Cool days were made for warm drinks and “cool” has officially arrived! A couple weeks ago, I was regretting taking the air conditioners out of our bedrooms and now I’m pulling out my winter parka and wondering why summer seems so far away. 😭
In our family, fall means it’s time to put away the popsicles and ice cube trays and bring out the hot cocoa! The perfect after-school treat, our girls love to mix up a cup of smooth, rich, chocolate goodness – complete with mini-marshmallows, of course. 😉
The only problem is, when it comes to hot cocoa, our eyes seem to be bigger than our stomachs and more often than not, I find mugs half-full of no-longer-chocolate-looking muck sitting around. Occasionally, these mugs make their way into the refrigerator, but they end up getting left there because a cup of gray-ish colored milk with the chocolate all sunk to the bottom is anything but appetizing!
Last week I wrote about temptation and the battle between doing what we feel will satisfy us in the moment and doing things the way God has commanded. It’s been around since the beginning, it’s a part of our every day as human beings and, as far as we know, it’s not going away anytime soon.
Thankfully, our God has not left us to fight this battle alone – we have His very presence with us and our greatest chance at having victory over any given temptation is a simple acknowledgement of this. He isn’t there to sit back and watch me fail, He’s there to help, and giving Him space in my head in a moment of struggle is considerably more effective than relying on my own willpower.
Unfortunately, it’s the space in my head that’s the problem. Not only do I have a brain full of theories and ideas, I’m surrounded by a world offering me an endless supply of more, and what the Holy Spirit has to offer tends to settle down to the bottom of the mug!
As a church, we’ve been studying the book of Matthew and learning how we can “Live and Love Like Jesus”. In reading along one Sunday, I noticed that Jesus’ words in His “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7) were not just a list of wise teachings – every one of them was a correction on the common practices of the Jewish religious leaders of His day. The Pharisees were all about the outward show, human praise, and, when it came to sin, the letter of the law. Rules, judgment, and punishment were the ingredients to their ‘success’.
But if you start breaking down what Jesus said, you’ll see a common theme: trust.
A person who trusts the “author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) knows only He can make a person rich in spirit. (Matthew 5:3)
A person who trusts the Savior (John 1:29) can “mourn” over sin because He brings “comfort”. (Matthew 5:4)
A person who trusts the Almighty God (1 Chronicles 29:11-12) isn’t grasping for power and control because they know He already holds it all. (Matthew 5:5, 6:10)
A person who trusts the Bread of Life (John 6:35) knows they can be satisfied only with the things of God. (Matthew 5:6)
A person who trusts the Judge of all the earth (Psalm 9:7-8) acts with mercy because they know He is the only unbiased authority. (Matthew 5:7, 21-26, 43-48, 6:12-15, 7:1-5, 12-14)
A person who trusts the Lover of their soul (Zephaniah 3:17) doesn’t set their affection on anyone or anything else, because they know He is enough. (Matthew 5:8, 27-30, 6:19-24)
A person who trusts the “arm of the Lord” (Isaiah 59:1) doesn’t need to create division, take revenge, or avoid hardship, because they are a member of His kingdom. (Matthew 5:9-12, 31-32, 38-42)
A person who trusts the Good Shepherd (John 10:10-11) forms their entire lifestyle around His ways, not just the actions that are seen by others. (Matthew 5:13)
A person who trusts the Light of the world (John 8:12) isn’t afraid to make the reason behind this lifestyle change evident, because they know others need Him, too. (Matthew 5:14-16)
A person who trusts the God of truth (Numbers 23:19) doesn’t pick and choose between His commands because they all reveal His heart. (Matthew 5:19)
A person who trusts God for security (Psalm 16:8) can speak simple, honest truth because they don’t live in fear of pleasing people. (Matthew 5:33-37)
A person who trusts the All-Knowing God (Hebrews 4:13) doesn’t need to be seen doing good things because they know their Father has a clear view of their heart. (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18, 7:15-23)
A person who trusts in His Name (Exodus 3:14) doesn’t need to make a name for themself. (Matthew 6:7-9)
A person who trusts their Provider (Psalm 34:8-9) doesn’t live in fear, but simply asks God for what they need. (Matthew 6:11, 25-34, 7:7-11)
If you’re a human, I bet you can find whatever temptation you struggle with on this list. We’ve all got a little Pharisee in us, which means we fight against the very same pride-gripping, kingdom-building, satisfaction-seeking, divided-heart tendencies. And like the Pharisees, our human nature tells us the weapon in this battle is more control, more rules, more threats, and more punishments.
But Jesus’ words point us to trust, which is a much better strategy! When I acknowledge the Holy Spirit’s presence in my moment of temptation, I’m not inviting Him in so He can tell me something about my sin, I’m inviting Him to tell me something about Himself. I could list every reason something is sin and predict every possible outcome, but none of that will be as effective as a simple reminder of why I can trust Him instead.
Last week I went on a 10-mile run… and didn’t bring my earbuds. I almost went back to the car and got them – was I really going to spend almost two hours running without the distraction of music or a podcast? It seemed crazy, but the space in my head was feeling full, so I decided it would be good for me.
I started out praying for other people, thinking, “I can still be productive!”. But a few minutes in, the Holy Spirit took over and began an hour-and-a-half long counseling session (for free!) and dug right down to root of a particular sin-struggle in my heart. And rather than hearing the voices of “Something is wrong with you!” or “You need to fix this!”, I heard “You don’t have to live in fear.”
Trust in the unchanging character of our God doesn’t just materialize in a moment, it must be stirred up daily. Our ability to give Him space in our heads during a time of temptation happens because we intentionally give Him space in our heads when we’re not in a time of temptation.
It’s all too easy to get stirred up with His love and faithfulness for a day or a season, but then stick Him in the refrigerator, assuming we can just pull the mug out whenever we’re ready for more. But it’s the daily stirrings of time in His Word or the stillness of time alone with Him that keep His richness up top!
This “Chocolate Milk” analogy is not my original, but was taught to me by the one and only Tracey Paradis – my teacher, mentor, and friend who never stops reminding me that trust is the way!