For the past few days I have been away from home attending a Bible conference and our convention’s annual meeting. These days have been full of listening to the Word of God preached, prayer time together with fellow pastors and their spouses, and times of refreshment from the Spirit of the living God. I love these times. I need these times. In fact, I have come to long for these times.
When I attend something of this nature, I always walk away and try to evaluate what I have learned and what I will take home with me which will make a difference in my walk with Christ.
So, what did I learn this time around? It may seem strange, but as I read over my notes and recount the deluge of spiritual nourishment I received, I realize I really didn’t learn anything “new.” But, what did I get out of it? Hmm… basically, the same thing I usually get out of a conference like this:
- urgency in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ,
- perseverance in the calling on my life,
- significance in His service,
- purpose in where I am planted, and
- renewal in my relationship with my Savior.
When I put these points down in print, it seems crazy that I would need to be reminded of the same things over and over again. Why is that? I believe I found my answer this morning as I began to read in the Psalms. Psalm 18 is a praise to the Lord for giving deliverance. David certainly had good reason to praise the Lord for his deliverance — his very life was on the line many times. Vs. 3 says “I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.”
Enemies. I realize from this verse I have enemies too. But, my enemies may not always come in human form. I have never actually had my life threatened, nor have I had to hide from someone trying to physically kill me. Yet, I battle real enemies daily. My enemies attack through various forms of weaponry, but typically hit the bulls-eye through these arsenal forms:
- loss of focus,
- distraction from my calling,
- sense of lack of purpose, and
- plain ‘ole weariness.
When I read the scriptures, I realize I am not alone in these areas —
Moses dealt with discouragement; remember the fit he had when he smote the rock? It cost him the Promise Land.
Jonah lost his focus; bet he never bargained on the serving of “fish ‘n chips” he had for the next three days.
David got distracted from his calling; need I say more than “Bathsheba?”
The Prodigal Son became discontent and squandered all his inheritance; he would never view pork chops the same again.
The Israelites dealt with lack of purpose while they grumbled in the wilderness. “We’re fed up to “here” with manna and quail for cryin’ outloud!”
And bless Jeremiah’s heart, he became so weary he thought he was the only one who was trying to do good. I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt — certainly, we all have felt like Jeremiah at some point.
No, I am certainly not alone. In fact, I believe we as humans have a natural tendency to become discontent and lose our focus from time to time. Why is this?
The Bible tells me my enemy, Satan, roams around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (I Peter 5:8) He and his wicked-minded demons know, oh too well, how to attack me. They know how to kick me when I’m down by telling me there is no significance in what I do — I lack purpose — I am too tired — I am too weary — I am not making a difference — why not just quit… would it really matter anyway? Discontentment slithers up when I’m not armed for battle, rears its ugly head, takes aim, and convinces me with it’s venomous strike that “it’s all about me,” and since it’s all about me, certainly I deserve better. So there. The poison begins to pump through the veins of my vulnerable state and quickly permeates every area of my thought process, engulfing into a monster of self-centeredness, and I find myself succumbing to the numbing effect, stumbling, tripping, and falling — tumbling out of control.
Whew! I’m glad I got that out in the open. Yes, I admit it — I have enemies! And yes, I succumb to my enemies more often than I would like to admit. But, if we were all honest, I believe each of us would admit to our own struggle of fighting enemies. That’s why it is so important for we, as believers, to be with godly people who will not only pray for us, but will challenge us spiritually. Yes, I can stay in the Word, pray at home, do all the things I know are godly and right, yet, there is something about being spiritually lifted and challenged (iron sharpening iron) when I get among other believers that turns me back in the right direction and sets my feet firmly — again — on the Rock of my Salvation.
Why do I go to Bible conferences and retreats? For one thing, I’m reminded I am not alone in this spiritual battle; others deal with some of the same type things I do. I learn from them, hear their openness in struggle, grow from their experiences, and am encouraged to press on. Why do I continue, week after week, to go to church? The same reason. I need that spiritual challenge, encouragement, and feeling of spiritual comradery that comes from being with God’s people. Yes, I need to worship, but I believe being with God’s people is part of worship — otherwise, Jesus would not have warned us about forsaking the assembling of ourselves together. He knows we need each other.
Yes, I will continue to battle my enemies, but I also know where my weaknesses lie and they will only be overcome by staying in the Word, on my knees in prayer, and rubbing shoulders with other believers who love the same Savior I serve. We are not to isolate ourselves in this spiritual army. God did not create us to be sole warriors — He expects us to pull together in this Kingdom march.
We have a real enemy — (let me whisper this in your ear) — he thinks he is winning. But I have news for him — (stand back because I’m about to shout this next statement) — we have a real Savior and He has already won!