Change doesn’t happen unless you decide to put in the effort. This may seem like a “no-brainer” fact of life, but if you’re anything like me, you sometimes go to bed with the ridiculous notion that tomorrow will be different, not because you’ve done anything to render the outcome as such, but because we, as flawed human beings, live under the assumption that in the end there will be a “happily ever after.” Truth is, your life (my life) is not going to change unless you (I) decide to do something about it. Leo Tolstoy once said that: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one things of changing himself.” My newsfeed is often saturated with strong opinions of “How might the world change if only…” or “How might this situation improve if only…”, but very rarely do people take the time to personalize this message and say: ‘How might I improve?” or “How might I improve this situation around me?”

Some may think the main reason for this lack of introspection is denial. We deny that we are addicts, that our relationships are shallow, or that we have any character flaws whatsoever, but frankly, I think that denial is not the source of our lack of self-reflection. I think we know all too well who we are; we just live under the pretense that others do not. How could we not know? We’ve got to know there’s something not quite right with ourselves when we experience continual strain and conflict in our relationships, frequent indulgence in addictive behaviors to pass the time, and lack of fulfillment, satisfaction, and purpose which pose a continual quench that never subsides. Denial is not the issue. We all know too well the chasms of our heart that haunt our inner lives.

What causes us to refuse to identity the areas in our lives that are falling short of the glory of God, surrender them over, and fight to rid ourselves of these destructive habits? Though there are probably thousands of reasons for this irrational behavior, I have narrowed it down to 3 distinctive “walls” that must be torn down if we are to see outside of our “self-destructing” city into the “promised land”.

The First Wall: Previous Defeat (Discouragement)

We’ve all failed at things in life: exams, relationships, opportunities, etc., but sometimes we can allow previous defeat to stagnate our ability to move on into victory. Because we have failed in the past, we have lost hope for the future.

The Second Wall: Laziness

Let’s face it, it’s a whole lot easier to come home from work and captivate yourself with a T.V. screen, computer screen, or phone screen than it is to discipline yourself to improve your areas of weakness. It’s much easier to binge watch episode after episode of dramas unfolding before you, than to deal with your life’s own “drama.” We equate good intentions with action. We have come to believe that a “like” on social media is the same as taking a resolute stand for or against something. And maybe our passions genuinely are spurned, but we never get past an emotional response because we are too lazy to take action.

The Third Wall: Fear

Fear is an emotional response to a situation that causes us to flee or remain frozen. There is no resolution in fear. Fear often stems from a lack of faith in who God is and what He says He will do. We fear that if we take that step of faith maybe He won’t come through after all, and we will find ourselves drowning in the upheaval of all our hopes and dreams.

So, how do we stand resolute and lead a victorious life of continual growth and sanctification?

#1 Let go of our past. Paul writes, in Philippians 3:12-14, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own, But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul makes it clear that he is not perfect. God doesn’t demand perfection, but He does expect progression. In order to accomplish this, we must learn to “forget what lies behind us” because we aren’t that person anymore. We are now a new creature in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Our past failures pinpoint weaknesses in our lives that we were unwilling to submit to God and allow Him to fight for us. Failures in our walk with Christ are areas in which we are trying to control and conquer by ourselves. Therefore, in order to tear down the wall of discouragement, we must forget our past failures and submit our current struggles to Christ, recognizing that “apart from Him we can do nothing” (John 15).

#2 Recognize who is actually doing the work. Perhaps overstimulation is one of the root causes for laziness and apathy in the church today. There are so many areas to “get involved” in ministry, which leads to such a broad scope of need, that the work seems impossible. This can result in being overwhelmed, which leads to “shutting down” or “growing numb” in our faith. By overcomplicating our mission on Earth, we tend to put more of the burden on ourselves than Christ intended, instead of understanding that it is not our burden to bear at all. Jesus said that “His yoke is easy, and His burden is light” (Matt. 11:30), but if you’ve ever been in ministry, it sure doesn’t feel that way!  Why? Because we don’t understand that we are not responsible for the results of our labor. This pressure we feel to achieve and live a flawless life is not from the Lord, but from our own sinful, prideful nature. We become lazy when we feel the burdens are ours to bear and grow tired of carrying them. Jesus came to break the yoke of slavery to sin in our lives so that we might have a fruitful, abundant life, not a down trodden, weary existence. Recognize that God is the one who does the work and that you are not responsible for the outcome. He does the heavy-lifting!

#3 Do not fear, only believe. In the gospel of Mark, when Jesus was presented with the most hopeless, impossible situation for mankind: death, His response was: “Do not fear, only believe” (Mark 5:36). Fear is the opposite of faith. When we fear, we doubt God’s goodness and capabilities. If Jesus could conquer death by raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead, what does that say of our often “trivial” trials? They pale in comparison to this feat. So how do we have faith? We know from Ephesians that it is a gift from God. We don’t create faith innately. Romans tells us it comes from hearing the Word of God. And what does God’s Word tell us over and over? —To remember. In times of fear, we need to remember Who it is we serve. He is an all-powerful, all-knowing God. In our most desperate, dire situations, He calmly says: “Do not fear, only believe.”

Choose to stand resolute. Let us forget what lies behind, press on in the hope of what lies ahead, freely surrender our burdens to the Lord, and hold fast to the faith that was entrusted to us.