You might be one of the Christians that doesn’t finish the race. You could be one who starts well, but doesn’t finish well. That happens to a lot of people. They start off all excited about their new life in Jesus, and somewhere along the way, get overwhelmed by problems and disappointments and then begin to fall away. Jesus said this happens more than we’d like to think. Luke 8:13-14, “these are the ones who hear the word, and receive it with joy. But they have no root. For awhile they believe, and in time of temptation, they fall away. Others are like seeds that fell among thorns. They hear and go forward, but then they’re choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life. They bring no fruit to completion.”
How’d this happen? Nobody starts off thinking they’re only going to be charged up for Jesus just for a few weeks or months and then cool off. What happens? When you first pray that little prayer asking Jesus to come into your heart, it’s exciting. You FEEL that He’s come in by the Hole Spirit. You FEEL clean! You’re excited about the forgiveness of all your sins. You’re thrilled with the chance to start life over again, spiritually. You’re full of anticipation knowing that now you’re going to get God’s help in living out your life.
Then, you find out that some of your old temptations are still there! Some of them come at you stronger than ever. You get so disappointed with yourself that you figure God didn’t do a very good job saving you. So, you give up. What you need to know is that EVERYBODY goes through temptation. Even Jesus! That’s what He went through in Matthew 4. Jesus was tempted and being tempted IS NOT A SIN!
Being transformed by the power of God is an ongoing process. Being FORGIVEN is immediate, but being transformed takes time. It takes you and God together and that’s why the Bible says that we’re “fellow laborers” with Him. Your part is to read the Word, pray and allow the Holy Spirit to fill you more and more. Romans 12:1-2, “I beg you by the mercies of God that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice to Him, holy and acceptable, which is your reasonable service. And, be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
The other thing you need to know is that God IS working with you. He doesn’t get mad and kick you out just because you made a mistake. Philippians 2:13 says that God is working in you to cause you to want to please Him and to be able to do it. What do you do when you find that you’re still being tempted or that you’ve given in? 1 John 1:9, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Something else that might wipe you out is when you discover other Christians who don’t practice what they preach and are DISCOURAGING. I’ve known the Lord for many years now and I still get discouraged when I discover someone not living what they SAY they live. It especially hurts when the person is someone you look up to. It says in Romans 2 that it’s the hypocritical behavior of professing Christians that causes people to blaspheme against God. It talks about the person who says people shouldn’t steal, but he or she steals. Or the person who says people shouldn’t commit adultery, but DOES commit it. Then, in Romans 2:24, “The name of God is blasphemed because of you!”
This is a warning to make sure we all do our best to live right. We don’t want to be the reason someone turned their backs or away from God. Not just when we’re at church, but when we’re home, on vacation or on the job. The Bible says for us to be an “example of the believers” in 1 Timothy 4:12. When we do wrong, we need to acknowledge it. We also need to learn and understand that we as humans, have to be willing to admit that we’re ALL still continuously learning how to follow the Lord and that He’s still working in us. When we come off all high and mighty, acting like we have it all together and have never done anything wrong, it actually discourages new Believers and others around you.
Another thing that can trip you up is what Jesus called the cares, riches and pleasures of this world. He said these choke the Word and keep it from working in your life like it should. You want to be especially aware of this one. As soon as you decide to make Jesus your number one priority, the enemy goes on a campaign to get you distracted. All of a sudden, you get overly concerned with money, financial security, hobbies, family recreation and anything that can draw your thoughts away from fellowshipping with the Lord.
You get so busy running here and there that your times with the Lord begin to slack. Soon, you have Him on the back burner, putting Him off until a “more convenient season.” Trouble is, when you’re trying to serve Him at your convenience, He won’t come off the back burner! Jesus has to be Lord of all or He won’t be Lord at all. Jesus was clear on how to keep from being crushed in this life. In Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things, (things that you have need of), will be added unto you.”
Even if other Christians seem like they aren’t putting Jesus first, you and I have to. One way to do this is to develop close friendships with others who love the Lord, and are active in His service. Find the ones who are really into putting the Kingdom first, and hang around with them. Last, you need to know that the Lord is leading you on a path of spiritual development, where the goal is for you to love and desire Him more than anything and anyone else in the world.
You’ll go through the first stage of being a Christian where you want to be “the best Christian who ever lived!” You figure you’ll bring more people into the Kingdom than anyone else, you’ll give more money, and be of the most service to God. That’s a normal first stage. The second stage is when you realize it’s harder than you thought, and there are a lot of other Christians out there who love the Lord as much as YOU do, and even THEY have problems. You discover that He isn’t calling you to do a short sprint into the Kingdom, but He’s talking about a lifetime of faithfulness and service.
The third stage is the “yo-yo” stage. Sometimes you’re a ball of fire and other times your heart is cold toward the Lord. He’s sifting you. This is when you either grow and mature, to the point of producing much fruit, or back off – you realize you just don’t have what it takes. You don’t draw near to the One who does have what it takes. That’s when problems begin. The final and highest is the breakthrough stage. You’ve drawn near to the Lord. You know that this world is NOT your home. You’re not trusting in “uncertain riches, but in the Living God, who gives us all things richly to enjoy…” like 1 Timothy 6:17 says.
Then you’re content inside. Other peoples’ behavior and sins don’t direct your path, but your love for God does. You don’t have your faith in things, but your faith is in God. You’re casting your cares on Him and drawing your strength from Him in return. People won’t be able to crush you because you’re not placing your hope in them. Your hope is in God. Things of this world won’t crush you because your hope is in Heaven. You’ll be at peace, immovable, unshakeable and moving on, pressing forward to the mark of the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus.
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