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 ~ Lead Me Not Into Temptation ~

Part 2 of 2

Click here for Part 1

        Prolonged forsakeness and hopelessness can trigger physical and psychological responses that are quite damaging.  Hormone balance, immune system, bone density, brain function, and cardiac strength all take big hits that could lead to chronic health problems.

        Many scriptures have multiple meanings on the physical and spiritual levels.  So consider Proverbs 13:20a: "Hope deferred makes the heart sick."  Indeed, in many ways.  Happily, the second part of the proverb declares, "But when what's desired comes, it is a tree of life."

        Hopelessness and helplessness are related.  Prisons of all kinds can generate both feelings and sicken the heart.  In Part One, we explored how "The truth will set you free" and that Christ is "Truth."  So the apostle Paul urges, "Stand fast (hold your ground) in the freedom with which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with the yoke of bondage." (Galatians 5:1)

        Part One, however, lamented the feeling of still being in bondage even though one has the knowledge of the truth and embraces the Christ.  It is sad enough when the body is in some kind of bondage or prison.  It is devastating when the bondage intrudes into our very heart and spirit.  What a great victory for the satanic forces of evil!  What a defeat for the "Truth that makes us free" within us!

        Some boast, "They can lock me up, they can drug me, they can amputate my arms and legs, but they can't reach into my soul."  One, however, can only know for sure when it happens.  Those that "stand fast in the Truth" are either thrivers or martyrs, and, either way, are free. But there are some that fail to stand fast, like the apostle Peter upon Jesus' arrest, and remain in bondage.  What to do?

        Our cement to the "Truth," our steadfastness in Him, the Christ, is faith.  My regard of faith has been gradually changing.  Indeed it is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1)  Yet faith is often seen as a kind of "force" that "does" something, as in "If you have enough faith you can move mountains."

        It's easy to view faith in God as a way of getting things done.  Perhaps faith is better perceived as the open receiver of God's blessings and gifts, and as a window through which to understand and constructively use all the good and bad events we experience.

        As the "evidence" of the unseen things which God has prepared for us, faith provides vital protection against the devastation of hopelessness.  Faith is at the center of our loving relationship to God.  Christ in us and we in Him gives us that experience of being able to determine, with Him and through His will, our present and future life direction and events.  Otherwise the despair of hopelessness is a slowly engulfing quagmire.  Not having a window of faith through which to look at our desperation, our depression, our forsakeness, is terrifying and fatal.

        Freedom is usually defined in terms of choices, the ability to do what we want, when we want it, or the ability to have what we want.  The greater our ability and the number of choices, the greater our freedom.

        The freedom the "Truth" brings isn't about that at all.  In Truth, we are free to serve, to love, to be in the presence of God; to love, embrace and follow the Christ.  As we are free to embrace Christ, embracing Him as "the way, the Truth and the Life," sets us free of our sins, of despair, of hopelessness, of self-indulgence, of any separation at all from God the Father and His Holy Spirit.

        To neglect this freedom is to do what the apostle Peter once did:  deny the knowledge of Christ.  Such a denial invites death.  As Jesus put it, "If you deny me before people, I'll deny you before my Father in Heaven."  And Peter cried bitterly that night.  He and the many other followers of Jesus secluded themselves in their own self-imposed prison until the Holy Spirit of Christ filled them with boldness, vision and freedom.

        Hebrews 10:22 urges, "So let's come near God with pure hearts and a confidence that comes from having faith.  Let's keep our hearts pure, our consciences free from evil..."

        Some may be tempted to say to God or themselves, "Yes, I'll practice having faith and growing spiritually when I just get more time."  Be careful, as you may find yourself a prisoner of walls or a sick bed with lots of time.

        Be careful of "when I learn to simplify my life" as you may find yourself unemployed or homeless.

        Be careful of "when I feel God calling me to greater faith and dependency" as you may find yourself in the middle of betrayal and persecution by another.

        Please don't wait to exercise your freedom in Christ!

        The middle chapter of the Bible (except those that include the Apocrypha) is Psalm 118.  There are 594 chapters after it, and 594 chapters before it.  Add these two numbers together and the total is 1,188.  Interestingly, Psalm 118:8 is the very center verse of the Bible.  It says, "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in any person."  This truth is good to keep in the very center of our faithful, free hearts as well.

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services

Weekly Reflections © January 13, 2001

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