Growing up in church I was taught that the biggest problem in my life was going to be the devil. We were taught to believe that every time we sinned the devil had something to do with it. As comedian Flip Wilson use to say, “The devil made me do it.” It wasn’t till I learned about my identity in Christ that I realized it wasn’t the devil at all. My sin was directly related to the willful, fleshly choices that I made.
The more we learn about our self-life the more we realize that as a committed follower of Jesus our primary battle in life is our flesh. That’s not to say that the devil doesn’t tempt us from time to time, but primarily our sin is generated by our flesh. Our flesh represents sin patterns that have been developed over our lifetime that oft drive and affect our decisions and our relationships.
I would like to address five areas where the flesh can generate inward battles. These inward enemies may seem like no big deal but left unchecked cause us to develop an unproductive life.
1. Fear – Someone said regarding fear:
“The only fear we are born with is the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. Every other fear is self-developed through our environment. “
The Scripture supports that statement when Paul told young Timothy, “God has not given us the spirit of fear…” (2 Timothy 1:7)
Fear is a game-changer. Left unchecked it will cause personal defeat and failure of the greatest magnitude. Fear keeps us from discovering and carrying out our destiny. It creates a reluctance that causes us to continually second guess our decisions. Fear prevents us from having a clear mind, to create and progress in life.
Fear is also transferable to those who we influence. If it is true that every person, in one way or another, influences at least 5 people, then fear will certainly be transferred to our sphere of influence.
Fear is opposite of faith. It shows a lack of trust in God to provide, protect and lead us. According to 2 Timothy fear is just the opposite of being led by the Holy Spirit.
2. Indecision – Indecision is a thief, it robs you of your joy. Have you ever been in the midst of a difficult decision and you just couldn’t pull the trigger and make a decision? Did that moment bring the joy of the Lord or anxiety? I am not suggesting that you make quick and uncalculated decisions but when you continually hover around indecision it creates unrest and prevents you from resting. We must remember that we have been given the mind of Christ and we do have the ability, in Christ, to make good, sound decisions. Indecision can be related to fear – the fear of making a wrong decision which leads to, “I rather not make any decision than a wrong decision”. All of us have moments of indecision but when it becomes a pattern we have fallen into a fearful lifestyle.
3. Doubt – Doubt and indecision are siblings. There is room for healthy skepticism and cautiousness, but you can’t let doubt take over. Doubt messes with your head and opens your mind to all sorts of voices. Doubt will destroy your life and your chances of success in anything you do. Doubt is an enemy, go after it and get rid of it.
The second part of the Timothy passage mentioned above is, “For God has given us a powerful, loving, and disciplined spirit.” (The Voice) When we operate with the mind of Christ, and draw on our identity doubt will be a rare and short lived problem.
4. Worry - Worry is a natural, human instinct. Worry can merely be a concern or it can graduate to a state of continual anxiousness. That’s when worry conquers you, and dominates your thoughts. It is here that worry/concern progresses to lack of trust in God.
This is what the Scripture refers to in Philippians 4:46, “Be anxious for nothing…”, in other words the Lord doesn’t want us to get to the point of continual anxiousness rather He desires for us to bring our worry/anxiousness to Him.
The remainder of Philippians 4 tells us how to bring this worry to Him; “…but in everything by prayer (devotion and worship), and supplication (cry of humility and absolute dependence upon Him), with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Then God gives us a promise, “then the peace of God, which passes all comprehension, will guard your heart and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
5. Over-caution/Timidity – In counseling circles this is often known as a timid approach to life. Timidity is a sister to fear and in some circles is often referred to as an emotional illness. It becomes an illness when left unchecked. Left unchecked it will conquer you and it will affect every area of your life. It will keep you in a social and emotional cocoon, and hinder any advance in relationships or in your career path.
To a believer this is especially harmful because our life is to be light and salt. God has strategically placed each one of us in a specific place at a particular time in history to manifest the life of Christ. Our life is to be more characterized by boldness rather than timidity. That doesn’t mean that we have to be the life of the party or we verbally pound everyone we meet with the Bible, but rather it means that we demonstrate a quiet boldness that is empowered by the Holy Spirit. Then when the Holy Spirit leads us to speak we boldly proclaim our faith in Christ.
Fear, indecision, doubt, worry and over-caution are subtle flesh patterns that when left unchecked can short circuit our quest to live victoriously. Victorious living is the goal of every committed follower of Jesus. When we surrender all of our imperfections to Christ and rest in Him as enough, then He will give us all we need to overcome every flesh pattern that weights us down. “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete and He is head over all rule and authority.” (Colossians 2:9-10)