06 Nov Walk Out Of The Vicious Cycle
<Judges 2:11-19; 21:25; 1:19: 1:27; Song 2:15>
Prelude: Do you sometimes feel that your life is going around circles? For instance, certain temptations do not leave you for long, you may triumph over them sometimes but will fall again later. Some people repeatedly look down on themselves, and while they may feel slightly better after attaining slight achievements, it is not long after before they fall into inferiority complex again. For others, inter-personal relationship issues recur and trouble you etc. Many people often seek for a “better” life, but later discover that if they did not return to Christ to receive satisfaction, they would eventually go one big round and end up still at the starting point. On the contrary, a life that is led by Christ would definitely grow, and would definitely not stagnate or go round in circles. Even if believers are weak, even if they fall or encounter challenges, these will refine them and help them to grow. But why is it that the lives of some Christians seem to be going around in circles and they repeatedly encounter similar problems? We can take reference from the Book of Judges. This book tells of how God’s people, the Israelites, moving around in circles. We can see a cycle: People sin – get disciplined – call to the Lord – God rises up judges – people are saved. But after that, the entire cycle repeats itself again.
People continue to remain in a vicious cycle because their lives do not have a true King
* <Judg 21:25> In those days, Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit. Also to cf <Judg 17:6; 18:1; 19:1>
Man is created to listen and follow his Creator Lord, and receive blessings by being reconciled with Him
But when man is not willing to allow God to be King, but instead continues to “[do] as they saw fit”, rely on themselves, be human-driven, like to use their brains/intelligence, rely on their own feelings and judgement, and hence take many pointless journeys, and go around in many circles.
This King does not refer to a great, brave or wise man
We saw that even though God raised up judges to save the Israelites, they could only save the Israelites from the hands of the enemies temporarily. They could not save the Israelites to depart from their sins for long. After a judge had passed on, Israel sinned again and was judged. If we examined these judges closely, we will discover that they all had weaknesses. Even after God raised up the great King David, we know that he was even more imperfect and would sin. King Solomon was also the wisest king but in his later years, he also departed from the Lord. Hence, Man cannot bring us true relief and salvation.
We need Jesus the Messiah
Only Jesus can save us totally and allow us to depart from sin and the judgement of sins. He also protects us all the way. Only God can create true transformation in our hearts and lives. When we acknowledge God as King, and loyally follow Him, we will naturally walk out of unnecessary cycles. Once we have grasped the correct basis, we will naturally see that fruits and evidence will follow.
People continue to remain in a vicious cycle because they allow the enemy – the devil, sin, to take control
The Israelites did not “drive out completely” all their enemies.
(1) Because the enemy is too strong
“But Manasseh did not drive out the people… for the Canaanites were determined to live in that land.” <Judg 1:27>
“The Lord was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive out the people from the plains because they had chariots fitted with iron.”
As the Israelites could not drive away the enemies, they could only live together with them. This is akin to believers not being able to oppose the culture and ideas of this world, and they just assimilate with the world. Are we also like the Israelite, we feel like giving up when we see that it is difficult to go against the enemy (sinful nature, Satan, world)? Sin and Satan are determined to occupy our lives, damage our relationship with God, steal our blessing away. We must definitely not allow that.
(2) Because of selfish benefits
The Israelites wanted to allow their enemies to stay and labour for them. We also have our motives when we assimilate with the world. It can be that we want to be entertained by the world, or to receive happiness and satisfaction from the world, etc
(3) But actually God has already reminded His people not to compromise with their enemies
Because the ways of the Gentiles (the world) would become traps to cause the fall of Israel.
We cannot over-estimate ourselves or under-estimate our enemies
Perhaps the Israelites did not want to offend God on purpose, they genuinely thought they were stronger than the enemies, can easily control them and put them into submission. Often, in a similar way, we think that we dabble with the world, and then withdraw anytime we want to. Indeed, when we are spiritually strong, full of faith, we can guard ourselves; however, the fact is, we cannot always be strong. Furthermore, when we give an inch to the enemy, they will take a mile. We thought we could subdue it, but in the end, we slowly come under its control.
To break the vicious cycle, we must capture the “little foxes” in our lives
* <Song 2:15> Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.
The vicious cycle of a person’s life does not happen overnight
For a person to enter into a vicious cycle, it is through a series of destructive decisions. If our conviction is not right, or our priorities are upside down, we will lose discernment, and then do foolish things. Furthermore, when we persistently do nothing with the channels of the enemies, we will be trapped in a vicious cycle.
Therefore, in daily living, we must be conscientious in catching the “little foxes”
Foxes are cunning (just like devil), they enter our lives secretly, without our knowledge. Because they are cunning, they can come in many different forms to enter our lives:
- “Feelings of accusation”: Such “foxes” will torment you by targeting your problems and weakness. All the accusations from them seem real and you cannot deny them. When you are attacked by these “foxes”, you must use the precious blood of Jesus and Truth to cover yourself. You must know, its accusations cannot condemn you of your sin; if God does not condemn you, then you are not condemned. But how can we practically remove feelings of accusations? You must continue to obey God’s perfect will and serve Him with all your heart and all your strength; in doing so, the feelings of accusations will slowly dissipate. If one gives up on himself due after being accused, then the feelings of accusations will instead become stronger.
- “Self-satisfied”: This “fox” is worse than the earlier one. If one is accused, he will at least not to be too arrogant in the face of God. However, a fox that gives one “self-satisfied”, the person will easily become proud and take God lightly. He will also think there is nothing for him to improve or repent. A “self-satisfied” fox will tell you to “love yourself more, you are holy enough; compared to other believers, you already love God and others greatly, and you are very sacrificial”. It kills your resolution to purse holiness. We must not be deceived. If a person is not moving towards sanctification, he is increasingly entering into the bondages and struggles of selfish desires.
- “Doubt”: This “fox” will ask many questions: “Does God really love you? Will the Word in the Bible be fulfilled? Is it really worth it to follow the Lord? Is there truly a perfect will in the problems you face? How do you know you will be saved in the end?” If you entertain these doubts, you will start to doubt what you can initially believe. To catch this “fox”, use the Truth of God to drown out its voice of doubt.
- “A small sin”: Ask yourself, if you know that in your body, there is a small cancerous cell, will it allow that cell to remain in your body? Just like a cancerous cell will destroy a person’s body, a sin, no matter how small, will damage our soul. If we measure sin based on the severity of the consequences, then we are having the wrong foundation. Actually, we reject sin not based on its “magnitude” but because of place in our heart that God occupies.
- “Laziness/indifference”: Not just towards tasks, but if we are lazy and indifferent towards God, then our relationship with God will grow cold. We will also lose the conviction to do God’s will and pray.
- All the other “little foxes”
The ploy of Satan is to diminish the problem of sin, allow us to accept sin. However, the consequence is that through a small gap, we will totally fall. It is not only our own life that will be affected, but the evil influence of sin will infect and spread to others. If our vineyards are in bloom, we are growing spiritually; “little foxes” will surely come to destroy it. Therefore, we must be close to our King and Beloved, Christ, to resist the “little foxes” and break out of the vicious cycle.