In April, I wrote about a new sermon series my pastor had begun (four weeks of audio for which are now available on the church's website) and my belief that God had something special in store for me through it. That first week was incredible as I saw Him very obviously take care of me during the challenging task he'd given me to do in those first few days. Since then, I've faced challenges of a different sort in this overcoming process - just as I said in the original post I knew I would. And, unfortunately, I succumbed to satan and my own sinful nature (more than a little bit, to be honest!) in the past couple of weeks, much to my chagrin.
But I've learned something in the process - a truth that seems so fundamental to the Christian life but which had alluded me thus far in my faith journey. Namely, it's that Scripture makes all the difference!
Over the last few weeks - and prior to that in the "preparation time" in which I was unwittingly involved - I'd realized something that still seems remarkable to me: When I take time - even just a little time - to read from the Bible - even if it's just a short passage and an accompanying devotional - I can overcome sin and satan that day. Conversely, when I fail to include the Lord in that basic way, I inevitably fall flat on my face no matter how much effort I exert to avoid it. Of course, Scripture isn't a "magic potion," and I'm responsible for being engaged in the reading/reflecting process. But I've discovered that God pours overflowing grace into my days through just that very small act of obedience.
Tonight we had our annual "Marathon Celebration Service," and I was able to participate through singing on a "mega" worship team that included almost all our vocalists - what a blast! I'd tried (through just a day or so of obedience) to "reset" my heart in preparation for the service - because I hate being in a "yucky" spot when I'm charged with helping to lead others into God's presence. And then God spoke to me clearly while I sang and as I listened to Pastor Dan's and Pastor Paul's messages.
He said, "Tina, you are still on this journey. You've stumbled a bit the last couple of weeks. And, yes, you've chosen to ignore my voice as I urged you to get back into my arms for this run. But I still love, and I'm still 'for' you...as I always have been and always will be. Remember: there is now, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Jesus! I want you to use this day as the start of your marathon training, Tina. Mark it and do what you know you need to do each day - and rely on Me to give you the strength to do it because I can and I will. Nothing is impossible for me - you know that in your head, but you have to exercise faith. Real faith. And then next year at this time, you will run the physical marathon as a culmination of the spiritual marathon you are undertaking starting this day. This is what I want for you this year, Tina."
So I've written this post as my way to mark the day - even as my response all night has been, "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!" But that's exactly what He wants to do, and I need to remember that.
Pastor Paul will officially wrap up the Overcome series next week; I'm looking forward to hearing that message. Tonight I went to church sad and anxious over my recent failures. Repentant but shaky. As a result of what the Lord said to me tonight, though, I'm hoping (expecting?) I can walk into next week's service with a joyful, grateful, free heart on the matter. To me, it seems a high expectation; to my Father who loves me because of Jesus...well, it's simple, isn't it?