There are few things on earth more motivating than being set free from backbreaking burdens and being elevated to a position of total freedom. To think that you were lumbered with excessive loads that were driving you into the ground, and you thought you could do nothing about them; call it fate, call it bad luck, call it whatever you will, you never saw any alternatives for this was your sad lot and you were stuck with them, or so you thought.
And then you met Jesus Christ and you got converted, your life came back to you as in a flash of revelatory brilliance, this is who you are, redeemed, in Christ, a new person; washed thoroughly, cleansed and filled with God's spirit and rejoicing in this new-found communion with Almighty God. This is more than just good, it's magical, fantastic, it's glorious and once you have it the motivation to share it, to tell others about it becomes overwhelming.
Being saved, being free of condemnation and guilt, being rescued by God is so wonderful that to keep it to yourself is like trying to keep the sun from shining or like trying to stop the earth rotating, for if the good news were not verbally communicated its very presence would be so strong a radiating force that it would be felt and seen regardless.
A light, however tiny, does not fight to shine; it does so naturally. So too does the grace of God in your life; it shines forth in all its graciousness and effulgence because God is its author, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3).
So you are fully and unashamedly saved and motoring along magnificently, all systems go and you are running well, your enthusiasm is high and you are incredibly happy in the faith.
Then, like a thunderbolt out of the sky, something hits you so severely that you are aghast, you begin to falter, the profound joy you possess begins to diminish and just like that you find yourself in a strange place, and you are bewildered as to how you got there.
You are not alone in this conundrum, for something similar happened to the Church at Galatia, and it engaged the prompt attention of the Apostle Paul, who responded:
"Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?" (Galatians 5:7)
Paul asked the pertinent question, "Who did hinder you?" for he knew quite well that hindrances were deliberately put in their way to prevent their smooth running.
The Christian hasn't lived that has not or will not have gone through such an experience; because the life Christians are called to live is one that is littered with pitfalls and snares, glorious ups and annoying, frustrating downs, good times and bad times and at all times subject to the unpredictable vagaries of time and space.
Paul listed a number of things, any one of which could have caused him to stumble or to fall and prevent him running well.
"Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness." (2 Corinthians 11:24-27)
Paul later added a few more perils he had to face and it is clear that these dangers, that could so easily have inhibited him, were public knowledge: "But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. " (2 Timothy 3:10-11)
Paul then went on to add a profound truth that has relevance to all Christians for all time, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." (2 Timothy 3:12)
In other words, Paul was making it very clear that living a godly life in Christ was going to attract a host of opposing forces, both human and satanic.
Too many believers are like the foolish Galatians whom Paul censored in strong language, "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?"
Studying Galatians we know that the Galatians allowed themselves to be BEWITCHED by false teachers who taught strange doctrines that were neither in accordance with the apostolic doctrines nor supportive of or uplifting to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Believers are not to be surprised that nominal Christians are leaving the church in numbers because, in truth, their attachment to Christianity is on par with demons believing in God. Some have associated themselves with the church for purely selfish reasons and are just looking for an excuse to depart the flock. Their belief in God is merely intellectual and tentative, they never talk of conversion (something they have never experienced), and they are unfamiliar with the concept of being born again and being a committed Christian.
These are like the ones across Europe and elsewhere that refer to themselves as post-Christian, who swallow whole every ill-conceived concept opposed to God and the Bible, can be relied upon to support homosexuality, same-sex marriages, and anything else that catches their fancy, and even when they are ordained ministers of the Gospel they are no more reliable since they are unsaved and lack faith in Almighty God.
Some believers today, who are genuine converts, are BEWITCHED by a host of false teachers and unsound doctrines and so have stopped running well for the Lord.
Believers can be BEWITCHED from many sources:
From inside the church and liberal theology; by false teachers teaching unsound doctrines such as for example the prosperity gospel, or doctrines that deny the supernatural, or some church ministers reneging on Christian principles; like approving and conducting same-sex marriages.
From science and the scientific approach; by allowing conjectures and unproven theories to discomfort them and make them doubt God. True science will always verify the works of God as far as material things are involved.
From philosophy and philosophical theologies; not being aware that such doctrines and viewpoints were fulsomely rejected by the Apostles, like for example Gnosticism (the idea that possessing special knowledge is what elevates chosen ones to be like God) that was dealt with in Colossians, 1 John and 2 John. Every doctrine and ordinance of man is an error-filled exercise with no basis in truth, and for many proponents an abstract exercise in self entertainment.
From tradition which can be massively deflating especially when they are used in opposition to sound doctrine. The Roman Catholic church through their self-serving belief in tradition, genuine or hearsay, believe in and practice prayers for the dead, purgatory, the worship of Mary and her mediator position between God and man.
From the creeds and confessional theology that are nothing more than statements of belief by a church or group of churches and may be riddled with errors just like any production from the minds of fallible humans.
There are other sources that cause believers to stop running well; like a fascination with yoga and its attachments, like the outpourings from psychologists and humanist and the New Age Movement and ad-hoc groups that pop up and coalesce around spiritual themes.
What is fascinating about all this is that these disparate sources can bring much influence to bear, but none of them, acting together or separately, can force you into compliance.
God has so devised it that the most powerful force confronting believers, Satan himself, can be put in his place and be forcefully rebuffed by our expression of will. The Bible puts it like this, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7)
The important thing here is to recognise that you are not running as smoothly or as well as you did in the beginning and ask God to put you back on the right track, back to your joyous best, back to that first love that was bubbling enthusiasm in your heart and allow Him to refill your tank, recharge your battery and energise you for the race is not yet won.
Think about it and you will see that there is no such thing as luck, chance, happenstance or fate about running this glorious race for God. God has prepared for you the resources and given you all that you need to run and complete this course with Joy. And in attendance, every step of the way, to make sure you succeed is the Holy Spirit in fulfilment of a sacred promise given to Zechariah, but also to every believer, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts." (Zechariah 4:6)
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2013