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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Winning the War Inside Your Heart

By Thomas Lindberg
Dec. 29, 2013

Headlines and newscasts report on the terrible conflicts in our world, listing casualties among armed forces as well as civilians. War is one of humanity’s deepest tragedies, and those of us who live in peaceful communities are truly blessed. But there is another battle of which the media are completely unaware, yet it connects with every one of us — the war inside the heart.

“The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions” (Galatians 5:17, NLT).

Can you identify with this war inside your heart? Even as a follower of Christ, you cannot escape it. Paul the apostle wrote as a Christian, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate” (Romans 7:15).

It’s like an internal tug-of-war. We know we should forgive, but a voice says, “She doesn’t deserve forgiveness.” We know we should pray, but something inside says, “You’re too busy. And prayer won’t help anyway.” You have an opportunity to witness, but you feel you might make a fool of yourself. You know an Internet site is pure poison, but you reason, “Just a quick peek won’t hurt.”

How can you win the war in your heart? Here are four essential weapons.

Weapon 1:
Stay focused. Great beginnings don’t guarantee great endings.

All of us know people who had great beginnings, but they lost focus and became careless, only to lose the battle in their heart. Even the Galatian believers — the people for whom Paul described this conflict in the passage above — had fantastic beginnings. Paul was their pastor, and God did a 180-degree life-change in them. But the Galatian Christians became spiritually lazy because they assumed great beginnings guarantee great endings.

In high school, I was captain of our golf team. One season we had a terrific start. The coach encouraged us, but also warned us. “Boys,” he said, “we could go far. But if you get lazy, don’t practice, and begin to coast, the season won’t end well.” We did not listen to him, and we ended the season poorly.

The Spirit urges us through Paul’s example to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ” (Philippians 3:14, NIV). The war inside your heart will pull you in an anti-heavenward direction. Don’t become spiritually lazy. Press on in prayer. Press on in reading the Word. Press on in worshipping with fellow believers. Remember, great beginnings don’t guarantee great endings.

Weapon 2:
Keep learning new tactics throughout life. You’ll never outgrow this battle.

I suffered from asthma in elementary school, but I outgrew it. However, you’ll never outgrow the battle in your heart. We read in the Word, “Praise the Lord, who is my rock. He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle” (Psalm 144:1, NLT).

God will teach you spiritual techniques to win the battle in your heart, but you must cooperate. Here’s what I pray: “Lord Jesus, train my hands for spiritual warfare. Push me when You need to, and prune me when necessary. Correct me when I mess up. Lord, I will cooperate with You.”

You will never change what you are willing to tolerate. It’s when your favorite pair of slacks won’t button that you say, “I’ve had enough! I’m going to lose a few pounds.” Today, put your spiritual foot down and say, “Lord, I’m not willing to tolerate defeat in the war in my heart any longer. Help me and train me.”

Weapon 3:
View opposition with optimism. Your battle means you are on the road to your miracle.

Opposition can be painful, but it points toward the good outcomes God has planned for us.

The devil does not battle those believers who are going nowhere. He doesn’t waste his time or ammo. But when there’s a miracle ahead for you, the war in your heart heats up.

I think of Numbers 14:8: “If the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey.” The Promised Land was ahead of the Israelites as they neared the end of their wilderness journey; it was their miracle. God’s people had to fight many battles before they reached their miracle, but they finally tasted their miracle.

A man once told me about the battle in his mind and heart. He was being pulled in two opposite directions. The things he wanted to do he wasn’t doing, and the things he didn’t want to do he was doing. Then he made a smart decision. He cried out to God for help and began to fight back. He told me with a smile, “I’m just beginning to taste my miracle, and how sweet it is!”

God can do that for you. Don’t give up; don’t give way. Tough times do not last; God’s people do.

Weapon 4:
Feed your spirit and starve your flesh. Whichever side you nourish will win.

“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit” (Romans 8:5). If I feed my desires, my flesh grows stronger. On the other hand, if I feed God’s desires, His Spirit grows stronger and gives me the strength to win the battle in my heart.

That truth should make every Christian seek out a good church. Worshipping with other believers and listening to biblical preaching will feed your spirit and encourage you to do what pleases God. High school students need a youth pastor, and kids need a dynamic children’s ministry. Believers of all ages need to be fed so they can win the battle raging in their hearts.

As you examine your arsenal of spiritual weapons, let this prayer motivate you toward victory in 2014: “Lord Jesus, I can feel the battle in my heart. I’ve been pulled in the wrong direction long enough. Today, I’m crying for Your help. March into my life today. I surrender my life to You. Holy Spirit, forgive me of my rebellion, fill me with Your love, and protect me by Your power. Amen.”

THOMAS LINDBERG, D.Min., is the lead pastor at First Assembly of God of Memphis in Cordova, Tenn.


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