*Special Note: Towards the end of this blog post, I share my thoughts about the new movie, Overcomer, by Alex and Stephen Kendrick. In God’s providence, the movie’s themes just happened to be relevant to many of the ideas I share in this blog post. It’s an important movie both to watch and to encourage others to watch!
THE ROOTS OF ENVY
Despite having been defeated at the cross, the devil still holds massive influence over this world.
The devil first rebelled out of envy and pride. First, he wanted to be like the Most High, inspiring him to lead a failed rebellion against God to take the Throne of Heaven. The devil established his MO, or mode of operation, when he again used envy and pride to inspire Adam and Eve to commit the original sin. The serpent deceived them into thinking they could be like God and know good from evil. The first two human beings wanted to decide for themselves how to live life instead of trusting in God.
You see, envy was there from before the beginning. It’s taken a firm root to spread silently through this fallen world system and into our very hearts and fallen natures.
Frankly, if we didn’t love the world or the values of the world, then, there would be no cause for envy.
WHO IS YOUR FATHER AND ARE YOU LIKE HIM
Many people take after their fathers: a reserved nature, the same nose, strong Christian values, a musical talent, a work ethic, a stubborn streak, a predisposition to a certain kind of sin, etc. Whatever it may be, our fathers, for good or for ill, have had an influence in our lives.
Fathers give birth to, influence, name, command and teach us to do things, according to their view of life. Whether they intend to or not, they will reproduce after themselves.
When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they relinquished their power to satan, who became the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air and the “father” over the ways of the world. (2 Corinthians 4:4; John 12:31; John 14:30; Ephesians 2:2; Colossians 2:8)
As discussed earlier, the devil’s envy and pride led to his own fall, which, then, became the blueprint for the fall of mankind. What we don’t realize is that it also became the blueprint for the framework and values of this world system. This corrupt world system will hook us into its distorted values only if we let it.
Consequently, God warns us through the pages of the Bible, telling us to reject the things of the world. To love the world is to be influenced by the devil.
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. –1 John 2:15-17
Jesus prayed to his Father for His disciples to be in the world, but not of it, just like He was not of the world. (John 17:15-16)
The world has access to our hearts and minds when we open the doors to its influence.
The devil often hooks us into loving this fallen world through the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. You see, the devil would love to be our “father” and reproduce his death and destruction in our lives. But, those of us who are Christians already have another Father in Heaven. And, God made it clear that if we want Him as our Father, then we need to turn away from the things of this world!
THE LUST OF THE FLESH, THE LUST OF THE EYES AND THE PRIDE OF LIFE
The original sin in the Garden of Eden included an appeal to these three biggies!
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. –Genesis 3:6
Thousands of years later, satan, who continues to recycle his old tricks, tempted Jesus, the second Adam, in the same way. But, this time, Jesus overcame the temptation and trusted in His Father and His Word.
In the first case, the serpent in the garden deceived Adam and Eve with the beguiling question, “Did God really say…?”
This question opens the way for doubt, leaving a crack in the door, and an alternative interpretation of what God said and what he really meant by what he said.
False prophets and teachers still use this same old trick of the devil to bring doubt to the infallibility of God’s Word and open the possibility for warped interpretations of the Bible. Conclusions they draw often contradict both God’s character and the rest of Scripture.
CUT THROUGH LIES AND DECEPTION WITH GOD’S WORD
Adam and Eve let go of trust in God and His Word, whereas Jesus countered every attack and temptation of the devil with God’s Word. When satan tried to manipulate and deceive Jesus using a Bible verse in a wrong way, Jesus still fought the deception with God’s Word.
We need to know the Bible! And, more importantly, we need to know the God of the Bible! We can’t take for granted what people teach us is true, but must study the Bible for ourselves and develop an ever closer relationship with God. We must rely upon the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth and lean not upon our own understanding. We can’t have a casual relationship with Truth, especially not in an age of mass deception. (John 17:17; Proverbs 23:23; John 8:32; Acts 17:11; John 16:13; Proverbs 3:5-6)
WE MUST LOVE THE TRUTH
Since godlike envy and pride will reach their fullness in the End Times, we must take an axe to the root of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In other words, we must put to death any thought patterns suggesting we know better than God and can believe and live outside the boundaries of His Word and Will. We must embrace the truth, even as it cuts into our very flesh.
The issue of truth will be vitally important in the End Times. How we think matters! What we believe matters! As we get closer to the end, the Bible tells us that the majority of people will fall prey to a delusion, because they refused to the love the truth. They chose to believe what they wanted to believe about God and life, instead of submitting to the absolute truth God had already given us through His Word.
Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: –2 Thessalonians 2:9-13
We, who believe in Jesus and who love the truth, can take heart, though, because God promised to finish the good work He started as we continue to work out our salvation. (Philippians 1:6; Philippians 2:12-13)
Paul, in this verse, tells us how we need to work out our salvation, which is so critically important: through sanctification and belief of the truth.
DESIRE EARNESTLY THE THINGS OF GOD
Nature abhors a vacuum. –Aristotle
God wants us to long for and go after the good things He wants to give us. Let’s go back to the Garden of Eden for a moment to hear what God, in His generosity, told Adam:
“You may eat FREELY from EVERY tree of the garden, –Genesis 2:16 (Caps mine)
God gave him/them total freedom to eat from all the trees of the garden, except for one. We can only imagine what kinds of fruit were readily available: oranges, apples, apricots, cherries, lemons, limes, coconuts, grapefruits, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, pears, figs, etc., etc.
With all of this other luscious fruit to preoccupy us, why would we need to go after the one tree God told us not to eat from? That is the point God had made from the very start.
Don’t let satan focus your attention on the “merits” of those things God has forbidden! Rather let your heart, mind, eyes, imagination and spirit focus on the blessings God has poured out upon your life!
God has given us so many good things to richly enjoy! He’s so confident in satisfying our hearts that He pits his generous nature against the wealth of the world, where people buy entertainment, convenience, protection, power, “good times,” luxury and their “heart’s desires.”
Instead of “uncertain riches,” He wants us to put our trust in His giving nature as a loving Father!
Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. –1 Timothy 6:17
DON’T BE IDLE, BUT FOLLOW HARD AFTER GOD
Though I wouldn’t normally refer to the Living Bible, I’ll do it here. It translates Proverbs 16:27:
Idle hands are the devil’s workshop; idle lips are his mouthpiece.
A lack of purpose and productivity in our lives, if we’re not careful, will draw in the enemy’s notice and activity.
When we have empty spaces in our hearts, lives and schedules, then the world, the flesh and the devil will try to fill in those empty places.
We need to keep running this race and not become idle or lag behind what the Spirit is saying to the Church. As the Apostle Paul said, we need to keep straining forward as if we were in a race for our lives. Because we are!
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. –Philippians 2: 12-15
God often uses these running metaphors. He tells us to run this spiritual race with perseverance. (Hebrews 12: 1-13) He tells us to flee from sin and idolatry! (1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22) He encourages us to run in such a way as to win the prize. (1 Corinthians 9: 24)
Sure, it’s going to be hard. You’ll want to quit sometimes. You’ll feel like you’re out of shape and trailing behind. All of the hardships and setbacks are why we need to take this race as seriously as God takes it. It is a race for our lives!
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. –1 Corinthians 9:25
When was the last time you viewed your spiritual walk as strict training.
We don’t realize how our culture avoids hard work and glorifies the hardly working. If we can get away from hard work, all the better. Sometimes, we even consider creatively evasive slackers heroes of working the system. People pay money to take seminars on how to work from home an hour a day and make thousands of dollars a month. Let’s face it, we live in a kick-back culture!
When people make it their aim to avoid hard work and diligence, creature comforts, entertainment and easy money become the end-all, be-all.
In contrast, God exhorts us to go into strict training, to exercise self-control in all things, in order to run the race ahead of us with perseverance!
OVERCOMER: A MOVIE THAT TIES MANY OF THESE THEMES TOGETHER
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND a movie to you that has this theme of running the race of our lives victoriously! It also ties much of what I’ve shared in a neat bow. (God’s timing is perfect, since at the time of this writing the movie is now out in theatres.)
I’ve seen most of the Kendrick brothers’ movies: Flywheel, Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous and War Room. The only one I haven’t seen is Like Arrows.
Alex and Stephen Kendrick make Christian movies about pillar themes, such as putting God first, marriage, fatherhood, spiritual warfare, etc. Their movies glorify God and most of them carry a clear Gospel message. I’ve loved the lessons learned from their movies and each one has affected me in a special way.
Their latest movie, Overcomer, follows the story of a lost and troubled girl who lives with her grandmother, since losing both her parents shortly after being born. She doesn’t know who she is or what she’s about. A history of not having a relationship with God or her parents has taken its toll. With the absence of God’s truth and affirmation in her life, she’s largely believed the lies of the enemy over her life.
Since running is the only thing she knows she’s good at, she joins the school cross-country team and becomes the team’s only runner. Needless to say, running the race of life is the movie’s primary themes. We follow her journey as she learns how to run this all-important race with the help of God and others.
Sorry, no more. I don’t give out spoilers!
But, I will say, out of all the Kendrick brothers’ movies, this one has affected me the most deeply. At different points, it really resonated with my life. As a result, I found myself crying in my theater seat. To give you a better idea, it was more like cry-weeping, so be sure to bring Kleenex just in case.)
It’s an amazing movie that will inspire you in your relationship with God and to run the race of your life with perseverance and a rock-solid identity in Christ!
The movie also addresses the negative impact of fatherlessness. For most of her life, Hannah Scott’s father was completely absent from her life.
But, as you know, a person doesn’t have to be gone physically in order to be absent relationally or emotionally.
For example, my dad was married to my mom, but he had a job that took him away for the work week. We only saw him on the weekends. But, even when we did see him, he wasn’t really present. He was chronically ill, so he could only give so much. Needless to say, that lack of true involvement has left an empty space where my father should’ve been.
I didn’t go off the deep end in my behavior, but I did lack a strong sense of purpose, identity and a “can do” confidence in my life. I was unsure of myself and my own worth. When my father should’ve been speaking identity into my life, affirming me, showing me how to do things and telling me I can do it, he was mostly passive and silent. Of course, I loved him and I believed he loved me in the best way he knew how, but we didn’t have a close relationship.
All that to say, I know firsthand the negative impact of having a sense of fatherlessness.
After my father died, it was really painful for me, because there were many things still left unsaid. In some ways, I felt like Esau (Jacob’s brother) who cried out to his father for a blessing, but, ultimately, didn’t receive it. (Genesis 27:38)
BUT GOD… It was at that critical moment when my natural father died that God stepped in. I heard Him say to me “I’m your father now.”
I know what he meant. He had been my Heavenly Father for a long time, ever since I accepted Christ at a young age. But, now, He was going to step into my life in the fullest measure and not only be my Heavenly Father, but also take the place of my natural father.
And, He has ever since.
WE ALL HAVE OUR STORIES
We all have dads who’ve related to us across the spectrum, from absent to fully present and everything in between. But, for those who’ve experienced a lack of relationship with your fathers, to whatever degree, I believe this movie will especially speak to you.
So, if you want a living illustration of what I’ve shared in this blog post, I encourage you to watch this movie!
RUN THE RACE TO WIN
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. –Hebrews 12:1-2
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. –1 Corinthians 9:24-25