When you submit your life to Christ, your spirit comes to life. You are born anew, and your spirit is connected to God’s Spirit. From that moment on, there is a war going on within you.
Paul calls it a battle between your flesh and your spirit. By flesh, he’s not talking about your skin. Paul is referring to our sinful nature. Your old nature wants to do what’s easiest for you. Your new and spiritual nature wants to do what glorifies God. And those two natures square off against each other multiple times a day for as long as you live. Paul described this to the Galatians, saying, “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want” (Galatians 5:17). The Holy Spirit inside you says, “Live for God.” Your flesh says, “Live for yourself.” When God calls, the part of you that is selfish says, like Jonah, “I’m not going.” Or like Moses, “Send someone else.”
How do we live submitted to God when our flesh wants us living for ourselves? How do we overcome our selfish tendencies and live selflessly for Christ?
The answer lies in daily submission.
Daily we should feed our spirits. Because what we feed grows. You know that’s true. If you fertilize your houseplants and water them, they will grow. If you feed your cat too much, your cat will be fat. If you feed your ego, your ego will grow. What you feed grows. And what you starve dies. If you don’t feed and water your houseplants, they will wilt. If you don’t feed your cat, your cat’s future is not bright. If you starve someone from affection, they die slowly on the inside. What you feed grows. What you starve dies.
So feed your spirit daily. Give it nourishment by reading the Bible. Spend time in God’s presence by praying. Enjoy God’s goodness by engaging in fellowship with other believers. Hear God’s voice by reading the Bible. And starve your sinful self. Rather than getting what you want, give up something you may want, for something you want even more — a God-glorifying life. Deny the desires of your flesh, saying no to what you know is less than God’s best. Run away from something that would tempt you to do wrong.
This is exactly what happened to my close friend “Travis.” When Travis was in junior high, he found his dad’s hidden stash of Playboy magazines. Like most curious thirteen-yearolds with very little restraint, his curiosity got the best of him. What started out as a quick peek grew into an out-of-control addiction that followed him into adulthood and marriage. When I asked him about his secret viewing habits, he brushed me off like I was some old-fashioned prude. “Every guy looks,” he told me, followed with his strongest justification: “At least I’m not doing something worse.”
For years, Travis struggled in his marriage and rationalized his porn addiction. Since Travis hated to read, he rarely cracked open his Bible. But when our church created the YouVersion Bible app, an app that you don’t just read but will also read to you aloud, he no longer had an excuse.
Travis started listening to different Bible plans. And he told me that almost every one that he chose mentioned something about lust, purity, or the dangers of fulfilling the desires of the flesh. Travis was ready to admit that perhaps he had a problem.
When he tried to quit his daily doses of adrenaline-infused visual entertainment, he discovered that he was more trapped than he realized. After confessing his problem to his wife, he joined a support group for sex addicts, and they quickly pointed him to God’s power-packed promise of freedom. The apostle Paul declared boldly, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). That’s all Travis needed. He memorized that verse. He declared it daily. He put a tracking device on his computer, canceled his cable channels, and put strict locks on his phone. With the help of God’s Word, a praying wife, and good friends, Travis has been porn-free for over four years. And it started with God’s Word giving him the strength to overcome.
When you start to avoid what hurts you, what happens? Over time, your spiritual side grows stronger. And your selfish side starts to die.
Your prayers will deepen, mature, and grow. Instead of just, “Bless me. Help me. Do this for me,” your prayers become God-centered and others-focused. “God, use me to be a voice of encouragement today. Give me a chance to help someone who is in need. Help me show Your love to someone who is hurting. If I have anything that would help someone, show me how to bless them. Here I am. Send me.”
When you become available to God, He might ask you to go to Africa as a missionary, but it’s far more likely He will invite you to be a missionary at your work. Chances are good that He will prompt you to show those you interact with daily His love, His grace. When you pray a dangerous prayer of submission, God may ask you to sell everything and give it to the poor. It’s far more likely that He will start to move you to manage wisely what He’s given you. To tithe to your church. To give to those who are in need. And to make a difference a little at a time.
When you fully submit to God, He will certainly ask you to do things that may seem simple and small. You may even wonder, Why don’t I get to do something big, something important? And God may show you that the small things are often the big things. The simple acts of love often lead to the biggest changes in life.
And as you grow in your trust in God, every now and then, He will ask you to do something radical. Something that doesn’t make any sense. Something that takes extraordinary faith. God may lead you to move to a new city. To start a new ministry. To launch a business. To foster or to adopt. God may prompt you to go to another part of the world to serve someone. Or to give an extravagant gift to someone in need.
Even though it may seem crazy, irrational, and like it makes no sense at all, you will have the faith to say yes. Because you understand, your life is His.
When God uses you, you will want more.
More fulfillment. More joy you find in sacrifices. More blessings that come from obedience. You can live in the daily thrill of being used by God. A reflection of His grace and glory. A conduit of His love and goodness. But only if you’re willing.
Excerpted with permission from Dangerous Prayers, copyright Craig Groeschel.
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What are you feeding your spirit? Do you notice a “spiritual starvation” when you aren’t submitting your life to the Lord in comparison to times when you are leaning into Him to fully nourish your soul? Come share your thoughts on our blog!