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Playing Whac-a-Mole with your struggles

October 4, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Posted in: Discipleship

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? (Psalm 42:1-2)

I became a follower of Jesus as a college freshman at age 18. After a couple of years of learning what it meant to follow Jesus, and developing some close friendships with my Christian friends, I started to understand the importance of accountability, of having someone that I trusted enough to confess my sins too, someone who would ask me the tough questions about my walk with the Lord. For the past 20 years, I have always had at least someone that I talk with regularly so that I stay sharp in my discipleship. As Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

But here’s the thing about accountability and the sincere desire to avoid sin. The longer I have walked with the Lord, His Spirit and His Word have functioned like one of those mirrors that magnifies everything to four times its actual size. Blemishes and imperfections that I never knew were there have been revealed to be ugly warts in need of serious treatment. The Psalmist prays, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” So what do you do when God’s thorough search reveals more offensive ways than you could ever count?

My usual solution has been this: focus on the major sins that threaten to trip me up. Communication. Avoiding conflict. Laziness. Lack of discipline. Lust. A lack of planning ahead. And then, if there is time, have my partner ask about the many other areas of potential struggle: how am I doing as a husband? As a father? How is my prayer life? Is there anything I am avoiding out of fear? And so on… As important as this approach has been, the result over the years has been a list of sins and struggles and goals that would take someone hours to go through with me.

Two weekends ago, I spent time at the men’s retreat, and in the Friday evening session, I talked about 1Timothy 4:16, where Paul tells his son in the faith Timothy to “watch your life and doctrine closely.” I had the men spend time reflecting on what things in their life they needed to watch closely. As I wrote down the long list of things that I need to watch, I came to an important realization. Yes, I could spend the rest of my life playing Whack-a-Mole with my sins and struggles, conquering one only to have another one pop up. But I realized that there was a better way. Truly, there is one main question that I must ask myself daily, and others must ask of me:

Are you pursuing God?

If I am not pursuing God, then I will continue to struggle with every imaginable sin. But when my goal in life is to know and honor God, when the influences I allow into my life point me to Him, when I start my day with God and bring my anxieties, my fears, and my needs to Him regularly, then a lot of those struggles truly diminish. That is the one thing I really need accountability for: am I pursuing God? Seek first the Lord, delight in Him, and all the other things that I worry about and struggle with will begin to lose their appeal in the light of His glory and goodness.

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