by Paul Benson
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. -Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ
Many people like to pin name-tags upon themselves: ‘Pastor So and So’, or ‘Apostle Follow-Me’, or ‘Prophet Seen-This-Seen-That’, and so on and so forth. I personally choose not to; but if I had to put a tag upon myself it would probably be something along the lines of ‘Paul a Recovering Failure as a Christian’. You see, I am the one who faltered in his faith. I am the one who lost his vision of the Promised Land, and spent years wandering in the wilderness of sin.
By the power of God’s grace that era of my walk is now some two decades behind me. I live a sanctified life free from habitual sin. And although I have an absolute confidence the sins of my past are forgiven, and I walk free of any condemnation over that disobedience, still I do not particularly like discussing those days. But from time to time I get a prompting from the Lord to revisit the defeat of those years, and the victory God brought to me, in the hopes of helping someone else find the victory they need.
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. Proverbs 29:18
Although I was saved and filled with the Holy Ghost in a remarkable fashion, there were issues in my life that needed addressed but weren’t. Satan had my number, and knew just what temptations to place in front of me. Rebellion, selfishness, and lust led to some serious errors in judgment and habitual sin was soon ruling where Christ should have been. Hoping for victory through the Church fellowship I was a part of brought no fruit, as their legalistic teachings did more to strengthen the hypocrisy which had a grip on me than to alleviate it. No help there!
I was little more than a Pharisee in training!
This and other issues (teachings I felt were contrary to the Bible) led me to leave the fellowship and struggle on my own to find peace with God and victory over the flesh. The period of trials and tribulations that ensued left me confused and bewildered. Being ignorant of God’s dealings and methods, I had no idea I was deep in a period of breaking and chastisement. All I could see to do was redouble my efforts at being what I thought God wanted me to be. And I hit it with gusto!
Fanatical efforts at Bible study, prayer, and fasting brought no victory. I would read the Scriptures cover to cover every few months! I fasted once until I was skin and bones; but those skin and bones were still hungering for sin. I was giving it everything I had but sadly I had no idea I was grieving the Holy Spirit with all my self-righteous striving for God’s approval. Habitual sin was destroying my faith, and I was hindering and ignoring the very strength I was needing.
Instead of trusting and resting in the work of Christ and the power of his grace, I was trusting in my own works to save me. I thought I was being a top-notch believer with my Herculean efforts, but all I was offering him was my filthy rags. And all that striving against sin in my own strength never brought an ounce of victory. It left me defeated, depleted, and totally discouraged. Eventually I came to the place where I lost heart. I no longer felt the presence of God in my life. I thought I had failed God, and he had given up on me. I felt I was a wash-out as a Christian, and saw no use in further efforts at being one.
I will not detail the years that followed, only to say it was a sad and disgusting display of self-destructive behavior. I would pray from time to time but always felt like the prayers never made it past the ceiling. Then amazingly came a time years later when the heavens seemed to no longer be made of brass. I felt the call of God on my heart once again and began crying out to him. And through a time of deep personal loss and a breaking of my will I found my self restored to fellowship with God, and my heart flooded with the Spirit of Christ.
Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? … Song 8:5
The difference between my former efforts at Christianity and the walk I had now were like night and day. And today, instead of a strong willed self-righteous striving after God’s approval, I lean on Jesus like a cripple leans on his crutch, and I am not ashamed to admit it. Because learning to lean on him and the finished work of the Cross, instead of my own efforts, has brought victory over sin and the flesh where formerly there was only failure.
It took many trips around the mountain before my rebellion and self-will died out, and God could finally bring me out of the wilderness of sin. But do you know I have come to value that period of breaking, and to treasure those harsh dealings of God; for they taught me the difference between religion and relationship. I am what I am today because God loved me enough to deal with me in a very severe manner, when all else had failed. And now I have a vibrant vision in my heart. A vision of victory. I intend on finishing this race, and I want to finish strong!
Samson: A Failure Who Finished Strong
And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him. 21 But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house. Judges 16:20-21
As a new believer I did NOT like the story of Samson. Actually I hated it! I thought it was a pathetic narrative about a pathetic self-indulgent self-righteous fool. And I was right! Only what I couldn’t see then, but clearly see now, is that it was a story about me. I was that pathetic fool; just like Samson! Who was finally delivered of his wildness and all his self-confidence; and in his weakness called upon the Lord and accomplished more than he ever had with all his previous efforts.
And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes. 29 And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left. 30 And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life. Judges 16:28-30
Weakened, blinded, and in a humiliating situation of bondage and defeat he knew he had nothing left in himself. He was a total failure and as good as dead. But as he stood there shackled between those pillars, in his weakness he called out to God for the strength to push! To push against those pillars and bring down that structure upon the heads of his enemies. And down it came! In his death he found victory, and only through the death of self can we find the same. Recognizing in humility our own inability, and looking to our God for grace, we can find strength to topple the pillars of bondage our enemy would love to keep us chained to.
Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? Romans 6:16
Not everyone is that Prodigal like me; not every one has a history of poor behavior to put behind them and walk away from. But we ALL need a vision of finishing well and strong! A vision of living out our days with a steadfast commitment to the will of God. That vision can only be accomplished by the death of self. Death to self-confidence; death to selfish ambitions; death to fulfilling carnal desires; death to self-centered distractions. Until self is a dead corpse laying at our feet Christ cannot rule and reign in our hearts as he should, nor accomplish his desire through us.
Brother A.W. Tozar once preached a sermon titled The Law Of The Jungle. In it he stated that building a Christian life is like carving out a clearing in the jungle to farm and eek out a living. Without a constant tending to the perimeter of that clearing the jungle will encroach little by little until it has recaptured that ground. The carnality of this world is no different. Without a constant pushing back, little by little it will encroach upon your Christianity until you are once again under its dominion. This takes a continual effort to combat. Are YOU tending your ‘clearing in the jungle’ or allowing it to be over-run?
Samson pushed and found victory! He recognized his weakness, called upon God for strength, and then he PUSHED! We need to follow suit. Don’t be passive; don’t just sit there and let the carnality of this world steal away your purity, sanctification, and peace. Push against the enemy of your soul! PUSH!
Push against the darkness. Push Hollywood out of your living room! Push that porn out of your P.C. and cellphone (exercise accountability if you need to!). Push those ungodly friends out of the ‘inner sanctum’ of your life. PUSH!
Wherever this world is encroaching upon your walk with Jesus take action against it like it is the enemy of your soul out to destroy you;
Because it is!
I no longer despise the story of Samson; I now appreciate it a great deal. I expect to see Samson in God’s eternal Kingdom. I think repentance and faith in the grace and mercy of God saved him; that Samson secured an eternal future by the humbling of himself, and showing a confidence in God’s power. You can do the same.
Are you feeding the fleshly nature or depriving it? Are you feeding the beast that is intent on devouring you? Not much wisdom in that. Kill that thing before it kills you! There is not a beast (bondage) in this earth that is so ferocious that it could not be overcome by a child of God walking in the power of humility and grace. There is victory in Jesus!
PUSH against that darkness!
PUSH! In the name of Jesus, PUSH!
Let’s free ourselves from the entanglements and distractions of this world so we can run this race unhindered;
and FINISH STRONG!
ADDITIONAL RESOURCE: https://pbenson.me/2016/05/27/finding-victory-over-sin/
I welcome your input. If you would like to share comment or criticism please feel free to do so in the section below. Overly long comments may be edited for length. Also I will not post the false teachings of others.
Thank you for visiting my site.