The power of our choice - what does this really mean and why is it so important? God has given us the incredible gift of free choice - the free choice to either follow His will moment by moment or the free choice to follow what we think and feel. Just how important are these moment-by-moment choices?
Well, emotional choices (choices to follow what we want over God's will) quench God's Spirit in our hearts and prevent His Life from coming forth. Whereas, faith choices (choices to follow Him regardless of how we feel) not only unleash all of His power to come to our aid, but also release His Life in our souls.
Thus, our willpower is the critical crossroads and the key to whose life will be seen out in our souls, either God's or our own. Our willpower is like the passageway, the doorway or the gateway for God's Life in our hearts to flow out into our lives. This passageway can be "opened," so God's Life can flow easily; or it can be "closed," and God's Life quenched. It all depends upon our choice.
Our Willpower and the Spirit of Strength
Speaking of choices, last month we saw that God continually counsels us as to what choice to make; i.e., what His will is. In Isaiah 11:2, God lists the functions of the seven-fold Spirit of God. One of these functions is called the Spirit of Counsel. The Spirit of Counsel is like our personal advisor, our helper, our guide. He tells us what we should choose and what we shouldn't.
Philippians 2:13 tells us that God is in us, "...to will of His good pleasure." This means God is in us to let us know what His will is for our own particular situation.
Going hand in hand with God's supernatural Counsel is God's Spirit of Strength, again listed in Isaiah 11:2 as part of the seven-fold Spirit of God.
God's Spirit of Strength is God's supernatural ability to take what He has counseled us, bring it forth, and then accomplish it in our lives. In other words, what good is knowing what God's will is if we don't have the strength or the power to carry that will out?
Again, Philippians 2:13, "For it is God which worketh in you, both to will [counseling us as to what His Will is] and to do [giving us His Power and ability to perform His will in our lives]...."
God doesn't need any of our own natural abilities or strengths in order to help Him accomplish His will. In fact, when we try to perform His will in our own strength, we simply get in the way. Even though we might have great capabilities and assets of our own, we must still choose to set those aside and trust in His strength. He tells us, "Without Me, ye can do nothing." (John 15:5) In other words, everything we do in our own ability, apart from His Spirit of Strength, is going to chalk up to worthlessness, emptiness and fear.
A Classic Example: I Almost Drowned
Here's a perfect example.
Many years ago, Chuck and I went to Australia on a business trip. We decided to celebrate our anniversary early by going to the Great Barrier Reef to do some scuba diving. Chuck has always loved to dive, and one of his greatest desires was to someday dive at the Great Barrier Reef. This was a perfect opportunity.
I, however, had not made a dive in ten years. Ten years previously, I had taken a one-week scuba "crash course" so I could get certified and go diving with Chuck in the Virgin Islands. We had a great time, but I hadn't had the opportunity to dive since then. So I had not thought about diving - or even tried out the equipment - in ten years! And, I was so busy traveling and writing before this trip that I didn't have time to reread the diving manual.
Arriving at Hayman Island on the Great Barrier Reef very late in the afternoon, we immediately asked if there were any "refresher courses" offered before the big dive the next morning. They said "No." Then we asked if there was a possibility of an afternoon boat trip the next day so I could take the morning practice course. Again, the answer was "No." They also told us if we wanted to go on the planned trip to the Reef early the next morning, we needed to take a quick "check out" dive right then. They needed to see if we were proficient. (Oh boy, just what I was afraid of!) Well, Chuck passed with flying colors.
I jumped into the water ready to do my very best. The instructor made me sit on the bottom of the pool, take off my breathing apparatus and my mask, and put them both back on. Well, after ten years, I had forgotten exactly how to do this properly. I couldn't remember how to "clear" my mask underwater. I could only clear the water down to just above my nose. After one minute of holding my breath, I finally had to breathe in. Tons of water went into my lungs and I instinctively shot to the top. (A cardinal rule in diving is that you never shoot to the top. You can easily kill yourself by holding your breath while going up - causing an embolism. A change in depth of only three feet can prove fatal.)
The instructor followed me to the top, calmed me down, and said everything would be okay and to try again. He then led me back underwater to try out the "buddy breathing" technique. At the bottom of the pool, he took a deep breath and then handed me his breathing apparatus. Again, I had forgotten you don't just breathe in when you put the apparatus in your mouth. You must first blow out through the regulator to get rid of the water that has come in as it was passed to you. I took a deep breath, expecting to get air, but got a mouthful of water instead. Once again, I instinctively shot to the top.
The instructor was very nice, and surprisingly said I could go on the trip the next morning, but he said he was a "little nervous" for me. He was nervous! At this point I was panic stricken! I had almost killed myself twice in only eight feet of water; what would I do the next morning in 100 feet of water?
All night long, fear absolutely gripped me! I'm not normally prone to be fearful, but that night I was paralyzed! I made up my mind: there was no way I was going. I would make up some story to get out of it. The problem was, however, it was Chuck's birthday, and he had his heart set on diving at the Barrier Reef, and he had told me that he wouldn't go without me. What on earth was I supposed to do?
I didn't sleep half the night. I just lied there awake. By faith (because I certainly didn't feel it), I kept giving God my fear and panic, telling Him that I was willing to trust Him with whatever He wanted me to do. I acknowledged it was His body and His life (He owns me), and I committed to rely on Him totally. His Spirit of Strength. I finally fell asleep and when I woke the next morning, I knew in my heart that God would not fail me.
Chuck and I didn't talk much about the diving trip at breakfast, because I'm sure he sensed my fear and that I might say, "I'm not going."
After breakfast we took a walk and "coincidentally" ran across a gal whom we had befriended on the boat coming to the Island the day before. She mentioned that she was taking a scuba diving refresher course that morning and then was going on an afternoon boat trip to the Reef. She asked us if we would like to accompany her and her husband. Well, we were floored because of the response we had gotten from the diving people the night before that there was no morning refresher course and no afternoon boat trip.
I knew immediately it had to be the Lord! He knew how badly I needed that refresher course and He had arranged one just for me!
I took the diving course with my new friend and we went on that afternoon boat trip. I made several dives with my precious husband and we had an absolute ball, taking loads of pictures and even seeing several sharks.
This is just one small example, but these "little hassles" are where we so often live. If God can be trusted in these tiny tests, how much more can He be trusted in the big ones. Trusting God's Spirit of Strength is simply relying upon Him and His ability to accomplish His will in our lives, no matter how we feel, what we think, or what our circumstances are. We can't serve God with our words only; we must also put our life actions alongside. As Habakkuk 2:4 states, "The just shall live by His faith." In other words, we live the life that pleases Christ by trusting His faithfulness to perform that life in and through us.
Not Only a Faith Choice, But a Faith Walk
Consequently, it's not only important that we make the right faith choices, giving God the authority to work, but it's also important that we give Him our lives to perform those choices through. In other words, we must continually "present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is [our] reasonable service...that [we] might prove [by our life actions] what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Romans 12:1-2)
How often we make the right choices in our prayer closets, giving God the authority to work. But, because we don't feel any different when we begin to walk, act and do what He asked, we doubt that we really heard Him and, once again, we take our lives back into our own hands. This is why this is such a difficult step. We "feel" one way, and yet, by faith we are supposed to choose to "act" in another. My diving experience is a perfect example. I not only had to give God my fear, anxiety and worry, but also I had to give Him my body and trust Him with my life.
Another example: how easy it is for the wife of an alcoholic to make the right choices to follow God in the privacy of her own prayer closet. But what a different story it is, when she actually encounters her verbally abusive and drunken husband. At this point, she must not only trust God to take away her natural feelings of anger, bitterness and resentment and show her what His will is, but also she must trust Him enough to give her the Love, wisdom and power she needs to walk that will out.
Getting up and doing in action what God has asked us to do is saying, like Peter, "At Thy word I will." (Luke 5:5) In other words, we are trusting that God will perform His will and His Life through us, regardless of how we feel.
Remember, born again believers are the only ones who possess the supernatural authority of God to choose to go against the tide of what they naturally think, feel and want, and choose instead to follow God's will. He has also given us His supernatural power to perform and implement His will in our lives. Now, non-believers can make a choice, but none of them have the authority to go against how they feel or what they think, because they don't possess another power source within them to carry it out. We do!
If depending upon His strength and not your own turns out to be a difficult step for you, as it was for me in the above example, I would suggest reading Philippians 2:5-9. This is the passage that talks about being "obedient unto death," not only on the inside - choosing to lay aside our own thoughts and emotions - but also, on the outside - getting up and actually doing in action whatever God has called us to do.
God's principles do work, regardless of our circumstances. Whether we are about talking marriage relationships, business relationships, family relationships or simply friends and acquaintances, if we make the right faith choices to do God's will, He will give us the strength we need to implement it in our lives.
Walking in God's counsel and His strength is the victory that overcomes the world. This is what faith is all about. (1 John 5:4) Faith is simply a series of choices. It's choices not only allowing God to work in our lives, but also choices giving Him our lives to work through. Overcomers are those who prevail over what their own thoughts, emotions, and desires are urging them to do and those who depend upon God's Spirit of Strength to do God's will in their lives.
This is the preparation (the equipping, the cleansing) that each of us must choose to do daily. It's our own responsibility to put off the old and to put on the new. (Ephesians 4:22-24) We already possess Christ's Life in our hearts; our job is simply to make sure that's the Life that is showing forth in our souls. It all depends upon our moment-by-moment choices.
How Much Do You Trust God?
The bottom line: How much do you trust God?
We often sing about His Love and His mercy, but do we really believe and trust in it? A child trusts in the love of his mother, even though, at times, she must discipline him and take him to the doctor for shots. Real love involves trust. When someone really loves and cares for you, you trust that they have your best interests at heart, even though you don't always understand their expression of love. God asks us to do the same with Him. He asks us to unconditionally trust in His Love for us, no matter what we see, feel or understand to be happening.
The God of the Bible is a loving and compassionate Father, who will use all the events in our lives to rid us of sin and self, so that He might replace us with Himself and, thereby, fill us with His fullness. He continually stretches and shapes our faith so that we will be able to endure any circumstance that He allows, and so that we will be able to say with absolute conviction, "Though [You] slay me, yet will I trust [You]." (Job 13:15)
How much do you trust Him? Enough to lay everything down?
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To be continued next month: Single-mindedness vs. Double-mindedness. This article has been excerpted, in part, from our book, Against the Tide.