Spiritual Battlefields: Self

cannon facing old battlefield

We are a culture that can be incredibly focused on self. Who we are, what we’re doing, what we look like — these things can define who we are. We want to reward ourselves, but our selves can often be our own worst enemy. There is a battle going on over our sense of self, and the process can consume us. When we let self overwhelm us, we find we are never satisfied, never at peace, and never centered.

This contrasts with diminishing self-interest and putting Christ at the center of our lives. Instead of everything being about me, I make my life about Christ. When I make my life about Christ, I will immediately make things about others. I will have more room for spiritual things. I will have more room for God. Think of how Peter inserts himself when Jesus is predicting His own death in Mark 8:31 – 33. Peter sees this purely in the light of his own priorities and values, and he doesn’t see the bigger picture Jesus is revealing.

Devaluing Self

When we have a self-centered life, we may think we know better than God. We wouldn’t say that out loud, but we want things solved our way. We want things done on our own timeline. We’re looking after our own interests first. When we try to make our personal will God’s will, then we’re acting like Peter. We’re putting self before God’s plan.

In Mark 8: 34 – 36, Jesus says this about self-interest:

Summoning the crowd along with His disciples, He said to them, “If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it. For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his life?

To completely follow Christ, we have to lay aside all self-interest and put Him first. We have to let go of control and hand it to God. I have to be willing to admit that I am not in charge.

It’s a daily struggle. Influences all around us are always telling us to reward our selves, to pamper ourselves, to protect ourselves, to put self before anything else. That’s not what a Christ-like life looks like. Instead, we have to understand that self-centeredness is a battle for our time, attention, and priorities. When we take up the cross of Christ, we put self to death so that He can live through us.

Childlike Trust

In Mark 9:33 – 37, Jesus’ apostles are again struggling with self-interest.

Then they came to Capernaum. When He was in the house, He asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, because on the way they had been arguing with one another about who was the greatest. Sitting down, He called the Twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” Then He took a child, had him stand among them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever welcomes one little child such as this in My name welcomes Me. And whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me, but Him who sent Me.

We have to be as humble as young children in the eyes of our Father. We have to be as trusting as a little child who relies on their parent for everything. We have to let go of the habit of self-promotion and begin putting others before self. It’s a natural extension of putting Christ in the center of our lives. We put Christ first, then we will naturally put others before self.

Living to Serve

The very next chapter of Mark’s gospel illustrates this struggle again when, in Mark 10:35 – 45, James and John seek a position of power in Jesus’ prophesied kingdom. Jesus answers them like this:

You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and their men of high positions exercise power over them. But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life — a ransom for many.

Jesus came to serve. Therefore, we should be living to serve. Humility is the key to this. We should be continually looking for opportunities to help and serve others. Not just those obviously in need, but all of those whose friendship we take for granted on a daily basis. Every day should be spent looking past our own desires and toward the physical and spiritual needs of others. The battle for self never ends, but we can move past it by putting Christ and others first in all things.

Spiritual Battlefields: Our Faith

cannon facing old battlefield

When we talk about faith, we probably all have someone we can look to as a great example of faith through the trials and battles of this life. In turn, any of us might be someone else’s roll model. This knowledge should encourage us all to consider the daily examples of faith we demonstrate. For all of us, we should be striving to turn faith into a habit, learning to rely on God more than we rely on self or other people.

II Corinthians 5:7 simply says that we walk by faith rather than sight. That’s tough. Right there is where the battle over our faith lies. We’re used to things being visible and tangible in this world. We’re used to seeing and touching everything we know. That’s the evidence that something is real — that it can be sensed or measured in some way. Faith is all about trusting in things we cannot see, feel, touch, or otherwise sense.

Hebrews 11 defines faith as an assurance and a conviction in things we cannot see. We believe in God and Heaven though we cannot see no touch either. If that belief becomes faith, those things become tangible in our minds. Think of being in a dark room. You know their are things in the room even though you can’t see them. If we stay in the darkness too long, however, our eyes adjust, and the light can be painful to reintroduce.

The Source of Our Help

Faith should be always driving us toward the light. Think of Mark 2:1-12 where a group of people work together to get a mutual friend to Christ. The friend could not walk to Christ himself, so his own friends were willing to take him to Christ in faith that Jesus could heal. They were confident He was their source of help, and He is our help as well. Psalm 121:1 says that the Lord of Heaven and Earth is our source of help. The first battle we have is in knowing the source of our aid.

So often , we come to Christ in prayer with a remedy for our problems already in mind. Instead of trusting in Him, we try to guide our God. We try to tell him how He should help us. Instead, we should be turning to Him in faith and laying out our troubles at His feet, knowing that He can provide help. It might not be the help we expect, but it is the help He offers to us.

Overcoming the Obstacles

Back in Mark 2, the friends find the path to Jesus blocked. Sometimes, we have to put some extra effort into getting to Christ. There will always be reasons to quit, and we justify giving up so easily at times. Our journey toward our Savior will not always be easy. There will be obstacles. There will be troubles. The group of friends in Mark 2 were determined to get to Jesus, and they took a risk to get to Christ in an unconventional way.

How many ways could their solution have gone wrong? Let’s be honest. Digging into somebody else’s roof to interrupt a great teacher delivering his message would seem like a bad idea. Getting to Jesus is not always a conventional journey. We have to be willing to take risks for Christ and for each other. We have to be determined. We have to be okay with failure. If we have that strong knowledge that Jesus is the only true source of help, then it should make us all the more determined to keep on when fear, frustration, and trials try to keep us away.

Our giving up on Christ is very often rooted in basic fear. Mark 4:35 records Jesus calming a storm for his disciples, and He asked them, “Why are you still afraid? Have you no faith?” Jesus treated faith as the cure for fear. When we allow fear to motivate our attitudes and conduct, when fear influences our worldview and how we treat people or groups of people, we are demonstrating a lack of faith. Faith drives out fear so that we can press closer to Christ despite the things of this world that might keep us away.

The Real Victory

In Mark 2, when Jesus saw the faith in the friends who had brought the paralytic man to Him, Jesus decided to act. Our faith can help Jesus have an affect in other peoples’ lives. Our faith can help others grow their own faith and come closer to Christ. Still, Jesus first words were probably not what they expected, but that was the real victory. They brought their friend so his body could be healed, and Jesus began by healing the man’s soul.

We have to look for the real victory, and that includes giving up what we might think the win should be. We can only see so far, and God is capable if fixing problems we can’t even see. The real victory of faith is so much bigger than any solution we can come up with. It’s a change in our lives that only Christ can bring. If we can keep that in mind, it helps drive away fear in the face of obstacles. It helps us look for our one true source of hope.

Spiritual Battlefields: Our Attention

cannon facing old battlefield

As we continue our lessons about the Battlefields of the soul, it’s important to realize they all take place in our mind. The brain is the most complex organ we have. It makes everything we do possible. It interprets our senses. It monitors parts of our bodies without conscious thought. It can reason. It is home to our awareness, our ability to think, and our ability to decide. It stores and processes data every minute of the day.

The battle for our mind is a struggle for our focus and our attention. We have so much asking for our attention at all times, and our minds can be easily distracted. Just think about the number of car accidents related to distracted driving. Some of us might have even caused an accident because we were distracted, and it all starts with the same rationale: “I can handle it.”

Fighting for Our Attention

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, television, sports, work, current events, politics, financial concerns — these things and more battle for our attention. And none of these things are inherently bad, so where is the line? These things become bad when they distract us to the point where we lose our focus on God and Heaven, and the world becomes more important to our daily routines and decisions than God.

In Mark 4:1 – 9, Jesus tells a parable of a man sowing seeds, and some of those seeds fell on thorny ground where the seeds are choked out and never reach maturity. Jesus breaks the parable down in the following verses. Those seeds among the thorns are those who got distracted by the world, for whom the cares and distractions of this world erased the influence of God’s word.

If being Christ-like is the victory, then what does defeat look like? In Mark 7:14, Jesus points out that it’s not the influences of the world that defeat our spirituality. Instead, it’s what we do with those things. The things we say and do testify to how the battle for our minds is going. Of course, this means we should be mindful about what we allow into our minds so as to not give our adversary the upper hand through what gets our attention.

Tending to a Garden

Christ likens our souls to a garden in Mark 4. If you’ve ever gardened, you know that it takes effort and work to make your plants grow and thrive. The same is true within ourselves. Are we tending to our souls by putting good things into that garden? Are we watering that garden with the refreshing waters of Christ’s word? Do we weed the garden through discernment and obedience? If not, we may be allowing the weeds of worldly distraction grow in our minds.

It requires endurance to then maintain the garden. It’s an unending task. You can’t weed your garden once and be done for all time. You can’t feed the garden once and be done. With what are you and I feeding our minds? We are surrounded by negative influences every day. We can’t always control what goes in, but we have total control over what comes out. I have to make a conscious effort to not allow the distractions and negativity of this world to define me in my heart, my mind, and my speech.

What are you feeding your families’ souls with? How do we overcome the battle of our own minds as well as choose how we influence those we care about? It might mean we step back from allowing background noise in our homes. It might mean we make a conscious decision to avoid certain activities and friends. Just like feeding our bodies, we have to make healthy choices about how we feed our minds.

The battle for our minds will control how we fare when facing those other battlefields we’re studying about. It starts there. We cannot live without our minds, and we must guard it so it can defend us when the time comes. Our minds are precious. They are God’s gift that give us life and consciousness. They are what are formed in His image. Let’s keep that mind focused on being like Him, so we can overcome in the face of the distractions from a loud and attention-needy world.

lesson by Aaron Kadel