Are you troubled by anxieties, doubts, despair, being offended with others and similar inner struggles?
Many people fight with such things and do not stop to test those troubles using the standard that Jesus taught them.
As I assist people working through faith challenges I notice in them, and in myself as well, that trials stretch us and show up our inner vulnerabilities. Under pressure we are all much more likely to be troubled, titchy, touchy and trantrummy (I made that word up so I’d have another ‘t’ word).
So, under pressure we are able to test our troubles and get insights into what is going on inside us.
When you step out in faith in God two things will be tested inside you. Your faith will be tested, to see if it is genuine or just a sentimental notion or some attempt to manipulate God. And your “flesh” will also be tested.
Your flesh is your natural self that existed before God brought salvation to your heart and life. When you become a Christian your spirit man comes alive, eager and willing to love and trust God and to relate with God as God’s child.
However, your natural “flesh” self is also still alive within you, with all its selfishness, jealousies, pride, lust and self-reliance. And the inner struggle within you is your ‘natural flesh self’ resisting the spirit man within you.
This is not some psychological notion, but a truth revealed in the Holy Bible, by the great Christian leader Paul, writing to the Christians in Galatia, in Asia Minor, nearly 2,000 years ago.
“The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that you cannot do the things that you choose.” Galatians 5:17
Your natural man is a real stinker. I don’t say to offend, since we all have natural flesh inside us. But the Bible tells us that our natural man is rebellious against God and is a barrier to our walking with God. Note these words of Paul written to the Christians at Rome, nearly 2,000 years ago.
“They that are fleshly pay attention to the things of the flesh; but they that focus on the Spirit attend to the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded (following our natural fleshly ideas) is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal (natural) mind is hostile against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So those that live out of their natural flesh perspective cannot please God.” Romans 8:5-8
When Paul said the natural mind is hostile to God and can’t submit to God’s law the original Greek wording suggests a soldier who simply refuses to follow orders. When he is told to wheel right he wheels left. When he is told to run he stands still. That’s the picture of your rebellious, stroppy flesh man inside you, intent on resisting God.
That Voice in Your Head
When you move to step out in faith you will likely find your head filling with voices and thoughts that tell you not to do it, or to be careful, and so on. Those thoughts are likely the rebellious voice of your flesh.
The thoughts are your own thoughts, coming from a part of you that refuses to submit to God.
Your mind will come up with a million excuses, doubts, insecurities, sound reasons for not rushing ahead, reminders of past failures, feelings of offence toward God or others, and so on.
You may even be tempted to think you are hearing the voice of wisdom and wise caution. You may well feel great relief when you decide not to step out in faith. But that could still be the voice of your rebellious flesh in your head.
Testing the Voice
So, if your head is full of doubts, concerns, aroused feelings, disquiet, despair or whatever, you need a mechanism to test the voice to see if it is God giving you caution and protection or whether it is just the voice of your flesh rebelling against what God wants you to do and what your spirit man on the inside wants to do in faith toward God.
Would you like to have a ready test on hand for those times?
I can give you a test that comes from the highest authority. This is a test that was given to us by Jesus Christ Himself.
Check the Fruit
The test is to check the “fruit” of the voice inside you. Jesus told us that we will know what we are dealing with when we look at the fruit.
“You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits you will know them.” Matthew 7:16-20
What is the fruit of the voices inside your head that try to stop you stepping out in faith? Is it the fruit of the Spirit of God? We are told what that fruit is and it is good fruit.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
To give you a practical application think of someone prompted to forgive a relative. The relative had offended them and they now feel impressed to forgive and show that forgiveness by giving the relative some needed financial assistance.
At first the Christian is excited by the idea. It is a bold and daring thing to do and consistent with some Bible verse or message they heard preached.
A while later, however, they are filled with concerns. An inner battle is going on.
The range of cautioning thoughts could include: “They don’t deserve it”; “They may completely misunderstand what I am doing”; “This could stir up strife between us”; “I really don’t have the money spare at the moment”; “When I think about what they did to me they will never deserve my forgiveness”; “Other people don’t have to do something like this”; “God is so unfair to expect me to do something this ridiculous”; “My family won’t approve”; “Doing this will make me look so arrogant and I don’t want to be rejected”; “I’ve had thoughts like this before but how do I know this is really God leading me?”; “I always get caught in this kind of anxiety. Why doesn’t God speak more clearly to me? Being a Christian is just too hard”; “I’m just a lousy Christian because I shouldn’t be having this inner struggle”.
It is not uncommon for people to end up in some kind of mental tangle with doubts, misgivings, anxiety and so on.
Applying the Test
So let’s apply Jesus’ ‘Fruit’ Test to this situation.
The person first felt prompted to do something daring; in line with a Bible truth. Their faith was stirred and their heart responded.
But then they became caught up in a quagmire of cautioning thoughts. How can they know which thoughts deserve their attention?
We already know that those thoughts can come from their spirit man or from their flesh. And we also know that the natural flesh thinking is antagonistic to faith in God. And we know that listening to the Spirit will bring the “fruit of the Spirit” which includes love, joy, peace and faith.
Armed with that information we can then ask, “What is the fruit that comes from the thoughts swirling in your head?”
Do those thoughts prompt doubt, fear, offence, condemnation, insecurity, misgiving, uncertainty, agitation, anxiety, or similar fruit? If so, then we know it is not the voice of the Spirit, but the voice of the flesh.
If those thoughts prompt joy and peace and arouse faith, then we know it is the voice of the Spirit, not the flesh.
I Will Believe
My encouragement to you is to “choose to believe”. If you sense a prompting to be bold in faith realise it is your spirit man that produces the fruit of faith.
If your heart and mind then fill with misgivings, doubts, anxieties, fears and the like, take note of the fruit.
Some thoughts keep invading your mind, but they always produce bad fruit. So why do you keep entertaining them? Every time you give room to those thoughts you end up in fear, insecurity, doubt, anxiety, offence, shame, misgivings, etc. There is no joy and peace and no faith.
If a robber steals money out of your hand, would you offer him more? If you invest money in a fund that crashes would you invest more in that fund? If you give in to your flesh and your flesh robs you of joy, peace and faith, why would you give in to your flesh again?
The Apostle Paul put in the terms of “You don’t owe anything to your flesh, because your flesh never paid out on any investment you made to it! Giving in to your flesh kills you!”
“Therefore, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if you live after the flesh, you will die: but if you through the Spirit do kill the deeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:12,13
“Only Believe.” “Why do you doubt?” “Do not give in to unbelief.” “Hold on to your confidence.”
The counsel of Christ and the Bible is to choose to believe. It may be a tough decision to make while so many stormy thoughts are raging in your head. But check out the fruit of those thoughts.
Those thoughts rob you or joy, peace and faith. They are thoughts that do not come from God. They are thoughts from your flesh, which is at war with God.
So choose to believe and to destroy doubt. Hold on to your confidence in God. When you do that you will triumph over your own flesh and you will please God, because only faith can please Him.
It’s not about whether you win or not, but whether you stood in faith. Faith pleases God. Whether you get the victory you believe for or end up in the fiery furnace or the lion’s den, God is pleased. And your spirit man has won out over your flesh.
And your inner troubles have been conquered.
So test your troubles and give them what they deserve.