Dealing with the Subtle Sins

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Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. –Psalm 51:10 NIV

I should be ashamed to admit it, but dusting is just not something on my must-do list. Call it laziness, call it setting priorities, call it avoidance, call it denial (“It’s not that bad.”), call it whatever you want. In my opinion, it’s a futile activity, especially in the winter. Especially if you have a wood stove. Especially if your furnace has a blower. I could dust one day, and the next day it doesn’t even look like it.

The only time the thickening accumulation bothers me is when the sun is shining. Then, and only then, will the dust be dealt with. Unless there’s company coming, which is as rare as me dusting. And then I give it a lick and a promise.

Just as the dust accumulates in my house if I don’t deal with it, so sin accumulates in my heart. Call it laziness, call it setting priorities, call it avoidance, call it denial, call it what you will, but if not dealt with, it results in spiritual dryness, an empty prayer life, and stunted Christian growth.

Lent has always been a time for spiritual introspection, a time to clean my spiritual house and get rid of the hindrances, time to face the ugly things I’d rather keep hidden, for I’m ashamed they even exist in me.

Yet I’m an imperfect human being, struggling to live a godly life in an ungodly world. I don’t lie (outright), but is there any way I deceive others? I haven’t murdered anyone, but have I, by spreading gossip, murdered someone’s reputation? I claim to love others, but do I harbor bitterness or envy or unforgiveness in my heart?

For the next six weeks, we’re going to examine some of these subtle sins. Today we’ll start with envy.

Years ago I discussed unanswered prayer with a friend at church. I couldn’t understand why there seemed to be a roadblock to book publishing. My first novel was considered by the publishing committee at several houses only to be turned down again and again. In addition, speaking and teaching gigs had dried up.

He asked if there was unconfessed sin in my life. I told him I’d considered it, but didn’t really see anything. I prayed for God to show me, but He knew I wasn’t ready. I really didn’t want to see, didn’t want to know. God always brings us to a place of readiness first.

Then we started a two-week prayer and fasting time for a writers and speakers network I belonged to. Many needed breakthroughs, especially financial. The first devotional was about sin hindering prayer. Once again I prayed, “Lord, show me …”

And He did. The sin was envy. Not a strong presence (so I thought), but a grasping one. I don’t want to say “little,” because no sin is little in the eyes of God. But when others asked for prayer for favor for their book proposals, for book contracts or speaking engagements, the envy would stir. “I want that for me, too!” I’d cry silently. And I wouldn’t—I couldn’t—pray with a sincere heart.

If you couldn’t have it, why should they? Envy whispered.

For so long I either denied the envy I harbored or refused to acknowledge it was strong enough to affect me and make a difference. I was wrong.

Unlike dusting my house, cleaning the accumulated dirt in my heart is not futile. It’s vital.

Lord, pluck this envy out of my heart! Then spray the weed killer of Your Word to destroy any root left behind. Plant the seed of Your love to grow, spread, blossom, and give off a sweet fragrance. Envy has hidden in me for a long time, and I will have to be on my guard, watching for it in case it sprouts again. Never again will I underestimate the cost and the power of this deadly sin. Only through the blood of Your Son, Jesus, can I overcome this and live the life You have called me to live. I thank You for Your patience, steadfast love, and unending mercy and grace. In the name of Him Who died so that I might live, Jesus Christ, my Savior and Lord of my life. Amen.

 Read and reflect on James 3:13–4:10

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea for the Seasons, © 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Control Freak

 

But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. –Galatians 5:22–23 NLT

Growing up as the youngest in a poor family wasn’t all that great.

I rarely got new clothes. Hand-me-downs from my older sister had to do, whether I liked them or not—and just about everything needed hemmed or taken in.

Then there was the keep-her-close-to-home syndrome my parents seemed to suffer from. Neither my brother nor my sister were rebellious in the sixties way, but, for some reason, my parents kept me close to home—and that included not wanting me to get a part-time job. A little pocket money would have improved my practically nonexistent social life, but my parents told me my job was “to be a good student” and “help your mother around the house.”

I obeyed on both counts. I made the honor roll every grading period and cleaned the house every week during the summer months. One time, wanting something different, I rearranged my bedroom furniture, now that I had the room all to myself, then spent the evening at a friend’s house. When I returned, the room was back the way it had been.

Then there was the financial situation. I’d been selected to be a band majorette for my junior year, and that meant money for boots, tassels, a new baton, band jacket, and a brand new uniform—and occasionally a soft drink after practice. My parents were still struggling from my father’s layoff years earlier. Knowing it was hard for them to come up with the extra cash, I got a part-time job at the school library for the summer months. It was one of those underprivileged student jobs through the local government.

My first day was heaven. I loved the work—I mean, here I was, an avid reader, working in a library. And I loved feeling useful, doing something to contribute to the family finances.

But when I got home, my mother told me that I wouldn’t be going to work the next day—or any day.

“There was a mistake,” she said.

Once again, I obeyed, but when I landed my first teaching job years later, I seized the reins of my life. And have struggled with relinquishing them ever since—even to God. Even though I know His way is best and He’s not a control freak like my mother was.

The kind of control my mother exerted led to frustration, disappointment, heartache, and rebellion.

But the kind of control that God, through His Holy Spirit, exerts leads to only good things—such as joy, peace, satisfaction, and fulfillment.

Isn’t that what we all hunger for?

Dear God, when I fight You for my way, remind me that Your way leads to all I’m searching for, all I desire. Break the control freak in me. Amen.

Read and reflect on John 15:1–8; 14:16–17, 26; 16:13

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea for the Seasons © 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.