Wrestling and Willpower

19 05 2009

Have you ever had an arm wrestle with someone of similar strength? Willpower wins the wrestling. Where do you get will power? Is it natural? 

We might talk about willpower, in relation to giving up cigarettes, or going on some sort of a diet, or training for a highly competitive sporting event.  How do we feel, however, about the application of will power in order to embrace suffering for the benefit of someone else?

We might think of will-power as an admirable quality, but something we lack a bit in, ourselves. 

Consider: every day we exercise our willpower. We decide to do this, and not do that. We sometimes feels torn between two loyalties that we hold of similar value—two agenda’s in conflict with one another, at a point in time—and we have to choose.

We often choose our own preference, rather than consider either

(i) the needs of others, or

(ii) the will of God

The way of life, for a human being is not ‘in himself’. It is rather, what am I being called unt0, at this point, by God.

Jeremiah said: I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps (Jeremiah 10:2 )

 

Jesus said: “I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me (John 5:30)

 

This is a different approach, almost the opposite in fact, to that sung by ol’d blue eyes: ‘I did it my way’.  Frank Sanatra is often played at a funeral. It is designed to acknowledge the unique, even strange-unfathomable will of a person, in life. However, it is at times used, almost to underline the fierce attitude of autonomy and independence. 

This is a pity:

 Proverbs 21:2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.

 For the God of all things, has made us to come under Christ Jesus’ Lordship.

All our lives may be a wrestling to avoid this.

We may need some open-heart surgery, as we wrestle with Christ the true Son, and wrestle with the Father, the true director of lives, for blessing—in order that our will with God, may indeed be wholly One.  What a wrestle our lives can be! 

 We do not come at it, naturally. It is a wrestle with the flesh (that stubborn self-will), to move with God in the often difficult, sometimes-surprising, yet very loving action of the Holy Spirit.

 What an incredible thing Jesus did, throughout his life, and his ministry, his sufferings and his death – even his resurrection.  He did not do merely his own will. His will was united with the Father, so that everything he said and did – issued in live, originated in love, and was the expression of holy love. Love that loves according to the truth. Love that loves according to grace. Love that comes into the world bringing mercy to people; yet love that is tough, steely, rich, burning to the conscience. Love for the Father’s will motivated Jesus, all the time. Wow! A Will given over to to the Father’s will. This is freedom?  

 Imagine that?

 Jesus came to do the will of the Father, to stand with the Father, and to do his will.  Wow. Image that? Doing the will of another, wholly united.  Jesus was seeking to know and do that will in the Garden, while he was dying. He was not suffering the resistance of unwilling flesh, surely. It was more like groping confusion in the anguish of the sin bearing which was his alone.

 As a forerunner to our life, today, the Father strengthened Jesus, by his Spirit, for the work of the cross. Now, in imparting his Spirit, to us, who believe, he has strengthened us to do his will.

What wrestling that can be.  For the disciples it included their inability to stay up and wrestle with tiredness. They were overcome by the weight of it all. Jesus was not. He wanted them to wrestle in prayer.

 Have you ever wrestled in prayer? 

You may think arm-wrestling needs willpower. What of prayer?

Consider: Jacob wrestled all night with God, and finally received the blessing, of doing God’s will. He walked with a limp afterwards, because he had fought with God. It was to remember the event.

We – I believe – need to wrestle with God (much of our life perhaps), until we are prepared to do his will. Rebels, can scarcely do the Father’s will, willingly.

 Consider: Abraham, believing in the God of eternal life, was yet prepared to kill his only big, grown son as a sacrifice, to do God’s will – to receive the blessings of God. But even Isaac must have been willing, as he was walking up the hill with his Dad.  They had no sacrifice with them. (In the end God proved a ram from the thicket). 

 “I can will what is right”, said the Apostle Paul. But doing it, accomplishing it, effecting it, was much more difficult. Indeed impossible ultimately in all things. This Paul saw, was due to the ever-present nature of sin. Sin affects motives, judgment, ideas, aims, senses. Even so, being willing is a great thing. Indeed in Christ, with His Spirit we are set up to do God’s will. 

 What a mighty thing to be able to will what is right (even if we can never quite totally accomplish it!).

Romans 7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.

 Dear folks, thanks be to the Warrior Lord—Jesus Christ, for his willpower, set to do the Father’s will.  But always aided by the Holy Spirit.  

Be aided, wrestle to know! “There is rest in the wrestling”, said one wise man.

 Coming to Jesus humbles us to live by another tune, and plan. The grace-tune, the grace-plan, the Spirit-led plan, the love-plan. May the Lord Risen and Present, strengthen you to do his will, to wrestle and find willpower, from God, to amazing make good choices. May grace be upon your weakness too.  Wrestling, with love willpower – Jesus was and is amazing for his clear approach to live truly, in all circumstances. What a wrestler. What authority. What redemptive power, for the human race, lies in wrestling for that which is true, amidst a broken, rebellious world. Cheers!

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Things that matter

21 11 2008

It seems to me that there are lots of things that matter in life. But, sometimes one is faced – or confronted, with the brevity of life. Like when someone you know is suddenly taken from this life. Death, can come so quickly. It catches us, it takes by surprise. It leaves its deep shock in our spirit.

So then, what matters? Just having fun? Doing lots of good things? Having lots of friends? Laughter? Joy? Or, as the cynics, might say… nothing. 

No. There are things that matter.

In the end it comes down to relationships. Many will agree. But sort of beyond that, is the matter of purpose. And that can be summed up in two things:

(1) Participating in the “mandate”, the great agenda, for creation. Which is, having been blessed, to then…: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth’ (see Genesis 1:28) 

(2) Participating in the “gospel”, the great hope, and certainty, for the future of creation. That is, pausing long enough for the resurrection and crucifixion, to have their full effect upon one’s life, causing a great change of mind… for the better.

So then, may you be in the things that matter. Mowing a lawn, or catching a fish, or studying the galaxies, or nursing a sick child – these are creational things.

And, unfolding the mystery of life – Christ Jesus – that is a gospel thing.

Both are good to do. Both need each other, not just for balance, but for fulness of life, and for exercising our true humanity; and for joy – ah yes, joy, and for – well, making true sense of it all.  Cheers!





Dominica

18 10 2017

A 750 square km Island in the Caribbean. African Caribbean people descended from slaves brought by the French and English.  Ruled by France until 1759. Then English. Independent in 1978. English is the official language but 80% speak French Creole.

Population:  66,600

Capital: Roseau.

Dominica

Religion: 91% Christian, but high very nominal Catholicism.

Prayer: That the Spirit of God will move anew bringing the good news of Jesus Christ, – crucified and risen, and reigning now – to the people of this isolated island, with power. May the Pastors, who often suffer ‘burn-out’, find suitable work to sustain them in their important preaching and teaching roles.  May the evangelical churches in nearby nations find ways to offer support and encouragement.

 





Djibouti

16 10 2017

Capital: Djibouti   … (imagine that!)

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Population: 1 million. About 61% are Somali people, also Afar (28%), Arab (8%).

Official Language: French and Arabic.

A hot dry enclave between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, with possibly the hottest average temperatures of any county on earth.

Religion: Muslim 97% (and the State religion). Religious freedom for foreigners.

Prayer:  Living Lord, ascended Jesus, who loves this nation of people, may your Word be preached here with power.  In this strange nation, so calm and stable, yet with huge problems of unemployment and famine, may the miracle of coming to know Jesus Christ as the Saviour and hope of the world, occur among significant people, that the joy of the true God’s plan and purpose, as Father and Redeemer may be revealed for many people. Come Holy Spirit and bring a quenching of human thirst, in a dry and weary land. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 





Denmark

16 10 2017

Capital: Copenhagen.

Population: 5.5 million

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Christian 85%, Non-religious 10%, Muslim 4%

Over 80% of the population remain members of the Lutheran Church.

However church attendance is around 2%. And ‘much of the Lutheran Church is experienced by ordinary Danes as ritualistic and dead and the fresh winds of the Holy Spirit must blow through this institution.‘ (OW, p. 303). There is a shortfall of pastors. Islamic relationships – due to riots in 2006 are tense.

Prayer:  Living Lord, may the Lutheran church across the world, see the needs here, and respond in earnest prayer and genuine missionary support.

 





Czech Republic

16 10 2017

Capital: Prague.

Bordered by Germany, Poland, Slovakia, and Austria.

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Economy: One of the most developed economies in central Europe. A stfrong tradition of industry and manufacturing.

Politics:  “The bloodless ‘velvet revolution’ against Communist rule in 1989 was followed by rapid democratization and the ‘velvet divorce’ from Slovakia in 1993. Multiparty presidential democracy and EU member since 2004” (Operation World, p. 298).

Religion:  “A long turbulent religious history. Believers suffered, especially under the Communist regime. Subsequent freedom sees a significant falling and fading  of religious influence in Czech society – although it has not been a particularly religious society for hundreds of years.” (O.W.)

Non-religious 71%, Christian 26%

Prayer:

That the moral vacuum may be replaced with the wise and gracious plan of Christ for people and his world. “Freedom for Czechs has too often translated into a ‘free-for-all’.

That the dynamic church planting will continue to bear fruit. We give thanks that this nation has churches, that actually send missionaries to several European nations, and across the world.

For New expressions of Christian faith to emerge. For leadership – ‘a key to growth’.

 

 

 

 





Cyprus

3 01 2017

Wow. I knew the country of Cyprus was divided, and that the Muslim influence was quite problematic. But I until I read the notes in ‘Operation World’, I did not realise to what extent the nation has been divided. The Religion of Pieces, at it again.

“The country is divided as a result of Turkey’s 1974 invasion and occupation of the north. The Greek and Turk populations are separated: the north calling itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and the south claiming the whole island as the Repubic of Cyprus (ROC). The ROC is internationally recognized as the legal government of the whole island; only Turkey recognizes the TRNC.” (Operation World, Jason Mandryk (Ed.), p. 295)

Population: 900,000

Capital: Lefkosia (Nicosia) 243,000

Official Language: Greek

Public Debt: 49% of GDP

Religion: The Christians are almost all in ROC and Muslims in TRNC.

Christian 71%, Muslim 24%, Non-Religious 3%, Hindu, Buddhist, Chinese, Sikh, Jewish…

Largest Christian Denomination: Orthodox (by a country mile!), Catholic, Apostolic…

Problem: The ethnic-cultural-politcal traditions cloud a fresh encounter with the gospel.

Prayer: Living God, who loves the human race, and redeems them in the ministry of Jesus Christ, may this year bring a new movement of the Holy Spirit, to open doors for the hearing and response to the gospel in new and enduring ways. We pray for the evangelical Christians, who, though small in number, are equipped with the power of your Word. May the foreign workers, British military, Logos Bookstore, Growing numbers of ethnic evangelicals and YWAM, Interserve and others, combine to be a witness to Christ’s Lordship in new and stirring ways. Amen. 





Cuba

11 06 2016

The largest island in the Caribbean. (Near the Bahamas, Haiti and Jamaica)

Population11, 350,000

Capital: Havana (Pun: I’m hav’n’ a good time in Cuba)

People:  Hispanic 98%, Asian 1%, Other 1%

Economy: “Sugar production, along with the rest of the economy, collapsed with the Soviet meltdown as aid and subsidies dried up. The US trade embargo, devastating hurricanes, repressive centralized socialist planning, corruption and poor productivity hamper progress. Lack of many essentials (including food) still affects the country, yet there is a high standard in literacy, education and health. Tourism is becoming more and more economically important.” (Operation World, p. 291).

Politics:  “Independent from Spain in 1898. Fidel Castro’s revolution (he was born in 1926) brought Communism to power in 1959, replacing a corrupt and venal regime” (O.W.)

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Religion: Christian 56%, Non-religious 25%, Ethnoreligious 18%, Hindu 0.14%, Chinsese 0.14%, Other 0.14%, Buddhist 0.14%  (where is Islam?…)

Prayer Points:

  1. For political, economic, demographic and ideological needs.
  2. For the purification of the Catholic church
  3. For recovery of the Evangelical churches, devastated by waves of emigration to USA
  4. For the 500,00 plus people imprisoned for ideological reason under Communism
  5. For renewed leadership in the churches, able to cope with change and growth
  6. For the less reached people groups especially those in the Santeria cult, linked with similar evil spiritual powers to Haitian voodooism.
  7.  For the foreign missionaries, largely restricted access.
  8. For the 1 million Cuban refugees (legal and illegal) living in the USA, and their fruitful influence on their home country.
  9. For the Christian help ministries with Bible distribution, Christian literature, radio and music.

Thank you Lord, our God, for the growth of the Church in Cuba in recent years. Thank you for the refinement of the church at a local level, and the Spirit’s persistent ministry to the church. May the numerical growth continue, and may locals have wise leadership and courage to be a rich, powerful blessing to their nation, in the name of Jesus. Amen.

 

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Croatia

8 06 2016

Located in Europe, Croatia  is a Crescent-shaped country of 4.5 million people.  It is 91% Christian (primarily Catholic and Orthodox).  It is situated between the Danube River and the Adriatic Sea. It is a part of the Balkan States.

Capital: Zagreb (687,000)

Economy: “Long-term Communist mismanagement and the war with Serbs undermined a previously solid economy. Recovery is still in process, with relatively high unemployment and low wages. A resurgent tourist sector and the privatization of state industries have helped Croatia begin to turn the corner and develop over the last decade” (Operation World, p. 289).

Hatred: Some 1,600 years of rivalry between the Croat and Serb peoples, and their mutual hatred of one another was one of the potent factors in the terrible, horrifying Balkan wars of the 1990’s. “The iron bond shackling ethnicity to religion also hampers progress and stifles spiritual breakthrough” (Operation World). Forgiveness and love are of course keys to reconciliation and renewed trust.

Religion: Christian 91.6%, Non-Religious 6.01%, Muslim 1.9%, Jewish 0.10%, Hindu 0.02%, Buddhist 0.01%

Challenge to Prayer: Of the large Christian population some 87% are Catholic, and while there is a small but active Charismatic movement among them, and some very good Catholic leaders, it is sadly a nation where nominalism and empty rituals abound. According to Operation World, ‘Evangelicals are one of the few groups that straddle the ethnic divide. Many Bosnians, Croats and Serbs have been won to Christ and brought into the fellowship together.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for the gospel of grace spreading amidst a damaged society. Where the young people have little confidence for their future, and amidst high unemployment, may the Spirit of the Risen Lord bring renewed hope, and a desire for development and community, as the plan of God for creation, gives fresh impetus to rebuild the nation.

Part of the Balkan Peninsula:

It is difficult to obtain universal agreement on which nations belong to ‘the Balkans’. Most would include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro,Romania, Serbia and Slovenia. Parts of Greece and Turkey are sometimes owned as belonging to the mix.

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See details re Bosnia, also: https://nwcc.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/bosnia/

 








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