Swordplay

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“[Eleazar] arose and struck down the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clung to the sword.”  – 2 Samuel 23:10, ESV

I was reminded of this verse the other day during a quiet time.

I don’t know what your struggle is. Maybe it’s substance abuse. Maybe it’s a sexual addiction. Maybe it’s gambling, or food, or road rage. We all have one. It might be an all-out addiction, or it might be an annoying little habit that we know we should stop. But we wish we could just change it. We want it to be different. And so, the battle ensues.

Truth is, often when we lose the battle, it’s often not because we were just incapable of holding back the onslaught. It’s because we chose to lay down our sword and stop fighting. When the alcoholic stops off in a bar; when the sex addict makes a choice to swing by the porn shop or the red light district; when the gambler takes his or her paycheck to the casino – it’s often because they decide the fight is not worth it or maybe that they’re destined to lose anyway. And so they lay down their sword.

I am not trying to minimize the power of addiction. I’ve seen way too many struggles and strugglers up close to ever suggest that winning is just a matter of good old-fashioned willpower, and if you fail you just didn’t try hard enough. That is an absurd idea.

Also, don’t dismiss this because you think it’s only for hard-core addicts. It’s not. Your situation may not escalate to the level of ‘addiction’ but it is just as real. If your fight is gossip rather than gambling, or anger rather than alcohol, or compulsive lying rather than compulsive sexual behavior – your struggle is still real.

You can’t control temptation, or the intensity of it. But you can control your reaction to it.

Do you surrender your weapon and cave, or do you get on your knees and spread a bible out before you?

Do you give up as it feels like it’s crashing in on you, or do you call a friend who can come to your aid?

Do you spread your arms so the enemy can run you through, or do you clasp your hands together and pray for strength?

If we want to win –to have a closer walk with God and improved relationships with others – we learn to grip our sword tighter rather than allowing it to slip from our grasp.

And we do that, not by putting our head down and “just trying harder.”  We do it by relying on help from the one who is our Stronghold (Ps. 144:2), our Fortress (Ps. 28:8), our Strong Deliverer (Ps. 140:7), and our Refuge and Strength (Ps. 46:1)!

Eleazar fought so persistently and so fiercely that he came to the point where he was unable to let go of his sword!

This is my prayer for my own personal battles, and for yours.

May we wield that sword so long and so fiercely and so uncompromisingly, that even if we wanted to drop it we wouldn’t be able to.

May we be so focused on living the life God meant for us and fending off everything that interferes with it that we find our spiritual hand permanently cramped and our grip incapable of letting loose!

 

 

 

Lane Changes

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It’s a familiar scene.

I’m slowly crawling through the parking lot between home and office – the ‘parking lot’ officially known as Northern Virginia’s Interstate 95.

I’m following a semi. I don’t remember the markings on the truck, but let’s called it “ACME Corporation” (I was always a big Road Runner fan as a kid).

At some point I grow tired of following a truck that I can’t see around. That, plus the lure of the slightly-faster-moving traffic in the lane to my left, compels me. I make my move. I change lanes.

Five minutes later, guess where I am? I am sitting in left-center lane, staring at the “ACME” truck in the right-center lane…which is at least a half mile ahead of me. And I’m thinking If I had just stayed where I was…

And it occurs to me…isn’t that the way we live our lives sometimes? We make a decision, and then later we look back on that decision and say If only I’d have just decided differently…

But guess what? We can’t re-do those decisions any more than I could make four lanes of interstate traffic back up and allow me a do-over on my lane change.

But still, it’s easy to look back and imagine how perfect things would have been with a different choice. But imagination is not reality (profound, eh?).

So here’s a few things we can do when we catch ourselves in those moments of second-guessing.

  • Remember Hebrews 13:5 – “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” God is there. Always.
  • Be thankful for where you are in life, instead of regretful of where you might have been.
  • Pray that God will show you how this works into His plan. Because it does. Even if it was a bad choice, it still becomes part of the fabric of His plan. Because He’s sovereign that way.
  • Remember that perception is not always reality, and that the whole can’t be derived from a snapshot. It’s about the entire race, not just a few paces somewhere in the middle.

Lane changes happen.  Some of them turn out well. Some of them not so well.

Sometimes you look like you’re going nowhere, only to look up one day and realize you did get somewhere. (Case in point – I ended up ahead of the ACME truck just a few miles later.)

Sometimes you don’t get where you wanted to be, but find out where you are is pretty good.

Sometimes you don’t see any of these things, but have to trust God that you are where He wants you to be (I wish I could say that we always see the happy ending, but that’s just not true).

So keep moving forward. Trust your decisions. But most of all, trust God.