(Photo by Mahir Uysal on Unsplash)
If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then
you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.
Staying free doesn't just happen. Getting free can be very exciting and may carry you for a while. But a day will come when the freedom you received will be challenged. It may come in the form of heartache, sin, sickness, a hurt, or some other way like complacency. Life never goes smoothly all the time. You will have to decide in the moment of the challenge if you will trust God or give in to fear or worry or whatever temptation presents itself. Complacency can creep up on you and take you unaware just as quickly as a traumatic event. As much as possible, you can prepare yourself, but still, a time will come when you aren't ready unless you, on purpose, set about staying free.
I used to think that getting free was the end goal, but in some ways, it's just a new beginning. Once, after a deliverance session, my husband and I were told we needed to read a minimum of five chapters in the Bible each day in order to stay free. I don't think it would have worked, but I can't say for sure as I didn't keep it up after a few weeks. There are many things one can do, but nothing will replace being intentional in your relationship with God. I am not able to give you a list of things to do that will guarantee success, and it is helpful to know that it is a journey. God does not expect perfection, and He is always faithful to forgive our sin when we fail. One thing that has been so beneficial to me is being able to receive God's love. It didn't happen overnight for me, and as I learned to listen to His voice, He repeatedly reminded me that He loved me; so much so, that I didn't understand why I needed to hear it all the time. But today, I do not doubt His love for a second.
I heard someone say once that they didn't think faith without any doubt was possible. I don't know if that is true in principle, but it was helpful to me in the moment because I was still struggling with some doubt. After the freedom that I talked about in my last post, many things changed for the good. But some things didn't. I remained confused about some of the things that hadn't changed as well a new challenge that surfaced. It brought doubt and paranoia. The difference though now was I had a Person to turn to that I trusted. Did you know that God is one hundred percent trustworthy? If you remember, most of my life, I couldn't accept God's love because I didn't understand it or why it was important. I had to go through many obstacles before I was ready to let God love me. I also had no idea how to have a relationship with the God of the universe who I couldn't see or touch or hear. In my freedom, having a relationship with God was possible and a permanent change.
But I didn't always understand what my relationship with God was supposed to look like and I since I tend to get into my head and overthink things, that part didn't change. I was asking a thousand questions all the time. I was driving myself crazy! Slowly, I learned to quiet myself before the Lord, and not ask as many questions; I learned to leave some things to God. The verses that helped me were Lamentations 3:24-27, "The Lord is my inheritance; therefore I will hope in Him. The Lord is good to those who depend on Him; to those who search for Him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord." I took classes and heard many different teachings from the way I was raised; mostly about the work of the Holy Spirit. I told you I was raised cessationist. I was taught certain gifts ended when Scripture was completed, and now I was being told they hadn't. It was new and exciting, and I was searching. Although questions repeatedly haunted me about inconsistencies in what I was now being taught in relationship to how I had been raised, I pushed them down and didn't acknowledge them. I wanted to trust God rather than get hung up on the questions. I've since learned that some questions need to be answered, so you will know what you believe.
Many wonderful things happened. I will tell you about two of them: First, God healed me further by allowing me to go off medication for depression when I thought I would have to stay on it the rest of my life. I had finally given up trying to get off the anti-depressants when God revealed to me He wanted to heal me of depression. Second, in a class at church where we were learning about God's healing and how he used people, God healed my back without people. Before the lady could put her hand on my back to pray, my back stopped hurting. I had had chronic back pain for several years and was unable to sit still. Yes, God heals using people, but He can heal without them as well. We serve a mighty God! I would always encourage people to ask others to pray for them as the Bible tells us to pray for one another so that we may be healed. In that verse, it also tells us to confess our sins to one another, which is equally important in seeing healing. The verse ends by telling us the prayers of a righteous person are powerful and effective (Jms 4:16). No one should ever discount the effectiveness of prayer.
I am still learning what it means to stay free. What it doesn't mean is everything will go smoothly or that you will always know how to respond immediately. We will always need God. Knowing God is there and turning to Him in your need is very important. Sometimes, I hear or read things that resonate, and help me in staying free. I love this journey I am on. I will end with a few practicals ways that have helped me.
being thankful for no particular reason or even when it's the one thing I don't feel like doing
starting my day out with the Lord
turning my Bible reading into a prayer
writing out my prayer requests and answers in a journal and reviewing it often
putting on the armor of God (Eph 6:10-18)
asking God to search me and know my heart and reveal to me anything that is hindering my relationship with Him (Ps 139:23-24)
asking God for wisdom and believing I will get it
carrying Scripture cards with me at work to remind me of the victory I can have in areas I am weaker in
not giving up on areas I still want to grow
listening to what others say and asking God how it applies to me
fellowshipping with others though this is still a challenge
taking my sin seriously
I am sure there are many more ways, but I wanted to name a few that have helped me. I would love to hear from you of things that have helped you to stay free. Maybe we can help each other.