Thought for the Week - 4th JulyHelen Watkins
2 Timothy 1: 7
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
Mankind is very adept at being slippery. No matter what walk we are in life, we’re all extremely slippery. We duck and dive in what we need to do.
In Timothy above, we see that God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but power, love and self-discipline. This is a well-known verse and one we often hold onto when we first become Christians and things become tough. We all like to home in on the fear, timidity and the power; but the bit we never think about is the “self-discipline” part. Without that part, the rest of it doesn’t really come into play. It all goes hand in hand. One leads to the other. We can’t have one without the other. Like all scripture, we can’t pick and choose.
If we have no self-discipline and no self-control, we are a lost cause. If we can’t discipline ourselves in the things of God, we can be a bit of a lost cause, floundering all over the place and with nothing to anchor ourselves. We do what we want and may as well stay out in the world.
Disciplining ourselves in the things of God can be one of the hardest things in our lives. It’s a hard task. Human nature hasn’t changed since the beginning of time.
Thomas à Kempis was a Dutch German preacher in the 14th century who said: “Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall have abundance of peace”. What a wonderful way to live – to have that peace when everything around us is pulling us and crowding us, and trying to drag us down and away. He talks of discipline and self-control in our lives. If we have control in our lives, it’s the perfect way to live.
Having human nature, it’s easy to blame the flesh. We blame one another, we blame our nature etc. It’s easy for us to blame other things. It’s almost like a spiritual denial. We need to bring everything under God. We think it’s a hard task, but we need to bring every single thing – our spiritual walk, our finances, the way we are, our jobs, everything – under God. Sometimes there needs to be a revisiting. So often we walk off on into life and wonder why we’re not going any further and why we’re not getting over a certain issue or problem. We can lose focus and can almost start to question God. We take our focus off and start to get run down. We start to lose our trust in what God does for us.
Amy Carmichael was a woman who went out to India in the early 19th century to rescue children from temple prostitution. It was a work that no one wanted to get involved in. The heart of man hasn’t changed. We still see the same sinful things, with children being invaded by the world and robbed of their innocence. We need to keep them as far from the things of harm, which we can’t do in our own strength, and can only do under God. Amy said that there should be no small task to do – what needs to be done, either in the Church or asked by God – whatever is asked we should do.
As human beings, whatever is asked of us to do, the first thing we think is “do I really have to do it”, or “I’m busy” or “how do I get out of that”. Sometimes, God is only asking us to do something small. Sometimes, there needs to come back that closeness to God. Whatever He asks us to do, and whatever it costs us, we are willing to do it. It comes back to the self-discipline. We often forget the voice of the Father. We forget what He sounds like. We forget there’s a God that calls us day by day to walk in His footsteps and to be faithful to Him. We get up and run off into the day and perhaps forget about Him until the evening. We need to direct our lives again, that God is first and foremost. In both the small and the big things.
We need to begin to lead a self-disciplined life. So often, we lead such chaotic lives, because it’s almost as though the world has swamped us. God is on the peripherals and we bring Him in as and when it suits. We get pulled in so many directions – job, life, children, and families. We’re almost conditioned to be chaotic. God is trying to say that He understands but that He needs us to be disciplined – that whatever He asks us to do, we will do.
For the most part, we’d all like a work like Amy Carmichael. But we can’t help other people until we’ve sorted our own selves out. And our spiritual lives are right with God ourselves. The victory needs to start in our own lives. We’re very good at directing other people and showing other people, but it needs to be in our lives first. It needs to come into us first and foremost.
God calls us one by one. His fear is that we grow lukewarm. That whatever doesn’t suit us, we push aside rather than pushing through. God comes alongside us and He’ll ask us to do things for Him. We can moan that He’s always asking things of us. We’re in this walk for Him. This is the reason He has saved Him. He has called us to walk for Him. He has saved us from an eternal damnation, and is going to prepare a place for us in heaven, but He’s called us to be servants of the Most High. We can’t be servants of the Most High if we don’t do the little things.
We’re sometimes not a disciplined people. Perhaps it’s not the way we’ve grown up or have developed as adults. It’s easier to walk a lesser walk and the wider path if it doesn’t suit. We’re very good at saying “but God told me to do…” or “the Holy Spirit told me not to do…”. But we can be mistaken. It something takes us away from a path that’s not aligned with Gods way – that is one way we know it’s not right. We need to be disciplined. We need to say that, whatever God asks of us, we will try our best to do it. He takes us slowly. He takes us over the small, gentle things. He prepares us day by day, hour by hour. The small things that we can cope with.
But there will come a time when the deeper and the stronger come. Things will bite and not go our way, and things will get deeper and harder. When we become lukewarm, things are not going well, and when things don’t suit us, we want to stay away from God and try to deal with things ourselves… but that is the thing that will never happen. We’ll never deal with things ourselves. Once we come out of the body, the enemy comes in like a roaring lion. He tells us all sorts of things. Especially if we’re on rocky ground to start with, he can pick us off. We think we’re strong enough, but even Christ needed His disciples as a fellowship. He was Christ and had fellowship with His Father and His disciples on a daily basis. How much more do we need it – that strength and support.
Bishop Barnsley said there is nothing we haven’t heard before, but we need reminding from time to time why we live this life, why we do these things, why we follow a saviour. In our hearts to say I will follow you in whatever you ask. We need to remind ourselves why do we follow? When things are really not going our way, when we’re struggling, when temptation is coming, when things are coming up against us, why do we do it? Why do we fight our way? Because there is an easier walk. We could just carry on as we are, sit in pews and sing the songs. But in our hearts we die a bit every week. We die a bit, and we die a bit, and we die a bit, until there is nothing left. God needs to grow in us. God needs to be nurtured in us, and we need to drink deeply from Him. There is a high calling, a place where we can be truly free in our minds, where we are settled in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.
We don’t know where we’re going to find ourselves. We don’t know where God is going to take us. We will be tested and things will come our way. God says not worry about trial and temptations. Wherever you are, there is a calling where you can be free in your mind. Sometimes, all you need – whether its illness, separation, family difficulties – is that peace. If you haven’t got that peace you can’t put a handle on anything. Whatever news come you can’t deal with it and you can’t cope. Your mind just runs wild. There are a lot of lives that are fragile, where we’ve put our trust in other things. God is saying to put your trust in Him. He has made you strong because of the circumstances you’re in and some have grasped the vision and have run. But others have fallen down. It can happen to us all because we’re weak. We can’t do this in our own strength. It’s often because we don’t like to be told. If we follow what God is telling us to do, and we’re obedient in the small things, that peace comes.
One of the biggest things in holding us is our bible and scripture. We need to read it. We need to memorise verses that speak to us. So when we’re in time of trouble, and when we need to feed, these verses can hold us. When we just get up and say a quick prayer, when we go to church meetings, these are the biggest things that hold us. But we try to manage and do things in our own way. Before we know it, we wonder why we’re feeling like we are – why are things troubling us, why aren’t we getting over a sin, why are we floundering over something that not so long back we would’ve leapt over? It’s us. God hasn’t moved. We have decided not to do what we need to do. God knows our very nature. He knows us, but it doesn’t excuse us. At some point we have to realise within ourselves – we say “this far and no further”. And we do those things He has asked of us again.
Christ when He was on earth, drew thousands to Himself. When He was healing the sick, telling them stories, feeding them. The people loved Him. It’s a bit like us. When we’re having from of God the walk is lovely. When we’re being fed, receiving good teaching and a good Word, answers to prayer and seeing souls set free, we’re fine. But when we have to face things that aren’t so pleasant, when things cost too much, where we have to do things that are an inconvenience, we often want to run and hide. But we do these things because God asks us.
It’s good every so often to question ourselves. We’re good Christians when things are good. But when circumstances are testing or rocky, we can often flounder. The time of testing comes, because it tests who we are. If we look back over patriarch, matriarch and person in the bible, they were tested. When God comes to a life, there is a peace and tranquillity, and we catch a sense of the vision. It’s not often found, because we try to mould it our way. That’s our human mind-set. If we find God telling us to go in a certain direction, we can’t do it. That’s why we need help.
When we search and run after Him, God draws alongside. He speaks through His Word, His presence, the worship. His peace comes and you find that you can’t live as a nominal Christian. If the church can’t live in a certain way, what hope have we got for humanity? Our main role is to show Christ and lead others to Him. We can’t do that until we recognise it ourselves. We need to be right with God, put temporal things aside, and come to the very edge of ourselves.
Sometimes we can feel disappointed in this life, and we can feel let down. That is the very time we go to God. There is victory and there is power in Him. We need to be empowered in Christ, not by ourselves. We need to know that there is no spirit of fear and there is no timidity. But there also needs to come a self-control. We need to get to know the mind of God – not second hand through our ministers, but we need to know ourselves. We need to recognise when we’re not right. We need to be humble sometimes in our walk to recognise and to go before God.
God has called us for a purpose. He has called us not to be dependent on each other, or on friends and family. But to be dependent on Him. The biggest person in the bible who went through the most torment, destruction and loss was Job. We read in Job 23: 10:
“But He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”
We need to realise that when God has tried us, when we’ve come to the end of ourselves, when all else is raging in our minds, when we cannot find peace, He is asking us to come to a place. He is asking us to have self-control in our lives. That we are disciplined soldiers. We are disciplined people to say whatever He asks to do, we will do.
God is asking us to come to a higher walk. To catch the vision again. To come to a place where He wants to take us up higher.
We become lazy in God. We become ill-disciplined. We become complacent. We find this way hard. But God asks us to just come and be filled.
Such a powerful word.