God leads us and by faith we must trust Him. This can be difficult when the season is long and we would prefer to escape it rather than stand where He would have us for a time, doing what He has positioned us to do, and learning the lessons He has to teach. We can be sure that not one moment in this place of refinement will be wasted by the Master Refiner, for He desires to shape us into a vessel that is useful and easily poured out.
One element of the flesh that many struggle with and must smelted out is operating in self-effort to make or change circumstances/people/things in our own way and time, rather than waiting upon the Lord and doing it His way. There are many causes of self-effort such as our desire to change something, prove we are good enough, or as an attempt to run from a variety of issues such as unpleasant circumstances, grief, misunderstandings, or other wounds to our hearts. We can fall into the trap of being the fixer and operate with a strong sense of justice, fairness, or right and wrong. We find any hill to fight on in order to bring forth the good we think should be manifested at a particular time and place – even if it means stepping out of His grace and mercy and fighting to the proverbial or literal death.
When operating in self-effort, we can grow impatient with circumstances, processes, other people’s attitudes and actions, or even ourselves. When we strike out to fix the world with our own means, limited viewpoints, and judgmental attitudes we will spiral ever downward until we hit rock bottom and all that is left is us and God. We may forfeit relationships, careers, health, money, time, or other blessings most precious to us. What an uncomfortable place to discover that even with all of own attempts and actions in the flesh these did not bring life or light in a situation. Instead we realize that we contributed more confusion, regret, and animosity.
We find we are in a tail spin downward, pushing everyone away to demand our own opinions to be heard and applied. We take the offenses, humiliations, rejections, and flaming arrows to heart and choose to operate from our flesh to tell someone off, point out their deficiencies or unfairness of a situation, or handle the issue with arguments and strife rather than with His grace, love, and wisdom. We might snap out at others and demand our own way, especially if we think we are right. Even if we are right, how wrong we are in our delivery when it is not done with His love and grace. We can become so frustrated that we fail to handle all those dear souls around us with the Lord’s gentleness and love.
When God calls us to take a stand, He will provide the way, give words of wisdom to speak, and anoint even our hands to work righteousness in the situation. Even in light of this fact, we self-efforters find is easier to our flesh to evaluate the situation, formulate a plan, and proceed without caution. With such a mindset, we continually kick against the pricks and our efforts are futile, for the means we choose hurt not only ourselves but those around us. When we do it our way, our efforts are wasted for we are no closer to being conformed into Christ’s image. Our Lord sees what needs to be accomplished in every situation, He sees the wrong done in the open and in secret, and He is the judge of hearts and actions. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” saith the Lord.
What good is it if we gain the whole world and lose our soul? How many souls have we wounded by our self-efforts? How often have we missed the opportunity to shed God’s light to every one we come in contact with? How many times did we regret not responding in His love? We must cease from self-effort, ask God how He would like us to respond and what He would have us accomplish, then let Him flow through us with the results offered to Him. He is our great reward in every situation, even in those that may not have the expected result we desired. Ours is only to respond and action in ways that are pleasing to Him, in ways that display His glory and mercy, in ways that bring light to this dark world.
We enter into His rest by taking each day’s tasks and what He brings before us and accomplishing them all in His way and by His strength and inspiration. We wait in His presence and seek His face on how to respond to matters – even matters that are unfair and unjust. This is how we walk in the Spirit and it is life giving to us and everyone around. It is hard to our flesh to cease the striving and fighting against everything, and rest in Him. Yet how needful a lesson to learn.
Are we ready to do it His way? Are we ready to die to self-effort, let Him flow through us, and bring forth light in the dark? Are we ready to seek His face? Are we ready to be sensitive to His promptings when He moves us this way or that and inspires us to complete this or that task by moving our hearts to action and speak what is pleasing to Him in every situation? We can accomplish so much more when we do everything in His strength, fulfilling His agenda, and flowing in His anointing. What a delight we will be both to God and man. It is never too late to learn this lesson, for God can redeem the time and give us new situations to pour forth His love. Let us look to the author and finisher of our faith, for He is not finished with us yet.
Our mindsets must be lifted to know we are only walking on earth in this fallen world temporarily – this is not the end. It is only the first chapter in our epic adventure with our Beloved for eternity. Let us trust Him and seek His face on how He would have us act, speak, respond. Great is our reward in Christ, for He will fill us with His peace and satisfy our souls in the here and now to enjoy His detailed blessings when our hearts are fully set upon Him.
“‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.’ The Lord will vindicate his people and relent concerning his servants when he sees their strength is gone and no one is left, slave or free. He will say: ‘Now where are their gods, the rock they took refuge in, the gods who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offerings? Let them rise up to help you! Let them give you shelter!’ ‘See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.’”
“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.”
“You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.”
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.’”
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”