The day we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior is one of the greatest days of our lives. Not only are our sins washed away, but God puts His Spirit inside of us and gives us new desires.
I love how the apostle Paul put it: …If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV).
Over the years, I've had many people ask me, "Well, Joyce, if I have all this great stuff going on inside of me, then why do I still act this way? What is my problem?"
You see, when we give our lives to Christ, it's just the beginning. God deposits a seed of everything He is deep inside our spirits and helps us to want to do the right thing.
The problem is that we still have a flesh. When the Bible talks about "the flesh," it is referring to our bodies and the parts of our souls that we have not yet surrendered to God…things like bad attitudes, selfishness, strife, anger, fear, unforgiveness, lust, addictions and anything else that leads to sin.
So how do you overcome these things?
First, it's vitally important for you to feed your spirit. As you read or listen to God's Word and spend time talking to Him in prayer, your spirit will eventually become stronger than your flesh.
Second, each day we are faced with a choice: Am I going to live the God-life, or am I going to live the self-life?
If we live a self-directed, self-motivated, self-centered life, always needing to get our own way, then we're going to be miserable. In fact, many times we believe it's our problems that are making us unhappy when, in reality, it's because we're focused on ourselves!
But if we choose to live the God-life-a life focused on cooperating with Him and choosing to be a blessing to others-we can move into a whole new level of joy and peace.
Don't Fight the Growing Pains
God loves us too much to leave us the way we are. From the moment we give our hearts to Him, He begins pointing out things in our lives that need to change...things we may have never noticed before. And when He does, we have a choice to either cooperate with God…or stay where we are a little bit longer.
I'll give you an example. For years I wasn't happy when I wouldn't get my way. And when I wasn't happy, I always had something to say about it. My words and my body language let you know that I wasn't happy.
One day, my husband, Dave, and I were at the mall shopping for paintings to decorate our home. Now, Dave and I don't always agree when it comes to decorating. Sure enough, we walked into one particular store and he spotted a painting that he loved. As you can probably already guess, I did not like it at all. So I immediately let my opinion be known.
"Dave, I don't like that painting, and I do not want that painting in the house. We are not going to get that painting."
"What's wrong with the painting?" Dave asked.
"I hate that painting," I countered, determined to get my point across.
Well, if you know anything about Dave, you know that he's a loving man who doesn't like to argue. And so he said, "Aw, forget it, just do what you want" and put down the painting.
As we started walking down the mall, I could feel myself kind of celebrating on the inside, knowing I had gotten what I wanted. Right then, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart:
"You know what, Joyce? You think you won, but you really lost."
That day, I had a choice. I could have chosen to live the God-life and said something like, "Dave, I really don't like that painting, honey, and I'd rather not get it. Can we look for something we both like?"
Instead, I reacted out of selfishness. I said what I felt like saying and made sure I got just what I wanted. The result? My behavior wasn't pleasing to God or my husband…and I didn't grow one bit that day.
Here's the truth: Saying "no" to what we want is initially painful…our natural inclination is to back away from the pain the moment it starts to hurt. But there's a reward if we will just stick with it!
The first handful of times that I chose not to argue with Dave (even when I knew I was right!), it was painful. But once I got over the initial pain in my soul, it released a joy and peace and satisfaction that no one could take away from me.
Each time we cooperate with God, we take one more giant step forward. Because when God asks us to change, it means that He always has something better to give us-more freedom, greater joy, and greater blessings.