Facing a Giant? You’re Not Alone!

photo credit: Fried Dough via photopin cc
photo credit: Fried Dough via photopin cc

A very real problem for all of us is that we tend to profess a depth of faith in God that we do not actually possess. Faith is easy on the mountaintop. The battlefield trenches of life are an entirely different matter. A football team may spend a lot of time practicing in preparation for the first game of the season against their arch rivals, but it isn’t until they step onto the field of play that their true abilities become evident.

All too often, our version of the gospel speaks only of God’s forgiveness in light of our sinfulness, of the efficacy of grace as opposed to our impotent works, of the glories of heaven compared to the pain of this world. All of these things are true, but they fail to present a complete picture. We even go so far as to portray the Old Testament Promised Land as an image of heaven. Do we actually believe that we will have to drive enemies out of heaven? No, each of us has a promised land, a favorable destiny, in this world.

photo credit: Monica's Dad via photopin cc
photo credit: Monica’s Dad via photopin cc

Why is it that every promised land has its share of giants? Why, when we seek that which we believe to be good, must we face health problems, a lack of finances, and all sorts of opposition—not only from others but also from within ourselves? And why, tell me, must these issues loom so large? There are times when a few miniature giants would do me just fine!

We sometimes fail to grasp that God saves us in order to restore us to His image (Romans 8:29), and that His image is that of the ultimate overcomer. God’s goal is never to save us for a sweet eternity only, but to transform us into champions of the faith. By definition, a champion is a person who defeats all opponents; the more formidable the opposition, the greater the champion. You would be unimpressed if I told you that I once knocked out every kid in my son’s fourth-grade class in a boxing tournament. But, if you saw me wearing an Olympic gold medal (that I had actually earned), you would immediately think of greatness. Until we face and overcome genuine giants, we are not true champions in the arena of life.

Our response to our personal giants reveals the true depths of our faith. The fact that we have sufficient faith in one area of life does not necessarily mean that we trust God in all areas. When fear, anxiety, frustration, anger, and bitterness take root in our hearts, they indicate areas in which our faith is shallow. Thus, every giant is in a sense tailor-made to help us grow in these areas. Am I saying that God is responsible for raising opposition against us? Not necessarily! Our fallen world provides more than enough difficult challenges to our faith. I do know, however, that our loving Father will use even the largest obstacles for His sovereign purposes.

Like the ten doubting spies of Numbers 13, many of us tend to view our giants as signs that God has abandoned us. Very few have the heart of a Joshua or a Caleb. Later in time, only the shepherd boy David stood up against the Philistine champion Goliath, while Saul and all of his mighty men cowered in fear.

photo credit: saturn ♄ via photopin cc
photo credit: saturn ♄ via photopin cc

How we respond to our giants will impact, not only our lives, but also the generations that follow. Sadly, David had to face Goliath only because Joshua’s generation failed to completely destroy their generation of behemoths. We can only imagine how Anak’s descendants tormented the nation of Israel for 400 years until a shepherd boy with David’s faith happened along. And not only did the kid fell that monster of a man, he used Goliath’s own sword to finish the job. God loves to show off by transforming our greatest weaknesses into our greatest strengths!

(This post is based on the content of my new book, Champions in the Wilderness, which is now available for sale through Amazon. Also, when our new SfMe Media website goes live, our blog posts will be switched our new ministry website, searchforme.info and this blog site will be phased out. You can subscribe to by entering your email in the subscribe panel on the right-hand side of the new website.)

The Bitter Root

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Bitter Root. Sounds somewhat natural, doesn’t it? Actually, this Montana state flower was at times prized as a delicacy by some Native American tribes. But not everything natural is good. You can be sure I won’t be buying Poison Ivy Skin Cream any time soon!

The Bible also speaks of a bitter root—one that has a very natural tendency to creep into our lives and poison so much that is good.

The author of Hebrews wrote: “Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness, for without it no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God, that no one be like a bitter root springing up and causing trouble, and through him many become defiled.” Hebrews 12:14-15 (NET)

The primary context of this passage is illuminated by referencing Deuteronomy 29:17-18. It speaks of the damage caused when a person breaks his sacred covenant with God by turning aside to natural, idolatrous ways in responding to the difficulties of life.

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We can find several dimensions to the bitter root problem, but I’ll begin by focusing primarily on the most readily apparent—bitterness directed toward those who have somehow harmed us or our loved ones.

A bitter root can linger for a long time beneath the surface of our lives, sometimes scheming, always seething. Unless deliberately killed it will grow and spread, finally breaking the surface with visible expressions of jealously, anger, hatred and more.

I’ve heard it said that, “Holding bitterness in one’s heart is like drinking a deadly poison and expecting the other person to die.” To make matters worse, the bitter person is not the only one corrupted by the poison.

Bitterness isn’t just about 1 or 2 people. A bitter root spreads from generation to generation weaving a poisonous web, entangling and defiling far more people than we care to admit. In many cases, the price paid by ourselves and our loved ones is every bit as great (if not greater) than that paid by the person we are bitter toward.

A bitter person rarely sees (or refuses to see) this perspective. Consumed by their simmering pain, they have little concern or realization of the extreme damage being done to those they care about. As we’ll see in the coming posts, there is never a good reason to stay bitter.

Of course, we can always protest the unfairness of life and embrace our natural desire to hold a grudge. Everyone knows that loving those who hurt us simply isn’t natural. But, neither is Christianity natural. Only as we surrender ourselves to the supernatural love of God will we see the bigger picture and finally put the axe to the deadly root of bitterness.

The Next Level

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I did everything right (at least in this particular situation). I prayed. I fasted. I confessed my faults to God. I picked an appropriate time. I approached the situation with humility and began the conversation by admitting my failures and asking for forgiveness. I was sincere in my approach, but the other person did not respond in any way that I had hoped.

Again, I was faced with a choice—respond in anger or forgive and let it all go. This was all so painful, but I realized that the other individual wasn’t going to budge. I was hurt. I wanted more out of the relationship. But just letting things go really seemed to be the best way to honor God. In retrospect, it was a good move and this particular relationship has improved dramatically since that time.

Even when we do everything we’re supposed to outcomes aren’t always certain. Human wills and perspectives can be so unpredictable!

The situation described above occurred with a non-Christian so I felt further recourse wasn’t warranted. When dealing with another believer, however, it’s often necessary (especially if some type of sinful behavior is involved) to take things to another level—involve a third party as a mediator.

I do not recommend asking a close friend to mediate (although I have seen this approach unsuccessfully attempted). It’s best to involve a mature leader who is able to remain objective throughout the process.

In another situation I tried to bring correction as gently as possible to a person who was clearly and selfishly out of line. Wow! What a reaction! She was indignant and (without my knowledge) proceeded to go from person to person in the room complaining about what I had done—that is until she got to John. John wisely took things to the next level by inviting her to join him in speaking with me. She wanted no part of that and proceeded to quickly leave the building. I did call her afterward, explained my position and made it clear that I was the person she needed to speak with. It sort of worked.

The goal is always restoration, but realistically speaking, some people just want their own way. Others freak out when we even suggest the possibility that they have done anything wrong. Many years ago a pastor once told me, “There will be walls between you and some other people. It’s unavoidable. Just make sure that you aren’t the one responsible for those walls.”

Looking back I realize that this was excellent advice. When we blow it, we take responsibility and ask for forgiveness. When others are at fault, we go the extra mile to help bring resolution. Taking things to the next level honors God even if the results aren’t always what we hope. If we seek to honor Him, He’ll work everything out in due season.

The ABC’s of Conflict Resolution

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I was ticked! I admit it. For some bizarre reason my wife doesn’t always think the way I do. I had no question in my mind that she was wrong, but the decision was now mine. What to do with the situation? Should I continue to sulk and steam, or perhaps lash out in anger? Or would there be a more loving way for me to deal with my hurt and frustration?

Each of us faces similar decisions on a regular basis with a variety of relationships. In most cases we don’t recognize that a decision is being made. We’re just offended or hurt or angry or all of the above. As a result we simply do what comes naturally and in most circumstances what comes naturally only makes matters worse.

Over the next 3 weeks I’ll highlight a few ABC’s of conflict resolution. They really are fundamental in their essence, but unfortunately too often we still attend pre-school when it comes to dealing with interpersonal conflicts.

Attitude – The manner and heart with which we approach relationship conflicts can have a huge impact on the outcome of the circumstances. If it’s all about me, reconciliation will be elusive. A primary goal should be to deal with our personal hurts and frustrations in a manner that honors God and benefits others involved. If we care more about our rightness than our relationships, we are in trouble.

Sometimes emotions run high and it’s best to take a little time to cool off to avoid saying something regrettable. Each situation with each person is unique, and so contributing factors need to be weighed in choosing the appropriate time to proceed.

It’s also critical to take some time to consider the other individual’s perspective and to see if perhaps there was something you did or said to hurt or offend the other person. We all have a tendency to magnify the faults of others while minimizing our own missteps.

Depending on the seriousness of the situation, fasting is one of the most powerful things you can do to help bring resolution. Yes, you read me right—fasting—as in not eating food.

I have found great value in skipping a meal or two and taking the time to seek God’s face through prayer and the Scriptures. When I come before God in my weakness, everything begins to come into perspective. Inevitably I find myself confessing my sins before God and something miraculous takes place. My heart begins to soften and my attitude toward the other person starts to change. As a result I’m better able to communicate with gentleness and graciousness.

I realize that such an approach makes for a radical departure from our natural way of doing things, but we are not called to be a natural people. I think that the divorce rate among professing Christians would drop dramatically if we took a more supernatural approach that welcomes and invites God to work in our circumstances.

If we would only be willing to first search our own hearts and humble them before God, we will find our interpersonal relationships to be much richer and far longer lasting.

One other tip–when you fast and pray about a relationship conflict, you may want to eat before talking with the person.