by Mike Ratliff
1 I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— 2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:1-6 ESV)
I have learned to view my own struggles, my circumstances, my failures, and my frustrations as God showing me not only what is wrong in my heart that is in dire need of His cleansing grace, but also as learning experiences from which to teach. Over the last few days I have become disconsolate borne from impatience with nearly everyone. I have gone from the mountaintop a few days ago to some serious frustration and impatience. It seems the more I want to write these posts the less time I have to do so. The time pressures on my window of opportunity to research, pray, and write has shrunk it to half the size I have become used to. As a result, I have found myself becoming very angry. This anger has simmered to the point that it has caused me to show some signs of growing bitterness. That really got my attention. Why was this happening? What is God showing me? What is it that I have missed in this walk that would keep this from happening.?
Over the last year I have become very grateful to God for preserving the writings of Martin Luther and the other reformers as well as the Puritans. But, God has used Martin Luther to speak the most to my heart. His writing style is not scholarly at all. It seem as if he was writing whatever he wrote for the common man. This morning I read one of his devotions that the Lord used to show me exactly what was causing my anger problem. I pray that God will use this to speak to your heart as well.
Controlling your Thoughts
by Martin Luther from Faith Alone – A Daily Devotional
7 Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed. He divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps, (Genesis 32:7 ESV)
While Jacob was on his way to be reunited with his brother, Esau, he was plagued with doubts. He learned that Esau was wealthy and had a large family. He thought, “What if God has changed his mind? Maybe God has rejected me in favor of my brother.” These were Jacob’s thoughts. but they remained just that–thoughts. Because of human nature and weak faith, people can’t keep from having these kinds of thoughts any more than they can avoid other emotions, such as impatience, anger, and lust. You can’t keep thoughts and temptations from coming into your head. Just don’t let these thoughts become fixed in your mind so that they begin to affect your judgment.
You should follow the advice of a hermit who was approached by a young man complaining of having lustful thoughts and other temptations. The old man told him, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but only let them fly. Don’t let them nest in your hair.” It’s all right to have these thoughts, but let them remain just that–thoughts. Don’t let them grow to the point where you have to act on these thoughts.
This was the problem that led to despair in the lives of Cain, Saul, Judas, and others. They let their thoughts grow and grow until they were saying, “My punishment is more than I can bear” (Genesis 4:13), or “I have sinned,… for I have betrayed innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4). When they did this, their temptation was turned into a judgment because they rejected the Word of God, faith, and prayer. But in spite of the many thoughts and severe temptations that Jacob experienced that night, he didn’t throw his faith away.
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