I hate tug of war.
Feet slipping in the dusty dirt below,
hands burning as the rope
cuts across my palms,
fingers rippling down the ridges
of the rough twisted twine.
I remember it from field day...
I could see the red marker
knotted in the middle, dangling down.
It neared the line which marked
the winning side of our opponent.
We heaved and pulled.
Leaning back, we grunted
and gritted our teeth.
But no matter the effort,
we continued to lose our footing,
until finally we gave in to the pull and
were tugged across to the other side.
And I hated standing up,
dusting myself off while the
winners gloated and laughed,
mocking the weakness of a team
I didn't even chose to be on.
Don't you hate that in life...
when you end up in a difficult
situation that seems impossible to win?
Sometimes it's a definite
choice we make.
But then there are times when
circumstances take over and we really
don't have much say in the matter.
Have you ever gotten
stuck on a team, or
put with a group
and the members don't
pull their own weight.
And no matter your suggestions
to organize, to lead, to speak life
into the situation, you just get
dragged along in their dirt,
with flashbacks of rope burn
on field day.
Or what if you're trying to tackle
something on your own, because
you've given up on the team approach.
But you keep hitting a wall,
and get frustrated when every new
avenue turns into a roadblock.
When will I get my break?
I'm so tired of watching everyone else
succeed while I stand back cheering on
the outside but really just wanting
the same thing for myself.
This life truly is a tug of war!
Mind, heart, soul, spirit...
I want to have my own way!
Even if we stop and pray about it,
time stands still and
nothing seems to change.
Even when we search
in the Bible for answers...
we hear Paul tell us,
You, my brothers and sisters,
were called to be free.
Galatians 5:16 NIV
But Paul, that is so much
easier said that done.
So he continues...
But do not use your freedom
to indulge the flesh; rather,
serve one another humbly in love.
And as I understand it,
when Paul speaks of
the FLESH, he is referring to
the sinful state of all human beings,
or a power that is in opposition
to the Holy Spirit.
So now it seems to me
that this picture I've had in
my mind of this tug-of-war
isn't really me against the world.
Rather, it's more like me in the middle,
and on one side is my flesh...
or my sinful nature.
On the other is my spirit...
that deeper place in me
which desires connection with God.
This is the part of me that has
been saved, if I have given my life
to Jesus at some point in the past.
These two are at war within all of us,
a spiritual tug-of-war for our attention,
our devotion, our words and our deeds.
As Paul continues, he makes
his point a little more clear
in the next few verses...
So I say, let the Holy Spirit
guide your lives.
Then you won’t be doing
what your sinful nature craves.
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 5:16-17 NLT
That's the tug of war!
Not just the battles outside of us
which we see, feel, and
have with other people.
But much more the internal struggle...
which tears us apart inside.
You know exactly what this is...
we all do!
These are the days
when you realize
what you SHOULD do, but
you really FEEL like doing
something else... or some desire
is trying to CONVINCE you
to do the opposite, right?
Those are internal and external
struggles tugging and warring
between flesh and spirit.
When I look at that list of things
the Spirit produces...
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,
they seem like the perfect life.
I mean, who wouldn't want those?
But they are the fruit of living
by the Spirit. They are the results
of letting the Spirit lead us.
And fruit doesn't grow overnight.
It takes some time to not only grow,
but to ripen and be ready for harvest.
Which means that I will need to
lean into and follow the Spirit regularly,
and repeatedly if I want to have
that fruit in my life to live on...
to sustain me.
The same will be true, though for
the life lived in the flesh.
I won't be full of that list of stuff,
some of which we think could never
happen to us, right away either.
Just like the fruit, that will take time
to grow and ripen as well.
And if I live in the flesh long enough,
I bet those things won't seem
quite as shocking or strange to me.
But here's the biggest problem.
Trying to have both.
Or not being ready
to let go of one, to have the other.
And thats where most Christians live;
right in the middle of the tug-of-war zone.
Because we aren't willing to
completely give up our flesh.
And it's really hard to wait
for all that fruit to grow in the Spirit.
So we keep one hand on the flesh
and one hand on the Spirit.
Sometimes though, the flesh tugs
a little harder than the Spirit.
You see the Spirit is a gentleman.
He's not going to boss you around.
But the flesh... yep, that's what he does.
And you may just have to let go
of the Spirit to get both hands
on the flesh and you'll go for
a wild ride one weekend...
then Sunday comes.
Freedom comes when we decide
to give both hands to the Spirit
and let Him gently lead our life...
fully turned toward Him,
no longer looking back toward
our old life of the flesh.
Those who belong to Christ Jesus
have nailed the passions and
desires of their sinful nature to
His cross and crucified them there.
Since we are living by the Spirit,
let us follow the Spirit’s leading
in every part of our lives.
Word of God
train me today...
To let go of my old nature,
nailing my flesh to the cross of Christ.
To turn and give You both hands, Lord.
To let the Spirit lead me and wait for
the best fruit of my life to sustain me.
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