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Gazing out over the sea of faces ripe with anticipation, she opened the bible on the podium. Clearing her throat only once, she proceeded with the task at hand.
“Let us begin with a moment of prayer. Lord, strengthen your servant, as I endeavor to impart to your people, the wisdom that you have laid on my heart. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight oh Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Keep me humble, for it is only through you that any of us live and move and have our being. It is in the precious name of Jesus that I pray. Amen.”
All eyes were trained on her. The audience remained silent.
“Our scripture for today is taken from Romans, chapter seven, verses twenty-one through twenty-five. I will be reading from the King James Version. It reads: ‘I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind, I myself, serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.’
The topic of our sermon today is “The Struggle Within”. The apostle Paul wrote the book of Romans as an “epistle” or “letter” to the believers in Rome because circumstances prevented him from journeying there. He had a word to encourage them and deepen their faith in the promises of God through the person of Jesus Christ. The book of Romans is written to us in present times as well, when we forget that God is still God and that His promises are as real for us today as they were during Paul’s ministry.
The passage chosen deals with the nature of sin and its presence in the body. As humans, we struggle daily with issues at work and at home. There are issues in our schools with our children. As individuals, some of us struggle with matters of the mind such as depression and various addictions. All of this is nothing new. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, and I paraphrase, that “there is nothing new under the sun”.
But, when we give our lives over to the one true and living God, a new set of concerns come into play. We are commanded to come out from among the nonbelievers and be separate in our actions and our thinking. Where, once we were carnally minded, we are now to put on “the mind of Christ”.
Paul stated in the verses preceding our featured text that the wrong he wanted not to do, he did anyway. And, the good he intended to do, he did not do at all. How many of you today struggle with the wrong you ought not to have done? Amen? When I was growing up, people liked to say that the road to hell was paved with good intentions. There were many that meant to take the right path but never seemed to find it. These are not the people that I am speaking of here.
When we accept Jesus Christ into our lives, the Holy Spirit is part of the package. He dwells within us to bring about the transformation of the entire person-inside and out. You see, many falsely believe that when we say “Yes” to Jesus, we are made holy overnight. The Word says that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”. God knows that we will not be perfectly holy from conversion, so he sent us a comforter and companion in the person of the Holy Spirit. He is here to instruct us in the ways of holiness and to remind us of God’s everlasting promise of forgiveness when we stray from the path.
For every true Christian, Satan is on your case from the moment of your confession of faith. Verse twenty-one says ‘evil will be present with us when we do good’. The enemy will use those times of decision as tests of our faith. Should I help this person in need as God commanded or should I leave them to struggle? Satan will always raise questions of doubt in your mind as to whether or not you actually heard God tell you to do something. To be sure, test the feeling against the Word of God. Who will get the glory-you or God? If all praise will go to you and not to God, he probably didn’t tell you to do what you are contemplating doing.
I love this chapter in Romans. When I first read it I let out a sigh of relief. I thought that I was the only one who seemed to be dogged by Satan at every turn. I now knew that I wasn’t alone in my daily struggle. That felt good. This Christian journey is not to be taken alone. We are to encourage and help one another along the way. God may have a different plan for your life, but we are all running the same race.
Verse twenty-three lets us know that Paul is aware of the struggle that is going on within him. When we deny the presence of the enemy around us, we are setting ourselves up for failure. By acknowledging that temptations litter our path, we will turn to God for strength and support. We do this through prayer and fellowship with other believers. By denying that temptations exist, we deny the power of the Almighty to help us.
Fellow members of the body of Christ, our struggles are not hidden from the eyes of our God. Jesus told his disciples to take heart, for he had already overcome the world. I am also here today to tell you to take heart. The God who has begun this awesome work in us, will complete what He has started.
At times our tasks seem overwhelming. As first lady and associate pastor of this church, I feel the strain every day. But, God knows the way I take and he will guide me and you all the way. God bless you all. Amen.”
She breathed a sigh of relief. The weight of the world had been lifted. Tomorrow morning would be just fine. A smile crossed her face as she looked at her audience. The many pink, brown, yellow, and even green fuzzy faces were still attentive. She reached for the raggedy brown bear sitting on the bed, and hugged him tight. He had been hers when she was a child.
“Thank you for being present at my dress rehearsal, Mr. Cuddles. As always, I appreciated your undivided attention. Now let’s get you and the others back to Lindsay’s room before she notices you’re gone.”
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