Is it possible for a Christian to stay clean and pure in a world filled with violence, immorality, and corruption? Or is it inevitable that the spirit of this age will wear down the saints of God and vex their souls? It happened to Lot and his family in Sodom, and it is happening to multitudes of Christians all around the world. The overwhelming temptations of this evil generation have already caused numbers of Christians to compromise and indulge in ungodly practices.
Truly honest Christians must take inventory and ask of themselves these important questions, “Are my moral values changing? Is the wickedness of this age seeping into my life? Am I being affected by the barrage of sensuality I see all around me? Am I developing an appetite for worldly things?”
Evil has always been present. The devil tried to tempt and deceive David, Isaiah, Paul, and the people of God in every generation just as forcefully as he seeks to devour God’s people today. In spite of it all, God has always had a remnant, people who remained true to the end. The spirit of the age did not overwhelm them. In fact, they grew strong and holy in the midst of persecution and evil.
This generation is becoming wicked and vile because it is losing its faith in God — and that faith is dissipating because the Bible is no longer consumed as a life-giving force. Do not blame the devil — our backslidings are the result of one thing: lack of prayer and Bible reading.
We need to be praying, “Oh, God, cause me to see how cold I have become. Cause me to know how weak I am and put in me a new hunger for spiritual things.” Here is God’s desire to all who live in the midst of wickedness: “That you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15). Let your light shine!
Sin causes Christians to become cowards and live in defeat. Some once knew what it was like to live victoriously and experience the power, courage, and blessing that comes from obedience to the Lord. But a besetting sin has robbed them of their spiritual vitality and the enemy raises one battle after another.
It is possible to overcome a sin that has become a habit. Paul fought a battle between the flesh and the Spirit and confessed, “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice” (Romans 7:19). The fear of God against sin is the basis of all freedom. God cannot condone sin and he cannot make an exception.
While God hates sin with a perfect hatred, he loves each of us with an infinite compassion. His love will never compromise with sin but he clings to his sinning child with one purpose in mind — to reclaim him. The knowledge that he loves you in spite of your sin should be enough to accept that love. And God pities you! He knows the agony of your battle and he is always there, reassuring you that nothing can ever separate you from his love.
“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).
Victory over besetting sin causes all other enemies to flee. Worry, fear, guilt, anxiety, depression, restlessness, loneliness — all are your enemies. But the righteous are as bold as a lion and their clear conscience makes them a fortress that these enemies cannot overrun.
Do you want victory over all your enemies? Then deal ferociously with your besetting sin. “Lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
Growing numbers of Christians are at the breaking point. Young people, especially, are giving up in defeat. They feel they cannot live up to the image of a happy-go-lucky, rich, successful, always positive-thinking Christian. Their world is not that idealistic. They live with intense peer pressure, heartbreak, hour-by-hour crises, and horrible family problems. Their friends are hooked on drugs and too many are dying by suicide. They look into the uncertain future, frightened and worried; loneliness, fear and depression hound them daily.
Even admired preachers and well-known personalities suffer moments of depression and the same infirmities you find in any normal Christian — sometimes feeling like a failure and wanting to give up. Paul talked about “trouble which came on us … we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8).
In that moment when the walls seem to be caving in and the roof appears to be collapsing, when everything seems to be coming apart and sin demands the upper hand, a voice deep within cries, “Walk away from it all. You don’t have to put up with this.” King David became overwhelmed by the evil in his heart and cried out, “Awake! Why do You sleep, O Lord? Arise! Do not cast [me] off forever. Why do You hide Your face?” (Psalm 44:23-24).
How can you learn to hold on and live one day at a time? You can begin by forgetting all shortcuts and magical cures. As a Christian, you do not need a supposed demon of despair cast out; Satan will always be here, deceiving, accusing, and trying to rob you of your faith. But there are two wonderful absolutes you can be sure of:
God wants so much to be trusted. “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3). You may not understand why God takes such a long time to intervene on your behalf, but you can be sure of one thing. He will keep his Word to you.
The most important thing I could ever tell you is that your heavenly Father loves you! It is a simple truth that I’m sure you have heard many times, but many Christians have difficulty grasping it. However, if you ever want to have an impact for Jesus, this rock-solid truth must be at the very center.
Jesus told his disciples, “It is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate will not come. But if I go away, then I will send him to you” (John 16:7). Of course, the Advocate is the Holy Spirit, our Helper, our Comforter.
Living in this broken, fallen world brings tribulation our way and some of it can be excruciating, involving our health, our children, our very survival. In order to get through it all, we need to be aware of our Father’s love, because that is the reality the Holy Spirit will bring to our memory when we are anguishing through trials.
David seemed to know the Comforter’s presence when he wrote, “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered” (Psalm 139:17). Another translation reads, “How precious are the thoughts toward me you concern yourself about.”
The realization that God thinks about us is astonishing. It is one thing to know the Lord loves us; that is just a theological fact. But it is another to know he actually thinks about us — that, in fact, he never stops thinking about us. Yet God is telling us through David’s psalm, “You don’t need to strive to get me to pay attention to you. I am already focused on you.”
David says that God’s thoughts about you are precious. They are loving in a way you can never fully grasp. You are dear to your heavenly Father and he loves your company — and the plans he has for you are always for your good.
Although the world has made giant strides in comprehending subjects like atomic energy and nuclear fusion, most of us still live with only the slightest understanding of the most ancient, dynamic source of power there is — the power that comes from prayer. In fact, we have not yet begun to experience the infinite power and possibility that becomes available when we call on the name of the Lord.
The book of Judges records a dark period in Israel’s history. Though God had given the land of Canaan to them exactly as he promised, the Israelites repeatedly turned their back on his instructions, failing to fully possess the land as he had ordered. Instead of driving out the Canaanites, the Israelites intermarried with them and before long they were worshiping Canaan’s false idols, a practice God had solemnly warned against.
“After Ehud died, the Israelites once again did evil in the eyes of the Lord. So the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin, a king of Canaan … Because he had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the Lord for help” (Judges 4:1-3).
For twenty years this oppression continued unabated, which meant that none of Israel’s young people had ever tasted freedom. Exploitation and hardship was a way of life for everyone — until one special day something changed. In utter desperation, Israel called on the name of the Lord and their prayer began a breakthrough that changed everything.
God sent a prophetic word to a judge in Israel named Deborah. Under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, Deborah delivered a message to a man named Barak that the Lord was going to deliver the enemy into his hands: “Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?” (4:14). Twenty miserable years of servitude to the Canaanites would be ended if Barak would be obedient —and he was! “At Barak’s advance, the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword” (4:15).
We need a lot more Baraks today who will break through in prayer and then obey God’s leading so that cruel captivities can be overturned.
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.