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Holding The Gains You’ve Made
In Ephesians 6:13 Paul tells us, Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. There are times in our life when we have done all we can for the moment, and we now need to position ourselves to stand wearing the armor of God. The strength and timing to take the next steps forward will be there, but for now it is important to hold the gains and not shrink back.
Walking by faith is rewarded by God, but so is standing, and this takes confidence. In Hebrews 10 we read, do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised… “My righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”
To shrink back is to relapse. Relapse can be defined as to suffer deterioration after a period of improvement, or to return to a worse state. What we want to avoid is a relapse in our faith. The pattern that leads to a relapse has three common characteristics. These are:
1. Complacency. This is when we get comfortable with the short-term gains we have made. We say something like, “I don’t need help anymore, my pain is reduced, and I can live with this.” Or “I don’t need to be in church anymore, I think I am okay now, the crisis has passed.”
2. Confusion. This is when we rationalize and forget how bad it really was before. We say something like, “Maybe it wasn’t so bad in that relationship, they said they loved me, so I’m sure they won’t abuse me again.” It is foolish to voluntarily return to the source of our pain or do the same foolish thing that traps us again. In Proverbs 26:11 we read, As a dog goes back to its vomit, so a fool repeats his stupidity.
3. Compromise. This is when we think we are strong enough and return to the place of temptation. We say something like, “Maybe it wasn’t so bad to be with that crowd, I can out drinking again, and it won’t affect me.” Or “I don’t think I need a support group, I can make it on my own, after all it is uncomfortable for them to know where I am really at.” To hold the gains we have made in our lives we need to follow the advice of Proverbs 4:26,27: Mark out a straight path for your feet; then stick to the path and stay safe. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.
To avoid a relapse we must there are four keys to follow:
1. Stay alert.
In 2 Corinthians 13:5 we read, Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. It is important that we are aware of our surroundings. We need to check our center of gravity to see if we are feeling out of balance, and if so, to ask why before making the next move.
If we rush to move on too soon and become obsessed with making it to the next level, we can lose our footing. The next level always comes by faith and patience. Every climber will tell you that patience is a huge factor in moving ahead without falling back.
Spiritually we need to ask, “Am I relying on God?” Moment by moment am I relying on God? Am I abiding in the vine? Jesus is the bread of life and in order to stay healthy and live by faith we must have the daily bread of life, otherwise we will not have a life.
2. Stay anchored.
The key to growth is to have roots down deep in God’s Word, and the way you get roots down deep in God’s word is to meditate on it. To seriously think about what you read in the Bible and then think about what does it mean to my life. That’s meditation. When you do that, He says, “You’re like a tree planted by the river and when the heat’s on you don’t wither away and when the drought comes you don’t dry up and blow away.” You don’t have a relapse you keep your momentum.
In Psalm 119:11 David writes, I thought much about your words and stored them in my heart so that they would hold me back from sin. Notice he says, “I think about Your words, I store them in my heart.” How? As I think about Your Word and memorize key principles and key passages, it keeps me from sinning. It holds me back from relapsing.
3. Stay connected.
Staying connected with other believers is so important when we are facing challenging times. We all need others to stand with us when we feel the pull to relapse and lose ground. In a trusted small group you can share with others your struggle and have them pray with you. They stand beside you holding their shield of faith to help quench the fiery darts of the enemy. Everyone needs this, without this accountability and support, no matter how strong you think you are, you will relapse and lose the ground that cost so much to take. This is one of the biggest benefits of being in a life group.
In Ecclesiastes 4:10 we read, If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble. We don’t have to be in trouble, but it does take some effort to position yourself close enough to others so they can reach out to you.
Let’s press on in our walk of faith, travelling together on this narrow road with Jesus as our Shepherd.