directing us, molding us, forging us by fire through our struggles and strife, and it is that Spirit of God that drives our conscience, that inner voice that is telling us we are either on the right path, or that we need to make adjustments in accord with God's will for us.
Rom 8:16 "The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children."
1Joh 2:27 "And as for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to be teaching you; but the anointing from him is teaching you about all things and is true and is no lie. Just as it has taught you, remain in union with him."
Stay strong my friends, and rely on Jehovah's Spirit that resides in you...
The Joshua Stone