(For your convenience an Audio of this post follows the end. Just hit play)
This issue has been on my mind for a while now but has increased in the last few months because of a specific component in my life. A few months ago, I decided I would like to have an app on my phone that I could tap into throughout the day. I looked at many, and all fell short for various reasons. I did find one that looked like it had the potential to be pretty close to what I was looking for. It had two things that I really liked and seemed to fit the bill: A “Daily Bread, Verse of the Day,” sort of thing – the short, thought-provoking blurb – and a “prayer” feed. I will take every precaution not to reveal the app as I continue to pray for God to use them for His work.
My problem was that the approach seemed to be more from a “social justice” frame of mind. As you may know by now, I have an issue with that misinterpretation; however, for now, I only want to talk about one thing: “the struggle.” This was the topic of the occasional “daily” but the majority of the “prayer requests.” Pray for me “I am struggling” with a porn addiction. Pray for me “I am struggling” with alcoholism. Pray for me “I am struggling” with drug abuse. Pray for me “I am struggling” with affairs in my marriage. As I read these day after day and I saw people saying “I am a Christian” or “a returning Christian” but “I am struggling,” I wondered would anyone say, “Stop struggling… choose God”?
I want to tell you about two friends of mine, but first, I will tell you about my cousin. This cousin comes from the branch of the family tree to which my mother belonged. This branch is filled with alcoholic fruit. My mother, however, was the glad recipient of God using the sad circumstances of death and poverty to save her and her fruit (her descendants) from this generational curse. As a result, she had a hatred for the damage alcohol brought her family, and she spent her life fighting it. None of her brothers lived long lives; they were taken by this curse. This cousin is one of her brother’s children and was raised in an environment where the only god was alcohol – it was always present. My uncle’s children, including this one, reproduced that environment in their adult lives until one day, in his early forties as he approached the age of his father’s death, he met the True God. On that day, the family curse was broken for him. On that day, he no longer wanted to drink; so, he didn’t. Even though his world was built with this ingredient, he didn’t. Because alcohol was the world in which he lived, the pressure from even those who loved him was to drink, but he didn’t. He had truly chosen God and that meant, “no other god before Him;” so, he didn’t drink again. I grew up seeing the pressures of that world first hand. I know he chose God not because he didn’t “want” to drink, but because he didn’t drink.
OK, on to my two friends. These friends smoked since high school. A pack or two a day depending on the time period you choose. They continued this habit for over 20 years. Over those years, they “tried” to quit many times, and every time they failed. They quit because it was getting too expensive or because they “knew” they shouldn’t. Then, one day, they both decided they didn’t “want” to smoke anymore. From the moment that choice was made, they never did again. I know a lot of people will justify and say, “It’s just not that easy for everyone.” No, it’s not that easy for anyone, including my two friends. They “struggled” and fought against the habit many times. The difference this time was that they weren’t lying to themselves. They actually wanted to stop; so, they did.
The lesson doesn’t stop there. While they were still smoking, they took some of the typical smoker’s views on the impact their choice had on those around them: “There’s no real proof second hand smoke harms anyone.” or “The smoke is not that bad. They’re exaggerating.” And various others. What happened when they actually didn’t want to smoke anymore? They found themselves in restaurants disturbed by “the drift.” They realized smoking was “nasty,” not just to themselves but to everyone around them. They even realized they hadn’t really tasted food in a long time. Even though they never smoked in the car with me and always chose the non-smoking section when we went out together, they apologized for the lack of consideration they had as smokers.
This leads me to my next point. Both of these people are good friends and good people, but I want to talk about the one I have had since 6th grade. Anyone who has had the “pleasure” of hearing me get up on my soapbox has heard the following: “Before you can claim to be a ‘good’ Christian, you have to at least be a good person.” And “The worst Christian should be at least as good as the best non-Christian.” Or “The best non-Christian should be where every good Christian begins.” You see, this friend has never chosen God in his life. He believes the God of his childhood church exists, but he has not chosen Him in his life; he is an “unbeliever.” Measured with that understanding, he has always been a person of good character. He showed me every day that there is such a thing as “right and wrong” and that it is built into our design. He also showed me a character too seldom seen in the “Christians” in the world. Without the benefit these Christians are supposed to have, the guidance of God’s Spirit, he chose right. Without the strength these Christians are supposed to stand on, Christ, he has the courage and the commitment of his convictions. So, he is to me and those around me who seek my input the standard bearer of the least we as “believers” should be.
Back to the app. I don’t want to single it out because it is not unlike what I have observed my whole life. I have seen people with various “addictions” say they choose God but they still “struggle” to stop their ungodly habit. Then, like the people in the app, the “godly” coddle them. They tell them they understand “the struggle” and know it’s hard. Where is that in Scripture? Don’t tell them it’s hard! (Read Romans 8!) Tell them Christ died in victory over that sin. Tell them that if they died to that sin with Christ, then that sin is beaten, “go and sin no more.” I have also seen those who chose God and chose to stop their ungodly habit. If we are honest, we will admit that we’ve all had things in our lives we knew God wouldn’t approve of but just could not stop doing. Or, to be more honest, we didn’t completely want to. This is why I gave the above examples. They illustrate that when we truly choose something or truly choose to stop something, fulfilling that choice is not a “struggle.” Is the “world” around you going to make it easy? No! But as my friends showed, when you truly choose to stop something, letting go of it is not a “struggle.” What my cousin showed is that when you truly choose God above all other gods, letting go of that other god is not a “struggle.” And that is the point. We say, “I choose God, but I am ‘struggling’ to let go of ungodly things.” The undeniable “Truth Is,” what we are “struggling” to do is choose God. Yes, that is it. If even one person without God can defeat these evils with one decision, then how much more should a person with God be victorious over them? If a person who does not know God can have good character, then how much more should a person who has God and is in pursuit of His character dwarf that of the unbeliever? If an unbeliever can let go of a sin, then can a believer who claims the sacrifice of Christ at the same time claim a “struggle” to let go of that same sin?
I can quote many Scriptures about the power of God and the inability of this world to defeat those who choose Him. I already have throughout this site. In particular, the “Is” series and the “RU” series. It isn’t that I don’t want you to know them that I don’t list them here. It’s that I want you to experience them. I “want you to want” them. Then, I want you to choose to get them. So, please read through the posts. Before going through the series, start with “Don’t Want… Want More” and then “The Hateful Christian.” This should help with part of the problem: if you’re struggling, you’re spending too much time looking back at what you say you have chosen to stop, time you should be using to look forward to Whom you say you have chosen. So, “Stop Struggling… Choose God,” or as Tozer and my mom often said: “Straighten up your life, Man!”
At the beginning of the post, I said I have had this on my mind for some time. I have, I just didn’t quite know how to address it directly. Then, this morning, I listened to this sermon from Tozer where he said, “Straighten up your life, Man!” His words in this sermon organized my thoughts and as they say… Voila! To aid me in my presentation and you in your reception, I provide below the sermon Tozer gave in December 1953 that explains that very quote.
The full sermon was from the Gospel of John titled “Prepare Ye the Way of The Lord.”