Sunday, 05 August 2018 22:11

The Flesh Battle the Spirit – It’s Hard to Say Goodbye

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Do you ever feel torn between the flesh and the spirit? This morning my wife and I said goodbye to our son and his family, who are missionaries overseas. We shared a refreshing ten-day visit in our home. We said our goodbyes at the airport at 5:00 a.m. The last image I have in my mind is our seven-year-old granddaughter standing at the door of the airport, waving goodbye to us.

My emotions remind me of Jesus’ words, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt. 26:41). My spirit is proud of my kids and their missionary work. However, my flesh struggles with saying goodbye, knowing I will not see them for another year or two.

As pastors, we all have flesh/spirit battles. I am writing to encourage you because some of you are in the middle of such a battle. I will mention a few.

  • Some of you are battling criticism. Someone has criticized your preaching or your leadership in the church. Your spirit knows criticism comes with the terrain, but your flesh wants to lash out in retaliation.
  • Some of you are facing unjust treatment at the hands of some people. Your spirit wants to let God handle the situation, but your flesh wants to bomb them from the pulpit or spread venomous words about them, to bring them down a notch.
  • Some of you are lonely and separated from family and home. It is difficult serving when you are lonely. Your spirit knows God will be there to comfort you, but your flesh wants to move and avoid the discomfort of separation.
  • Some of you are not seeing your work prosper. The numbers are stagnant and possibly declining. You know God rewards faithfulness; however, you want to circulate your resume or take things into your own hands. The spirit says trust God, but your flesh says do something.

My experience, at the airport this morning, reminds me of several encouraging thoughts I want to share with you.

First, let the emotions flow. As I viewed my granddaughter standing at the door of the airport, a tear trickled down my cheek. You are not weird to cry, get mad, feel lonely, or get discouraged. Jesus disciples were in the Garden of Gethsemane when they struggled with the flesh. They went to sleep when Jesus was expecting them to pray.

Second, just because you struggle with the flesh does not mean you are a wash-up. Immediately after Jesus’ disciples went to sleep in the garden, Jesus instructed them to “Rise, let us be going.” (Matt. 26:46) Jesus did not dump them because of a failure of the flesh.

Third, be faithful to your calling, your values, and God’s character, despite the challenges of the flesh. Jesus’ disciples could have caved in to the fleshly pull and given up on Jesus, but they did not. They faced other challenges after this episode, but they remained faithful.

The Bible says, “It is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” (I Cor. 4:2) So if you are reading this and feel discouraged due to the tugs of the flesh versus the spirit, my encouragement for you today is to remain faithful as the disciples were.

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