Today‘s Scripture(s):  “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16

Introduction:

I thought I was done writing for the day, but the Holy Spirit has been gentle and methodical about keeping the thought on my heart that there was more for me to do today.  So, when I started writing messages I started by writing message not just for my ministry page, but taking time to do my own personal devotion…and writing messages on my own personal Facebook account about my own personal devotional…and I have a sense that the Lord wants me to go back to doing just that.

So, as I searched YouVersion for something else to do in addition to what I’m posting on Christlike Ministries Arkansas…I found another two-week mini-series from one of Joyce Meyer‘s devotional books.  So, I thought since I was doing one for Christlike Ministries Arkansas I could do a different one here.  After all, I need to spend time in God‘s Word, and be fed just like anyone else.

So, I hope you’ll follow along with me as I attempt to draw closer to God, and like I did with the other devotional I’m going to allow Joyce to introduce this devotional that I’m about to begin.

It’s so important how you spend those first thoughts of your day – spending just even a few minutes every morning with God is your opportunity to get off on the right foot and set a positive tone. New Day, New You gives you that opportunity. In this exciting devotional, compiled from several of Joyce’s most popular books, you’ll experience a fresh word from God for each day of the year. Before you take on the challenges that life may bring, start each day with encouragement and strength, reminders of God’s mercies, and God’s perspective. Become the new you that each new day can bring! – From the book New Day, New You by Joyce Meyer. Copyright 2007 by Joyce Meyer. Published by FaithWords. All rights reserved

Today’s Message:

Now, I know what you’re going to say already.  How come your writing this closer to the end of the day than the beginning, and to that the only answer I can give is that I just now came to the understanding that I had more to write about, and while I realize this is a devotion for the start of a day…this is actually more about returning to the theme for this year that God gave me…Being Serious About Being Serious With God…and I think what this is really about is that it’s a new month, and it’s full of new opportunities for me to be renewed, transformed, and be ministered to while I minister God’s Word.

So, let’s look at today’s message.  The title of it is; “Willpower: The Fair-Weathered Friend”.  As a diehard sports fan of the Chicago White Sox, and the writer of a Facebook page that’s dedicated to White Sox fans…one of the biggest pet peeves I have are the people who I like to call Fair-Weather, Bandwagon Riding fans.  But don’t you know that when it comes to walking with God our own personal Willpower is just the same?  Our own willpower can be a strange thing can’t it.  Some days it seems like we do really well with the things we struggle with, and then there are other days where we just can’t seem to do anything right of our own strength.  Anyone other than myself ever been here?

Well, the reason for that is that we’re not meant to do things of our own power.  We’re meant to rely and be totally submitted, surrendered, and dependent upon God in every area of our lives.  However, if we’re honest…most of you are a lot like me.  Give me some time, and maybe I can prove that we’re more alike than you think.

Willpower sure sounds like a great thing. We are led to believe that we have enough of it to fight off every temptation that comes our way. And sometimes it works. But let me tell you a little secret about willpower. Willpower is your best friend when things go well, but it’s the first friend to check out when you get weary. I have found that if I really don’t want to do something, my mind gives me plenty of reasons why I don’t have to. My emotions even join in, saying, “I agree because I don’t feel like doing it anyway.” – From the book New Day, New You by Joyce Meyer. Copyright 2007 by Joyce Meyer. Published by FaithWords. All rights reserved.

Okay, let’s see how super spiritual, or honest you guys are.  Has anyone other than me ever had the thought that we really “just don’t want to go into work today”?  Come on, let’s be real.  I know I’m not the only one who desires to play hooky from work once in a while.  We know we’re not sick, but what happens when we come up with that thought is sort of good way to illustrate what happens when our willpower checks out.

Since I’m the only one who’s ever done something like this let me give you an idea of how this scenario plays out.  It’s the first thing in the morning, and you wake up a little more groggy than you’d have liked to.  You haven’t prayed yet, you haven’t even had your first cup of coffee yet…so in pops this thought of…I’d really just like to stay home today, but you get up and half heartedly begin to go about your routine of getting ready for work, but maybe a bit slower than usual.  You still haven’t prayed, you still haven’t had your first cup of coffee, and your just kind of going through the motions.  That’s when other thoughts start to come in, and you begin to have an emotional connection to those thoughts.  Thoughts like: “I really could go back to sleep now.”, “There really isn’t much to do today.”, or “I have a few things that I could get done if I were at home instead of at work.” or “It was sure nice to be cuddled up next to my wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend this morning…sure wouldn’t mind going back to bed for a while.”

Is anyone with me yet, or am I the only one who’s ever been here?  What starts to happen is amazing isn’t it?  Based on those few thoughts, and emotions that connect with those thoughts…eventually that willpower that usually gets you through the morning, and on your way to work isn’t quite as strong.  More thoughts begin to come to talk you into calling in sick, and before you know it your rehearsing an excuse to miss work, your on the phone calling in with the excuse you rehearsed, and your back in bed.  Like I said, since I’m the only one who has ever done this…I guess I’m the only one who really understands the dynamic of how this works.

However, this is exactly what happens to us on a deeper level.  Obviously playing hooky from work isn’t as serious when you think about the fact that sin works in our lives the same way.  All sin starts with a thought that comes into our minds that’s planted there by satan, and goes unchallenged.  Here’s a really good example of something that you can’t do on your own, but people try to do anyways…on their own willpower.  Quitting smoking.

I’ve known many people who have tried time and again unsuccessfully to “kick the habit”, and they all say the same thing when they go back to smoking.  I thought I could do it, but the urge was just too strong.  I didn’t have enough willpower to quit.  And most will tell you that they didn’t start going back to smoking two packs a day.  At first, they were out at a party or bar, and they were having a pretty good time.  Drinking and smoking went hand in hand, and eventually they were having a really good night…after all it’d been a few weeks (maybe even months) since their last cigarette.  So, in the name of willpower they decide that just one would be okay.  Then they have another one, and before you know it they buy a pack…and they’re back to smoking again.

What happened?  The decided to quit on their own willpower, and not rely upon God for the strength to help them quit.  I also submit that the degree of difficulty in overcoming something like smoking is linked to the amount of time you have spent smoking.  If you’ve smoked for 10 years…your going to need a lot more than a couple of weeks or so to be strong enough to not want a cigarette.  Now, I know that there are many people who asked God to deliver them of the desire to smoke, and were delivered instantly…but that’s exactly the key point.  Asking God to deliver you…not relying upon your own strength.

Our soul (mind, will, emotions) would love to run our lives, but the Bible says we are to be led by God’s Spirit. We are never instructed to be willpower-led, we are told to be Spirit-led. Willpower and discipline are important and vitally necessary to a successful life, but willpower alone won’t be enough. Determination gets you started and keeps you going for a while, but it is never enough to bring you across the finish line. Zechariah 4:6 (NKJV) says, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” – From the book New Day, New You by Joyce Meyer. Copyright 2007 by Joyce Meyer. Published by FaithWords. All rights reserved.

You know something.  When I read about people in the Bible, and their struggles I find that I am encouraged to know that I’m not the only one who has issues.  Think about Paul for a moment.  Paul was in my mind the Christian of all Christians.  I’m talking more than Smith Wigglesworth, Martin Luther, Calvin, Charles Spurgeon…they are all mighty men of God, but Paul I believe was the Christian that we should all aspire to be like.  He knew all the law, all the commandments, and he got to see and know things that no one before or since got to know.  He had the mystery of the gospel revealed to him.  Yet, he writes a few things that I relate to.  In Romans 7 we see Paul write that he had a war in his flesh, and that he didn’t understand why he didn’t do the things he should and did the things he shouldn’t…if you have opportunity…you should read Romans 7.  In one of his letters to the Corinthians he writes that he prayed over and over that God would remove a thorn in his flesh, and that the only thing God would say to him is…”My grace is sufficient for you for My strength is made perfect in your weakness.”

What was God saying?  He’s saying that His strength is far superior to our willpower.  He’s also saying that when we reach the end of ourselves, our strength, and our abilities…then and only then can He step in…and can we be helped through HIS strength.  See, at the end of ourselves is where God begins…and that’s why you can see people who were hopelessly addicted to all sorts of things who have been delivered…and we’ll all tell you that it wasn’t our strength that helped us to overcome…it wasn’t our willpower that made us successful…it was God’s strength.  I said “we” and “our” because I know what it’s like to try to stop something under my willpower, and not be successful at it until I realized that I couldn’t do it without God’s strength.  Not really to my surprise…once I stopped trying to rely upon my strength, and surrendered my will to God…He helped me to stop.

What happens if, instead of turning first to willpower in your time of need, you turn to God instead? God releases His power into your willpower and energizes it to bring you across the finish line. Willpower does not get the credit for our success, God does. – From the book New Day, New You by Joyce Meyer. Copyright 2007 by Joyce Meyer. Published by FaithWords. All rights reserved.

Here lies the real reason behind us not wanting to give up our willpower.  We want the credit.  In other words, the reason we don’t want to surrender, and admit that we cannot do something in our own strength is because we’re too prideful to get out-of-the-way.  We want to get the credit for stopping on our own, but the truth is that God shares His glory with no one.

Jesus said in John 15:5 (AMP), “Apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.” This is one of the most important and most difficult lessons we must learn if we want to enjoy the life Jesus died to give us. – From the book New Day, New You by Joyce Meyer. Copyright 2007 by Joyce Meyer. Published by FaithWords. All rights reserved.

And here it is.  Jesus said in His own words:  “Apart from Me you can do nothing”, but He also said:  “With God all things are possible.”  There’s a reason He said this…because it’s true.  I know the illustration about playing hooky from work is silly, but do you know that I’ve actually had to ask God to help me overcome thoughts like that sometimes?  The point is that if I need God’s help to overcome something silly like getting up and going to work…even when I don’t feel like it…then when it comes to bigger matters…then there’s no way that under my willpower I can do things without Him…and just like Joyce writes.  The key to overcoming things in life is not just coming to realize that, but when things arise instead of relying upon willpower…getting out of the way, and surrendering to God’s.

Willpower is no match or substitute for God’s power.