BE OF GOOD COURAGE:

God knows His followers need tremendous courage to carry them through the tribulations of life in this fallen world. For this reason, the Bible is filled with bolstering exhortations like this one in Psalm 27:14: “Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!” (NKJV).

To “be of good courage” is to possess an inner quality that enables a person to confront danger and difficulty without fear and with calmness, boldness, confidence, strength, and trust instead. The word translated “wait” in the original language means “trust.” It is echoed in the words of Isaiah 40:31: “But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (ESV).

This kind of unshakable trust and courage is only possible for those who know the Lord as the Savior. At the very beginning of the psalm, the poet acknowledges, “The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1).

In the face of any threat, we can be of good courage because the Lord Himself is with us, and He is worthy of our trust. No night is so long, no darkness so impenetrable, no suffering so painful, no evil so frightful, and no enemy so fierce as to disturb the confidence of the one who has God for his light and the Lord for his salvation. Believers can be of good courage and not be afraid because the Lord is the stronghold of their lives.

God encouraged Joshua to “be strong and of good courage” (NKJV) or “be strong and courageous” (NIV) because “the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6; see also Joshua 1:9). The same reassurance was given to Solomon and countless other servants of God throughout the Bible (1 Chronicles 22:132 Samuel 10:12Acts 23:11). We should be of good courage because the Lord is with us. He is our security: “You need not be afraid of sudden disaster or the destruction that comes upon the wicked, for the LORD is your security. He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap” (Proverbs 3:25–26, NLT).

God uses times of suffering to strengthen and refine us (2 Corinthians 4:7–12Psalm 66:10). The apostle Paul encouraged believers who were enduring hardship not to lose heart: “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:16–17, ESV). In every situation, we can be sure that God is working out His purposes for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

Jesus taught the disciples that it’s possible to have courage and peace amid trials and sorrows by abiding in Him: “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33, HCSB). In Jesus Christ, we have peace (John 14:27). The world may hate us, but Jesus Christ has overcome the world. Believers are “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). We are God’s children, and “everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4; see also 1 John 2:13–14).

We should be of good courage because God is our protector and defender (Psalm 46:1). We don’t have to be afraid because we are secure in the Father’s love (1 John 4:18). When God is for us, nothing can stand against us (Romans 8:31), and nothing can separate us from His great love (Romans 8:35–39).

What is the worst that the world can throw at us? The apostle Paul said that, even if “the earthly tent we live in is destroyed”—even if we die—“we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven” (2 Corinthians 5:1). We should be of good courage because eternal life in heaven awaits those who are in Jesus Christ (John 17:31 John 2:24–255:20).

Prophet Nathan’s Sermon

CONTROLLING SINFUL IMPULSES IN YOUR LIFE:

Impulse control is never easy. All of us struggle with overcoming sinful impulses. James says, “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (James 1:14). Part of the human condition is to feel impulses, and part of the Christian life is to control them.

Impulse control has been a struggle for us since the fall. Eve saw that the fruit was “desirable” (Genesis 3:6), and she chose to take it rather than control her impulse. Today, we still struggle. Often, impulses seem so strong as to overpower all scruples, commitments, and common sense. We feel that giving in is our only option. We have impulses to make frivolous purchases, to overeat, to have illicit sex, and to do many other things we know we shouldn’t.

It seems that Samson had quite a bit of trouble with impulse control. He is the perfect illustration of the proverb, “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control” (Proverbs 25:28). Samson saw a Philistine woman he wanted to marry, and he married her, despite his parents’ objections (Judges 14:1-2); the marriage lasted a week. He found honey, and he ate it, even though, in the process, he had to break a vow and ceremonially defile himself (Judges 14:8-9). And, of course, he could never say “no” to Delilah (Judges 16). Ironically, Samson is best known for his great physical strength. It goes to prove that the flesh is no ally in the battle against the flesh. It is a spiritual battle that must be won spiritually.

Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” As believers, we are new. We are no longer bound to our sinful natures (Romans 6:17-18), but we are in the process of sanctification. The coming of the new usually takes time and discipline. Even mature believers struggle with impulse control (Romans 7:18-25), but the Bible provides ample hope that we can overcome.

Praise the Lord, the Spirit produces self-control in those yielded to Him (Galatians 5:23)! We have been given the spirit of self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). First Peter 1:13 and 15 exhort us to “prepare [our] minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. . . . But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” Our self-control is not simply an exercise of volition; we must rely on the grace of Jesus. Knowing that we have been called by God, we work to control our impulses from a foundation of love for God.

We also work from a foundation of truth. When we know the truth, we can more easily dismiss impulses that seek to lead us into falsehood (John 8:32). Because we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), when a sinful impulse comes into our minds, we can recognize that it is not of Him and summarily dismiss it. The impulse comes from the sin nature, to which we are no longer slaves (see Romans 6). We can act on 2 Corinthians 10:5 and take our thoughts captive. When we know the truth – that we have been declared holy (Romans 5:1-2), that we have the mind of Christ, and that we have the power of the Holy Spirit – we are better able to challenge our thoughts and choose our actions.

The Bible calls us “overcomers” by faith (1 John 5:4). We are not at the mercy of our impulses. We can control them through the power of God in us (Ephesians 3:20). As we learn to say “no” to our sinful impulses, we may experience pain and a sense of deprivation, yet we trust the promise of Hebrews 12:11 that we will eventually reap “a harvest of righteousness and peace.”

In the struggle to control impulses, many people derive benefit from accountability partners or counselors. Sometimes, impulse control is made more difficult due to underlying anxiety or some type of brain abnormality. Overcoming an impulse involves both knowing God’s truth and using the functional tools of behavior modification. Regardless of the exact methods we employ to control our impulses, we say with Paul, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

Prophet Nathan’s Sermon

SIN IS A SLIPPERY SLOPE:

The idiom a slippery slope means that an action will quickly lead to a series of other actions that will lead to a downfall. The imagery is that of sliding down a steep bank and landing with a crash at the bottom. Someone may have begun a walk at the top of the embankment with no intention of sliding down the hill. But, once a foot ventures onto the slick side of the hill, the outcome is inevitable. The venture into sin can begin that way. The Bible warns us against playing with temptations because they are a slippery slope into sins we may never have planned to commit.

James 1:13–15 says, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” That is the Bible’s description of a slippery slope.

Marijuana has been called a “gateway drug” because recreational use of it can become a slippery slope into addiction to other drugs. Some people enjoy using certain topics of conversation as slippery slopes into controversy. They toss a hot-button topic at a group of people with passionate and opposing views and then watch the sparks fly. A pleasant conversation can slide quickly down the slippery slope into hurt feelings, rash words, and broken relationships.

By its nature, sin is never satisfied. It demands more and more. Often, sin first presents itself as a pleasant suggestion. It never reveals the slippery slope from temptation to disaster. Most temptation begins by highlighting a fleshly need or desire, as the serpent did with Eve (Genesis 3). It minimizes the possibility of that first action leading to another action and so descending a slippery slope. If we looked at the logical results of succumbing to the temptation, most of us would run the other way. This is why alcohol advertisements always feature the good time to be had with friends and demonstrate how fun it is to drink. Alcohol ads never show what happens when the parties are over, or few would buy the product. If tobacco companies practiced full disclosure, they would be honest about the slippery slope many tobacco users are on; instead, their advertising campaigns carefully avoid suggestions of addiction, lung cancer, and COPD. No matter how fun it is to dance along the top of the slippery slope, what happens at the bottom is never good.

Several Bible characters stepped onto sin’s slippery slope and reaped disaster. Samson, whose story is told in Judges 13—15, was chosen by God before birth to be a mighty judge over Israel. God blessed him with incredible strength that won the hearts of the nation. But Samson had a lust problem, and his compromise at various times became a slippery slope to tragedy. Because of his lust, he spent time with the wrong people, chasing the wrong women, and eventually lost both his eyes and his life. Samson began as a handsome young man interested in a girl, but the slippery slope of one compromise after another led him into grievous sin and the forfeiting of all God wanted to do through him.

David is another man in Scripture who experienced sin’s slippery slope. He was the greatest king in Israel’s history because of God’s blessing upon him. Yet he stepped onto a slippery slope that would lead to adultery, murder, and heartache. Second Samuel 11:2 says, “One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful.” At that point, David had an important choice to make. Would he continue looking at the beautiful woman bathing? Or would he avert his eyes from that scene and go back inside? David chose to gratify the lust of the flesh, and that put him on a slippery slope into a terrible scandal that ended with the death of Bathsheba’s husband, the death of her child, David’s agonized struggle with guilt (Psalm 32:3–4), and continued trouble in David’s family.

Sin advertises that it can meet our needs better than anything else. It insists that it is our friend, destined to make us happy. Satan will whisper anything into our listening hearts that will get us to put one foot on his slippery slope. Gambling addictions begin with that first coin plunked in a slot machine. Alcoholism begins with that first drink. Deception begins with that first white lie. When we’re caught in the slide down the slippery slope, our tempter is nowhere to be found. He will never throw us a rope. He promised freedom but brought chains instead.

The best way to avoid the results of a slippery slope is to never step on it to begin with. “Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14, ESV). Once you’re on the slope, it’s very hard to get back to the top. Wise people know their areas of weakness and avoid the potential for them to be exploited. Recovering alcoholics stay far away from bars and parties where alcohol is offered. Overspenders cut up their credit cards and make themselves financially accountable to someone else. Teenagers who desire to remain sexually pure don’t spend long hours alone with their dates. We make provision for the flesh when we place ourselves in situations that tempt us and then expect ourselves to be strong enough to resist the temptations that inevitably come. It’s foolish to rely on our weak flesh to deliver us, and it’s often the first step on the slippery slide to failure. Wisdom warns us about those slippery slopes, if we will attune our hearts to listen (1 Thessalonians 5:22Psalm 119:101).

Prophet Nathan’s Sermon