A sick heart...
That's where it started. I was heartbroken, hopeless, rolling in self-pity and sin. My thoughts read something like this: "This is as good as it gets. I made my own bed, I guess I'm lying in it. I deserve this life. God doesn't have better for me." You get the idea.
I was so focused on my circumstances, I lost sight of my God. I lost sight of who He is and what He promises He has for me. "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and future." (Jeremiah 29:11) "No eye has seen, no ear has heard what God has in store for those who love Him...`" (I Corinthians 2:9)
The ongoing work of the Christian life is for us to made perfect, to live out the work Christ completed on the cross. "being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion to the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6)
I just forgot that my deepest desire was for God to continue His good work inside of me, to mold my character to become more like His...at any cost. I became focused on my circumstances over the work of my character. I lost sight of my God for the intensity of my pain. Which is so wrong because we are promised trials. I had forgotten the words of my precious Jesus, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have (Jesus) have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
Reminding myself these simple promises can be a full time job! When we lose sight of God and all we can see is our own misery, we lose sight of who we really are because all we see is who we appear to be and "hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?" (Romans 8:24b)
Quite simply put, I lost hope. I lost my Hope, "Christ Jesus our hope" (I Timothy 1:1)
Because God's word says that Jesus is our hope and we have hope, "You will be secure, because there is hope;" (Job 11:18) I realized hopelessness in any situation, area or circumstance of life is a sin.
I was hopeless that my life would get better. I was sinning out of control and I could not stop myself. "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do...As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me." (Romans 7:15 & 17)
Realizing that in the power of the Holy Spirit, I had the power to stop and to overcome my sin. "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then...I...am serving God" (Romans 7:25 NASB)
I began to fight to overcome this terrible sin of hopelessness. I began to silence the lies in my life by taking every thought captive. "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (II Corinthians 10:5)
I also began to actively guard my heart from allowing these untruths to steal hope from my very soul. "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." (Proverbs 4:23)
Without hope the battle for a better character is lost. Without hope we cannot persevere throught the tribulations we are told to expect in life. Jesus promises us troubles but also promises us a way out. "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (I Corinthians 10:13)
We are also told that troubles and persecution lead to good results, Godly results, in our character. "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us," (Romans 5:3-5a)
If we only hope with a Godly hope, we will not be disappointed. By not losing our hope, we can experience great joy!
The Apostle Paul tells us that trials and tribulation are essential to character building. Yet, we are to endure them for the joy we have in Christ. We also have Jesus as the ultimate example of enduring trials for the joy set before Him. "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2)
This is the only way He could endure death on the cross is to set joy continually before Him. He could always see the better purpose, the higher purpose, the purpose of His Father, the hope that we would reconciled to a right relationship with God.
I began to ask God to change my character instead of focusing only on my circumstances. He not only changed my character, He also began to change my circumstances. These same trials were no longer useful to molding my character and all that I was praying for was taking place! My character was changed and I had become free of the prison of that particular circumstance. Essentially, God had taught me the lesson He wanted me to learn and we were free to move on, together. Now, I still face the same trials from time to time. I, however, do not make the same mistakes. I am free from becoming hopeless. I recognize the downward spiral of thinking, the selfish focus of prayer and I ask God to overcome my weaknesses in the power of His Holy Spirit.
When I am weak He is strong in me. "but he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.' So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong." (I Corinthians 12:9-10)
My hope is alive and well. It is firmly rooted and established in Jesus Christ. God has brought me friends in whom I can openly and honestly confide my struggles and confess my sins. "Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective." (James 5:16)
Don't you long to be effective in battle? Then start being healed from your sins. Start overcoming sin.
Dare to overcome, to hope, to live fully. "The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness." (John 10:10 NLT)
A life fully lived is one full of hope.
When God restored my hope, I became intrigued with the tree of life. Why does the Bible call fulfilled longings a tree of life? Why does the Bible call so many things a tree of life?
In Proverbs, wisdom , a tongue that brings healing, the fruit of the righteousness and she who wins souls are all called trees of life.
As I meditated on the tree of life, God began to show me the redemptive theme of the tree of life.
In the Garden of Eden, two trees are specifically mentioned in the Bible, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. God commanded Adam and Eve to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They couldn't say no to the enemy. They couldn't resist their own couriosity. They chose worldly wisdom over Godly wisdom. They were tempted, they ate, they lost paradise bringing sin into the world for all time.
We still choose to eat from that same bad tree each day. We make the choice to sin knowing fully what the cost will be. We also know the riches of living a life restored. We still choose to sin over and over again, thus having to choose to be redeemed, to be restored to a right relationshiop with God over and over again.
Even in our many sins and our needy state, God gives us opportunity after opportunity to receive the blessing that was lost in the garden. We still get to know what life would have tasted like had Adam and Eve eaten from the tree of life instead.
God instructs us over and over in His Word on how to receive this blessing of the tree of life. If we keep our hearts full of hope ("Hope deferred makes the heart sick but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." Proverbs 13:12) we get it. If we seek for and embrace wisdom (Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her...Proverbs 3:18) we get it. If we speak healing words and truth with our tongue ("The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit." Proverbs 15:4) we get it. And, if we lead a righteous life full of wisdom that leads others to the Lord (The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise. Proverbs 11:30) we get it.
So, all we have to do is obey to receive this special blessing of life. Yet, we continually fall short. We make the same miserable choice Adam and Eve did so long ago every single day we live. The only way God could redeem us, purify us and ultimately give us the tree of life was to give us Jesus. His son came to us, all God, all man. He says, "I am the...Life," (John 14:6) and He hung on a tree for our sins.
"He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed." (I Peter 2:24)
The cross...the death of Christ...the ultimate redemption...the tree of Life.
Have you eaten from this tree of Life?
I recently attended a dance conference called dance revolution with Julia. I had been studying the tree of life for quite some time before that weekend. The dance faculty performed a very moving dance drama called "The Tree." It reenacted these very principles through dance. It was very powerful. The dancers carried around these large apples, representing different sins. The apples were very burdensome as the dancers tried to live their lives in their sin. God's Word tell us we are dead in our sin. We are living like mummies...going through life dead!
When we are dead to life, we cannot respond to Life!
"When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive - right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ's Cross." (Colossians 2:13-14 The Message)
We need to receive the free gift of eternal life to pass from death to life, to wipe the slate of our lives clean. Have you done that?
God's Word tells us once we've passed from death to life in Christ all the blessings in Christ are "yes and amen."
"Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God's Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident." (II Corinthians 1:20 The Message)
When we are alive with Christ and living in line with His will for our life, all of the promises of God can flow freely in our life. What a beautiful picture of the love we experience "because He first loved us." ("We love because He first loved us." I John 4:19)
Wouldn't you rather be living a life full of promise and blessing than be stuck in a dead-end life?
These promises and blessings include not only experiencing the blessings of the tree of life but actually eating from it. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." (Revelation 2:7)
We get to fully experience Life in Heaven. We get to eat from the tree of life even though we don't deserve to. We get to eat, to experience life as we were meant to experience it in the garden, earthly paradise, because we have been redeemed and we have overcome sin and death.
"And they overcame...because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony..." (Revelation 13:11 NASB)
Webster's defines testimony as "a statement made under oath to establish a fact; any declaration; or any form of evidence; proof."
I want to declare and prove how we can overcome a life of sin and death and eat from the tree of life. I want to establish the fact that although the privilege of eating from the tree of life was lost in The Garden of Eden, we can eat from the tree of life in Paradise, Heaven, through the blood of the Lamb. I want a declaration, a statement.
How often do you use your testimony to overcome your problems, your battles, your sin? The key to overcoming is to share your story.
Be victorious, eat from the tree of life, share your testimony, tell your story.