What does it mean to be faithful in Gospel living? What are some of the difficulties that we must recognize and overcome? In this article, I want to encourage you as you seek to faithfully follow Christ in your daily life. All scriptures are from the New American Standard Bible. Quotes are from Oswald Chambers’ Devotional Fellowship in the Gospel cited as FG (Nov. 10) and My Life’s Spiritual Honor and Duty SHD (July 15). These devotionals are online at https://utmost.org/. Emphasis is my way of highlighting the key phrases.
Difficulty 1: Complaining and grumbling in our daily lives
This is an issue that I battle everyday. We all face difficulties, trials, and irritations at work and in our personal relationships. Human nature leads us to complain, grip, grumble, and doubt when faced with overwhelming stress and difficulties. This is a national and world wide problem. The constant strain of high prices, ongoing pandemic, and supply chain issues makes life more difficult. We live in an uncertain world during difficult times.
Many are burned out, frustrated, anxious, and exhausted. The natural tendency is to complain and lash out at others. When the days are long, hot, and frustrating it’s hard to stay focused on the positive. This is a vicious cycle that drains us and destroys our witness.
We wrongly assume that past generations had it easier or that things were simpler. We will read a passage of scripture and think that it’s impossible to do it so we just ignore or skip over it.
The Way forward through complaining and grumbling is surrender to God’s Plans
Chambers gives us some valuable insights:
“As long as you maintain your own personal interests and ambitions, you cannot be completely aligned or identified with God’s interests. This can only be accomplished by giving up all of your personal plans once and for all, and by allowing God to take you directly into His purpose for the world. Your understanding of your ways must also be surrendered, because they are now the ways of the Lord.”
“I must learn that the purpose of my life belongs to God, not me. God is using me from His great personal perspective, and all He asks of me is that I trust Him. . .When I stop telling God what I want, He can freely work His will in me without any hindrance. He can crush me, exalt me, or do anything else He chooses. He simply asks me to have absolute faith in Him and His goodness. FG
The way forward is to surrender self to Christ. We align ourselves to His plans instead of our ways/plans. This is easier said and written than practiced. This is a daily choice and battle that requires self-denial, sacrifice, and perseverance. We demonstrate faith in the difficulties of life. Paul commands us in Philippians 2:14-16:
14Do all things without complaining or arguments; 15so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16holding firmly the word of life, so that on the day of Christ I can take pride because I did not run in vain nor labor in vain.
Got questions explains this in detail:
In summary, we demonstrate our faith to the lost world by not complaining and proving ourselves faithful in “holding firmly to the word of life.” We chose to obey God and submit to His ways instead of trying to arrange for our own comfort in difficult situations. I know that this is difficult! But it’s what God commands. Paul writes that he is being poured out as a drink offering. He is writing this letter (Philippians) from a prison. He has many reasons to complain and grumble, but he doesn’t! He recognizes God’s gracious activity in his impossibly difficult situations.
Psalm 103 is a great prayer resource to recenter yourself on God’s goodness. Giving thanks and worshiping God is appropriate and necessary during difficult times. God is good all the time even when things are going badly around us! Focusing on Him takes the focus off of self and others! Recall God’s Goodness, Faithfulness, Exceeding Mercy, and deep love for you! Trade Satan’s lies for God’s Powerful Living Words of Truth!
Be the Salt and Light for the world–This is our Purpose
Jesus teaches at the Sermon on the Mount Matthew 5:13-16
13“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by people.
14“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Jesus clearly states the purpose of our lives. We are to be both salt and light. Salt is a preservative and anti-septic. It keeps things from rotting and becoming infected with bacteria. Light is referring to the oil lamps that were used to light homes after dark. How we live matters! Our neighbors, coworkers, and others are watching us. Are we being a “force” of good and light? Often our actions speak louder than our words.
Avoid Self-Pity, and Encourage others
Chambers reminds us
“Self-pity is of the devil, and if I wallow in it I cannot be used by God for His purpose in the world. Doing this creates for me my own cozy “world within the world,” and God will not be allowed to move me from it because of my fear of being “frost-bitten.”” FG
Focusing on self and complaining/grumbling leads to rebellion against God. We see this in Exodus and Numbers. Even though God is physically present (cloud and pillar of fire) with all the many miracles, the people rebelled and complained. When God’s will or command(s) is clear, we are tempted to rebel instead of obey. We must be ready to obey and trust when asking God for discernment or clarity.
We need to recognize that we have the same sinful nature as the Hebrews. We are all sinners who daily battle our sinful nature. The author of Hebrews warns us in Chapters 3 and 4 that we need to take care that we don’t have “an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God 3:10” We must walk by faith and not by sight lest we walk away from God.
Hebrews 3:13 reminds us to encourage each other. Encouragement helps us to recognize God’s presence and truths when facing difficulties. As God works in our lives, we need to share with others. This can be a written note, a time of prayer with someone, and/or fellowship. God puts us into a community for a reason! He intends that we serve and encourage each other along this journey of faith during the joys and difficulties of life. How can you encourage those God has placed in your life? That’s why I write these articles.
Difficulty 2: Our Selfish Nature
James points out the root of our difficulties with others: James 4:1-4
1What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is the source not your pleasures that wage war in your body’s parts? 2You lust and do not have, so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3You ask and do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, so that you may spend what you request on your pleasures. 4You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
Our sinful nature is a strong force in our lives that must be recognized and dealt with appropriately. Our tendency is see ourselves as better than we are and to see others as “worse” than we are. We are all selfish in nature. This is because of the original sin. We are caught in a war against ourselves and others. The world wants our friendship and promises a false way of life.
The concept of world refers to the systems that opposes God. This is human sinful nature, satanic, demonic forces, and all that is against God. The “world” falsely promises peace, stability, prosperity, and ease of living. Yet, the cost is high. To be of the world is to be against God.
James 4:5-10 Solutions
5Or do you think that the Scripture says to no purpose, “He jealously desires the Spirit whom He has made to dwell in us”? 6But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” 7Submit therefore to God. But resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Come close to God and He will come close to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9Be miserable, and mourn, and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into gloom. 10Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
God graciously sends His Holy Spirit into the lives of His people. Holy Spirit convicts, guides, and empowers us to live with/for God. James advises us to:
- Submit to God-trusting in His grace
- Resist the devil–this means to counter his lies with God’s truths–apply God’s Word to your life and seek Christ first
- Come close to God–turn away from the world and sin to Christ
- Cleanse and purify your heart–this means to repent of the evil and seek God– Psalms 51 is an excellent prayer
- Humble yourself before God–admit your need for God to sustain and cleanse
The concept of “double-minded” is a word picture. This term refers to a person who is conflicted between two natures or “souls”. This person can’t or won’t decide on who or what to follow. Got questions describes this:
“A double-minded person is restless and confused in his thoughts, his actions, and his behavior. Such a person is always in conflict with himself. One torn by such inner conflict can never lean with confidence on God and His gracious promises. Correspondingly, the term unstable is analogous to a drunken man unable to walk a straight line, swaying one way, then another. He has no defined direction and as a result doesn’t get anywhere. Such a person is “unstable in all he does.””
Consider God’s Grace and Mercy
When we study God’s Word and experience conviction, it hurts us in a productive way. First, we realize that we need God’s grace and mercy. God is Perfectly Righteous and Just. He can’t overlook our sins and evil nature. God graciously sent Jesus to Perfectly and Completely Atone for our sins. Jesus renews our hearts and saves us through His life, death, and resurrection.
To value grace properly we must recognize and acknowledge our desperate need for Christ’s Redemption. Every single person deserves to be eternally separated from God. God is Merciful and Forgiving! Let us consider each day how we can be more like our Heavenly Father and Jesus instead of being like this world!
Chambers describes our purpose in relation to what Christ as done for us in the following two quotations:
“Paul was overwhelmed with the sense of his indebtedness to Jesus Christ, and he spent his life to express it. The greatest inspiration in Paul’s life was his view of Jesus Christ as his spiritual creditor. Do I feel that same sense of indebtedness to Christ regarding every unsaved soul? As a saint, my life’s spiritual honor and duty is to fulfill my debt to Christ in relation to these lost souls. Every tiny bit of my life that has value I owe to the redemption of Jesus Christ. Am I doing anything to enable Him to bring His redemption into evident reality in the lives of others?”
“Paul sold himself to Jesus Christ and he said, in effect, “I am a debtor to everyone on the face of the earth because of the gospel of Jesus; I am free only that I may be an absolute bondservant of His.” That is the characteristic of a Christian’s life once this level of spiritual honor and duty becomes real. Quit praying about yourself and spend your life for the sake of others as the bondservant of Jesus. That is the true meaning of being broken bread and poured-out wine in real life.” SHD
If God has changed you then you need to share your testimony with others! If God hasn’t transformed or renewed you then you need to carefully consider if you have ever encountered Him! Walking an aisle at church, praying a “repeat after me” prayer doesn’t save anyone–God’s grace is what saves us. Salvation occurs when a person trusts upon God’s grace and mercy in total dependence on God for His Redemption. Salvation is a miraculous work of God. Good works and religion don’t save anyone!
First and foremost, a person has to be convicted of his/her sins and cry out to Jesus for salvation. This is more than just an emotional decision we make to “choose” God. God radically changes all those He saves! No change, no redemption has taken place. What are the fruits of your life? The redeemed don’t live for sin and self-pleasure, but for God’s glory and honor. Which road are you walking on? The narrow road of Christ is the only one that leads to heaven. Who are you living for?
May God encourage you as you face trials and difficulties!