Saturday, September 20, 2014

Test In Contentment

Several months ago I wrote a post that mentioned contentment. Recently, the Lord did something in this area of my life.

I began to feel the Lord leading me to pursue a young lady. I carefully switched gears and began investigating this woman. This was not an easy thing to accomplish, but the Lord opened several doors and answered prayers, we're talking freak situations that lined things up perfectly for me to get to know more about her.

She had a lot of what I was seeking in a wife, she lined up with all of my major convictions, seemed to love her family and have a good relationship with Christ. All of this was a long process and I was constantly reminded about how I needed to keep my eyes fixed on contentment in singleness, should it not work out. I sought out the opinion of many godly influences in my life and prepared to  make the call to her father.

I was about to make the call when I began to feel convicted about the fact that I did not have God's clear direction to pursue this woman in particular, only a general OK to begin pursuing marriage. I decided that I wouldn't make the call until I had the Lords clear approval.

I prayed hard about it, surrendering my will, making sure I wasn't trying to twist His arm in this decision.

Thankfully, he did answer that this was the woman he wanted me to pursue. I was very excited and made the call.

At this point, with all of the Lord's involvement in the details, you would think this was going to work out, but what came next was a very simple and clear dismissal of my motion. It was hard to come to grips with this rejection.

What followed was a time where I wrestled to maintain contentment with my life, as it is, and accept, regardless of the reasons, that this pursuit was really over.

In that time I wrote this in my journal,
"Honestly, I feel very melancholy right now. I have so much I want to write about, but my thoughts seem to vanish as soon as they’re grasped. I have been wrestling a lot with discontentment and sorting through lies that come with the pain of rejection. What does God want me to do? Is He showing me something that I am blind to? Is there some great lesson that I should be learning in this trial or is it meaningless?"

Thankfully, He revealed that this whole thing was a test to help me flex the muscle of contentment. Though I still needed to work through some sadness, I was happy to have an answer. I am so glad that I was careful to seek His guidance every step of the way, because, had I not, I would be reeling for an answer that I might never know. If I wasn't sure that it was God's will, then I could believe that it was just some random mistake of my own and the reason why it didn't work is because I was being disciplined.

So now I am back to where I began, relaxing in contentment with where God has me. No stress - God will tell me when it is time to move.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Victory Over Lust - My Testimony

Lust is a very shameful sin. I wish I did not have to give this testimony from my life. I am ashamed of the secret double-life I have lived, but I know that the Lord can use even my weaknesses for His glory and perhaps someone will find this testimony encouraging.

I became a believer when I was seven years old. I was going to a large Baptist church with my family and the guest preacher was stressing how important it was to accept Christ early in life, as opposed to putting it off. I felt a burning in my soul and I knew that I needed to go forward. I went to the altar and prayed the sinner's prayer and I was converted.

Not much change was recognized in my life -  only being seven and having been raised in a good Christian home, I did not have a lot of junk in my life.

My parents made extra money buying run down foreclosures, fixing them up, and selling them at market value. At one point, we were living in an extended stay for a couple of months while the occupants of a house we had just won at an auction got their stuff together and moved out. My whole family of six (at that time) was living in a single room at the extended stay. My parents would often watch the news as we children drifted off to sleep. On this night, my parents fell asleep and the television was left on by accident. That was the night I was exposed to pornography for the first time. I was eleven years old.

I can see how cunning Satan was to be able to get me while I was in the presence of my entire family. How I have wished that I would have had the character to get up and turn off the television. I knew that the program was evil and I chose to watch it anyway.

Fast-forward a couple of years, I had begun to seek out pornography through the internet. I wasn't able to get to it very often, but things seemed to work themselves out for me to have the access I craved.

We were going to a nice church with mostly elderly congregants. The church also had a youth ministry that would pick up young people from nearby trailer parks so they could attend church events with the few youth who were actually a part of the church. It was not good for me to be around so many worldly young men. I had no context for what my life ought to look like. It was easy for me to compare myself to them and feel like I was doing OK.

My dad's job moved us to a different state. We settled into a nice church family. The people were all very serious about their walks with Christ and there were guys my age who I got to hang out with every Sunday. These guys all seemed to live righteous lives so it was refreshing to have a standard to check myself against. I began to focus on outwardly conforming to different rules and ideas that would make me “holy”, or so I thought. I still continued to struggle with pornography, masturbation and everything else that goes with that sin.

Even though I was still struggling with lust, I embraced many rules and standards, and became very self-righteous. It was easy for me to see how other Christians weren't lining up with these standards. I was the epitome of a hypocrite.

I was fourteen when I felt a wake-up jolt of sorts. I had a crush on a girl and I began to see, though I kept my sin hidden, it would surely ruin my marriage one day. I became eager to be free of my sin. I started reading my Bible daily, memorizing scripture, and praying. I became very religious in hopes of beating my lustful desires. I was extra sensitive about where I went and what I watched; I even sold all of my video games.

This course of action had its affect on my life, but it did not help me find freedom.

Four years down the road, I approached this girl's father about entering a courtship with her. We began discussing my readiness over the next few months. It came out that I had a problem with pornography and he began trying to help me.

You would think that having this man keeping me accountable and pushing me on would have solved the problem, but it still took a lot of instruction for me to begin to have some freedom in this area. 

The guidance was working and I was doing great! I went almost a year without giving into lust, but then it happened. I had been doing so well, I thought it was time for me to allow myself to have an iPod Touch. Once I bought it, I let my guard down and searched some things I shouldn't have. Technically, I didn't see anything bad, but my heart was not right in what I did.

The man who was helping me had once told me that freedom will look like walking in a different direction. You were going one way, now you are going the entire opposite way. You might look over your shoulder but overall you are walking in the right direction.

I thought of my “accident” with the iPod as one of those “looking over your shoulder moments." I knew better than to make light of my sin, but I drowned out the guilt and told myself it wasn't that bad.

Less than a month later this man approached me, on the basis of my supposed victory up to that point, with his approval to pursue his daughter.

The courtship began and it was a very happy time. Things seemed to be going smoothly. We did hit a few bumps in the road but overall things were looking up. About four months in we came to a standstill. I felt like God was resisting me. Several of our plans weren't lining up and things were getting messy in my relationship with my parents. I was not thinking clearly and was making plans that were irrational. They had tried to set me straight but I wasn't listening.

One day I was mowing grass with one of our tractors and had uploaded a few sermons to listen to while I worked. I ran out of the sermons I had brought so I checked for anything else on my MP3 player. I found a track entitled "Openness and Brokenness" by Paul and Jenny Speed. I remembered that some friends of ours had sent the track to us several months ago and my mom encouraged me to upload it to my MP3 player. 

I started listening to it and half-way through, it hit me. I knew that I would never prosper as long as I was hiding my sin about the iPod incident. The truth cut so deep and hurt so badly. I cried a lot that day. I knew it would mean the end of the courtship. I knew it was what I had to do if I wanted to really be free. I also knew it was going to be the hardest thing I had ever gone through. I was so convicted though that there was no way for me to move on and forget about what I had heard. I saw so clearly how by hiding my sin, I was setting myself up for future failure and would surely bring pain to my family in marriage.

That weekend I told the man my situation whose daughter I was courting and he came to the conclusion, as I thought was proper, that the courtship should end. Everyone was devastated. I really messed it all up. 

God was with me in my brokenness though, and He strengthened me. He gave me a lot of grace during that time of hardship. What followed was a time of tremendous spiritual growth. I was really feeling good about myself, although often sad over what I had done and what it had cost me.

Several months after the courtship ended, things began to sink in and I became very discontent with my life. As a result, I continued to struggle with pornography and masturbation. I later learned that by breeding discontent and self-pity I was pointing a finger at God for not giving me more or treating me better. In the midst of that mindset, I found it easy to justify sin. After all, I thought, if God is holding out on me, why should I care what He thinks? It's His fault that I am this way. That was my thought process.

I later discovered the root of my discontent was that I had made marriage an idol in my life. I looked at marriage like it was going to solve all my problems. It would give me happiness. it would fulfill me sexually. I would finally have the heart-to-heart intimacy I wanted. Marriage would save me.

After another attempt at a relationship failed, I found myself asking God for direction. I learned that He wanted me to take a break from pursuing marriage and focus on my relationship with Him and finding contentment in my life as a single man. He later verified this by having a stranger tell me a story about his brother who had a time in his life where he didn't pursue marriage, and instead just focused on the Lord. I took this idea as being from the Lord and started exercising contentment in singleness.

During this time I attended several events created by Paul and Jenny Speed of WIT (Whatever It Takes) Ministries.. I learned so much about how I can have victory in my life. I read a book they had recommended, "Reclaiming Surrendered Ground" by Jim Logan. Since reading that book and applying the principles of spiritual warfare, I have had victory over lust.

One of the most helpful things that I learned at WIT and in Jim Logan's book was the concept of intruding thoughts. This biblical concept helped me take a stand against impure thoughts that would come to my mind.

I still have battles. In fact, I have had more seriously intense temptations since realizing I am a free man in Christ. But as God says in His word, there is always a way out. I can now see through the enemy's lies and I don't have to believe that I am a slave to sin, or that I'm hopeless, or that God is holding out on me. I can stand in God's truth and know that it has surely set me free!
I praise Jesus for showing me how to live in victory by following His word and I am forever grateful to the ministry of Paul and Jenny Speed as God used their material to show me what His word had to say about spiritual warfare.