Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Cease Your Striving

 By: Rebekah Hargraves

Photo Courtesy of: John Arano

"I say, then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh desireswhat is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law."

~Galatians 5:16-18

Have you ever lamented the fact that you find yourself struggling with the same sins over and over and over again? If you're anything like me, there is a certain sin or group of sins (for me it is often selfish anger and impatience) that seem to hold you in a vice grip no matter what you do. For some reason, you just can't seem to shake them.

May I gently offer an answer as to why it is that you can't seem to shake them? It could be that you are attempting to throw them off all on your own. It could be that you are striving in your own strength to ward off those besetting sins. It could be that you find those fruits of the Spirit to be so evasive that you wake up in the morning telling yourself you are going to be the most loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled person there ever was, only to find this fall woefully short the moment your feet hit the floor in the morning.

What if I told you, though, that verses before Paul ever even outlined for us what exactly the fruits of the Spirit are in Galatians 5:22-23, he actually first provided us with the answer for how to see those be cultivated in our lives? Wouldn't that be so encouraging? 

Well, the good news is, he did just that!

In verses 16-18, we discover what the key is to living the victorious Christian life - it is to walk by the Spirit! That's it! When we walk by the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh (and, alternatively, will live out the fruits of the Spirit instead!). 

You may be wondering, though, what it means to walk by the Spirit. What does that look like? How do we do that?

Well, I have more good news for you! It's actually far simpler than we might think (we too often tend to over-complicate things, don't we?). Walking by the Spirit is simply being in relationship with God. It is reading and studying the Word, taking thoughts captive to its truth, remaining consistently in prayer, listening for the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit and paying attention to and heeding it, being involved in iron-that-sharpens iron Christian community that will point you to Christ and be faithful counselors to you, and looking to God for the wisdom you need instead of to the "experts" (see James 1:5). 

That's it! Walking by the Spirit is walking in daily relationship with God, and the fruit that then is naturally produced through an intimate relationship with God is the fruit of the Spirit. No striving necessary!

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