My plan was to postpone this article until I could speak about my unbelief in the past tense. We Christians love to share our struggles when we are looking at them in the rearview mirror with a “lesson” in our back pockets. There is something that seems godlier about saying, “Six months ago I was tempted in that area, but praise God I’m fully trusting in Christ’s work now.” However, I’m coming to understand that Christ isn’t only sufficient for me when I’m past my temptations; no, He’s more than sufficient in the midst of them. Thus, we are free to write and share “present tense articles” that elevate a high view of Christ even as we are walking through unbelief.
As my husband and I have been making substantial life decisions over the past two years we’ve faced one barrier after another. It seems like nothing is coming to us easily, nothing is falling effortlessly into place. In the midst of this, there’s a little voice within that seems to enjoy pointing out the fact that if God is in control of the whole universe then it would be nothing for Him to change my circumstances. That voice is taking my good theology—a high view of God’s meticulous rule, and making some pretty poor conclusions—God’s withholding something good from us.
I find that the more I focus on the lies and feed the doubts the more powerful my unbelief becomes.
Of course that’s absolutely ridiculous! I know that. There’s no rational reasoning behind these feelings when I filter them through the Word of God. But, obviously, sin, doubt, and unbelief are rarely “rational”. The problem is, although the temptation to disbelieve God isn’t rational, it is powerful. I find that the more I focus on the lies and feed the doubts the more powerful my unbelief becomes.
It’s at this point that I have a choice—preach God’s truth to myself and allow it to strengthen my belief or listen to the lies and allow it to strengthen my unbelief. There’s no neutral ground here. It’s not as if I can just wait it out and see if my feelings or circumstances change. The path of passivity (“maybe tomorrow I will feel like God is good and gracious”) will only intensify unbelief. If I wait until tomorrow to believe God is good and gracious in all His dealings with me, I will discover upon waking that I have grown more obstinate in my resolve to think He is stingy and in my adamancy to take matters into my own hands.
The choice we make at this intersection lies at the heart of Self Talk the Gospel. When I find myself at the intersection of unbelief from within (“surely God is withholding from you…”) and temptation from without (“here’s the perfect opportunity to personally secure your needs”) what am I going to do? More pointedly, when you find yourself at the intersection of unbelief and temptation what are you going to do? What are you presently struggling with that’s causing unbelief and tempting you to make things happen for yourself? Perhaps you resonate with the following:
God, the perfect Creator of every living thing, could give you a child but He hasn’t; therefore, He must be withholding something good from you that you will have to get for yourself.
God, the loving Author of marriage, could give you a spouse but He hasn’t; therefore, He must be withholding something good from you that you will have to get for yourself.
God, the rightful Owner of the entire universe, could give you a house but He hasn’t; therefore, He must be withholding something good from you that you will have to get for yourself.
All of these scenarios tempt us to disbelieve God’s goodness and motivate us to procure our desires through personal means. Much like Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11), we are presented with an opportunity to believe the lies of the Devil and secure our needs and desires apart from God’s gracious provision and perfect timing.
What are you presently struggling with that’s causing unbelief and tempting you to make things happen for yourself?
But, if you are in Christ, temptation is not the final word. We have One who has walked before us and was tempted as we are yet remained sinless (Heb. 4:15), so that He might offer Himself as a sinless substitute in the place of unrighteous sinners (2 Cor. 5:21). Through our union with Christ we are able to “receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Not only that, Christ serves as an example of what it looks like to perfectly trust the Father in the face of temptation by speaking out truth and resisting the Devil in the power of the Spirit (Matt. 4:4,7,10).
Today, in this present struggle, I am going to choose to follow Jesus by speaking out God’s truth and resisting the lies of the enemy in the power of the Spirit:
As I am tempted to believe God is withholding from me, I say to myself,
“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things” (Rom. 8:32)
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3).
As I am tempted to believe God is not good or gracious to me, I say to myself,
“Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (Jas. 1:16-17).
I will preach these truths to myself and allow others in my community to speak them into my heart until my faith in God’s goodness and trust in His sovereign will is strengthened yet again.
What about you? As you stand at the intersection of unbelief and temptation, what choice are you going to make to strengthen your belief in God’s goodness and trust in His will? What Scriptures are you going to use to refute the lies of the enemy? Who are you “doing life with” that can help you fight the fight of faith? Essentially, what ways are you going to self talk the gospel until this present struggle becomes a thing of the past?
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