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There’s no such thing as unopposed spiritual progress

Here’s something I believe that a lot of people find controversial in this modern age: You have an enemy who hates you. If God’s dream is to see you free, then your enemy’s goal is to keep you in bondage.   The idea of personal evil is evident throughout the Bible, but it seems most Evan…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
Here’s something I believe that a lot of people find controversial in this modern age: You have an enemy who hates you. If God’s dream is to see you free, then your enemy’s goal is to keep you in bondage.
The idea of personal evil is evident throughout the Bible, but it seems most Evangelicals are fairly ignorant on the subject and have little practical experience fighting their enemy. I, for one, grew up scared of the devil and clueless about spiritual warfare.
I don’t know where you are, but if I want to grow spiritually, I really seem to struggle. It just goes with the territory. And apparently, this condition is fairly universal. Paul, for example, laments the weakness of his flesh and calls himself “wretched.” (Romans 7:24)
Say what you want, but I believe this universal sense of frustration owes in large part to the fact that there’s no such thing as unopposed spiritual progress. The flesh is weak and the enemy of my soul is trying to take me out. And he wants to do the same to you.
This manifests in a hundred different ways: I write about fasting, but I haven’t fasted in a while. I know I need to pray more, yet Facebook is more fun. I want to love people who frustrate me, but it’s easier to do something else.
All of which should encourage us to approach the topic of personal spiritual formation with some sobriety.
When was the last time you determined to grow spiritually? If you struggle, why is that the case?

Comments (9)

  • hi seth, i’m sure we can agree that our biggest disappointments–as christians– come from struggles to “do” what we think seems right.
    there’s cycles of that, throughout our lives–i think…because we want so much to please God….then we just get so TIRED trying, that we give up.
    but that’s the lovely part, as our God knows we have to get to the place where we no longer want to struggle, (or ‘work’) to please God, & God is never angry with us about these efforts or failures.
    my flesh wants to serve Him, to earn His Love, to “be a good christian” (in the eyes of men). but my very failures are the way i’ve been victorious over those false beliefs.
    our God’s Goodness has become my only focus lately, as i am so much happier believing that He is always blessing me–no matter how it looks at the moment.
    that core belief is my lifeline now, “making me to lie down in green pastures”, & rest in His Love…(even though i could choose to dwell on some ugly thing i’d done, or somebody had done TO me.)
    it’s necessary for me to really be established in God’s unfailing Love & Grace before i can get anywhere near real “service” for Him. (no longer will i worry about how long this process will take, or whether i’m a disappointment to God.) that stuff will tear you up.
    we are already victorious in Christ. getting more & more revelation of Jesus is how i’ll spend the rest of my life: (sitting at His feet, like mary…instead of compelled serving–&complaining–like martha.)
    this blessed Truth has taken 50 years to become ingrained in me, but it’s my Promise Land of Rest. enjoying my Savior is okay with God. if there’s anything else He wants me to do, He’ll let me know.

  • This is very timely for me as our church is just beginning “spiritual formation” groups whose main purpose is to help people in their quest to become more like Jesus. I am in the process of deciding where I want to be involved in all this. As I began to think about it, immediately thoughts of inadequacy, ineptness and past failures came storming into my mind. And then there is the desire to be seen as spiritual and a ministry partner to other women that creeps into my heart. I do have a genuine longing to be involved in these kinds of groups, to be held accountable in my own walk and to help hold others accountable and encourage them in theirs. Sorting out the truth from the lies inside my own heart can be quite a challenge at times! I find this to be my greatest battlefield. Fixing my eyes on Jesus in yielded trust and obedience is my goal.

    I have followed your blog for quite a while (ever since our mission trip to Haiti last fall) but I have never posted a comment before.

  • Thanks for commenting, Marsha. Glad this was a help. We all struggle – I’m encouraged to know I’m not alone in that.

  • Of all of your blogs, I really appreciate these kind of honest confessions the most because they remind me that I’m not alone in my weakness. I’m not the only one who struggles to “get it” sometime or to “do it”.

    I know that you through your whole life into serving the Lord, and I know that you constantly seek to improve yourself and your walk. So to see that with all of that effort and with all of that heart, that you are not perfect and you are not affraid to admit that you are not, helps me to be okay with not being perfect either.

    I don’t seek any less, I don’t try any less or pursue any less, but I don’t beat myself up so much or discourage myself for not “making it”.

    So thanks for keeping it real.

  • Thanks a million once again Seth. Your authentic lifestyle challenges and makes me humble.

    like Kim said, THANKS FOR KEEPING IT REAL.

  • Great point. I’m glad you focus on things like this. Sadly, its a point that the western church seems to easily forget. Thanks for this reminder.

  • Good blog

    I’m trying to think of any forward progress/improvement that doesn’t come at a price- time/money/energy/pain/sacrifice

    a verse I have been dwelling on is psalm 73:26

  • Thanks Seth…and Scott, I continued to read on in Psalm 73, v.28, ‘But as for me, the nearness of God is my good’…
    Pressing on today, in every way.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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