• “Whether we’re married or single, with children or childless, at every season of life if we are trying to find fulfillment and contentment and joy through anything or anyone other than Christ Himself, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment.” – Elisabeth Elliott

The Challenge by Maranatha Chapman

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise.
(Ephesians 5:15)

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

.walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. (Ephesians 5:2)

When you read the scriptures and hear our Lord’s standard of how we should walk do you rejoice, set your face, and wholeheartedly obey? Or, do you cringe, complain, resist, “hem-haw” around, or pretend you do not understand? He has called us to a glorious way (Col. 1:10)! His high standard of living is doable if we believe Him, deny our flesh, draw from the life of His Spirit, and follow Him with our whole heart. Matthew 16:24 says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Ask yourself right now; “Do I want Jesus with all my heart? Do I believe He has made a way for me to obey all that He has commanded? Am I willing to say no to my flesh no matter what?”

Try this exercise: When you wake-up tomorrow morning, read each one of these challenges given and endeavor to completely follow each one of them. Sometimes we read the Bible and we become inspired and then stop there. His word is not just nice devotional material, bedtime stories, or “food for thought.” This is what The Almighty is speaking to us. It’s His promises, His plan, His heart, His purposes, and His commands. Instead of merely reading, listening, and understanding what He has called us to, let’s fulfill His intention and take the next step and OBEY and DO IT!

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. (James 1:22)

Challenge #1
Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.” Is the Lord Jesus your life? Can you, with Paul, say, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21)? Do you seek importance, money, other’s approval, security, etc.? Philippians 3:8 says, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ.” When you go about your day today, seek Him (Jer. 29:13)! He is worthy of your all of your time, all of your focus, all of your affection-your whole heart. Will you give Him that today? If you see that your heart has been captured by other things (no matter how small), will you repent and follow Him?

Challenge #2
Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Let everything you do today come from this place. Do not seek to please yourself, meet your own needs, or preserve your life, but instead, take every opportunity to lay down your rights. Is it okay if you spend your entire day pouring out and your only reward is of eternal value? He has called us to be a living sacrifice and to selflessly give, expecting nothing in return (Luke 6:32-35, Rom. 12:1).

Challenge #3
Philippians 2:14 says that we are “to do all things without grumbling or disputing.” Are you a complainer or a “bellyacher”? I exhort you to put away all grumbling. Don’t even let yourself gripe about the weather or about the lady who cut in front of you on the highway. The moment we open the door to this junk we cease fellowshipping with Jesus! Is it worth being separated from Him just to get to vent a little frustration? “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,” we are also commanded (1 Thes. 5:18). When you go about your day today, give thanks instead (Eph. 5:3-10). It sure makes a place for us to continue in faith and “acknowledge Him in all our ways.” When you feel the grumbling rising up within you, when you find out your husband is coming home late, rejoice that you have a husband. If one of your children is sick, resist the temptation to fret about it and pray instead. Our bad attitudes will never produce good fruit.

Challenge #4
Romans 12:2 says that we are to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” I John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Do you take your cues from the world? Are you “in the know?” Do you conform yourself to the latest fashions, opinions, philosophies, and debates of this world? He has called us out, and called us to be holy as He is holy (Read 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1, 1 Peter 1:14-16). Let’s live the reality that this world has nothing for us. One way to see if the world still has a hold on you is to observe how and where you spend your time and money. Also, ask yourself if it is truly okay with you if people do not like you or if they think you are a nerd or some kind of religious freak. Before the Lord, aggressively tear loose any tether to the world you discover where you are still hanging on. Live as the “alien and stranger” you are-a citizen of another place (1 Pet. 2:9-11, Phil. 3:17-21)!

Challenge #5

In Colossians 3:1-2, we are commanded to “keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” and to “set our mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” Why? Because “we have been raised up with Christ… [and have] died and our life is hidden with Christ in God” (v.1, 3)! Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.” Where have your thoughts been? Is your mind on what is pure and lovely? Is what consumes you eternal-the “things above, where Christ is”? Do what it takes to discipline yourself to abide here. When you keep your mind stayed on Jesus and His ways and His truths, youwill experience incredible life-His abundant Life! Don’t settle for death.

Challenge #6
First Corinthians 13 is packed full of God’s standard for how we should love and what qualifies as love. Are you loving your family like this? Are you patient? Are you kind? Look at your relationship with your husband. Do you love him the way Jesus has called you to? It is not enough to just go through the motions. The Lord sees our hearts and He sees what is said behind closed doors. I challenge you to love in such a way today that only seeks the good of the other person (verse 5 says, “love does not seek its own”). Love is also about being emptied and poured out. Will you lay down your life today? And remember, laying down your life is not the same things as turning away from your flesh’s death. That is a completely different action. Laying down your life is just that-it is laying down and being emptied of the “life” you have in order that someone else can be served and built up. Will you look for opportunities to love? Will you consider the needs in your home and do whatever it takes to meet those needs regardless of what it costs you?

Challenge #7
Luke 10:39-42 tells the story of two sisters and their responses to Jesus being in their home. Mary had chosen to sit at Jesus’ feet and “listen.” Martha, on the other hand, was distracted with preparations and the logistics of serving her Guest (and perhaps those with Him). When pushed, the Master responded, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Look and see which sister you are like. Are you a “worry wart”? Do you let the silly things of this life run you? Or are you consumed with your Lord and have your gaze is set on Him alone? As you go about your day today, let your heart stay “at His feet,” continually listening to and abiding in Him. When you see yourself distracted with the cares of this life, don’t just chalk it up to “normal, human behavior,” but rather turn with all your heart to Jesus, the One you are living for!

Challenge #8
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In allyour ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Will you trust Jesus with all your heart today? He is worthy of your trust. No matter the circumstance, no matter the trial, will you choose to see His love in all that comes your way? You can spend your life fearful and controlling or you can let go and believe Him, look to Him, and follow Him, whatever may come.

Challenge #9
Romans 13:14 tells us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” Our flesh is like a fat, greedy, gluttonous, ugly creature. It is disgusting, and we have to see it this way if we are going to be faithful in following the Lord (Rom. 7:18). The Lord has made a way for us to walk according to His Spirit today rather than live according to our flesh (1 Cor. 10:13, Gal. 5:16-25). I challenge you to starve your flesh and do not feed its lusts! When you are being drawn in to gossip, say no. When you feel like hardening your heart toward your husband or rising above him, don’t do it. Deny those desires. When you want to fret, complain, get mad, sink low, “pig-out,” be frivolous, fantasize, act shallow, exaggerate, or be lazy-do not make provision but instead “put on the Lord Jesus.”

Challenge #10
Matthew 24:42 says, “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. Second Peter 3:11-12 says, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God.” Romans 13:11 says “it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep.” Luke 21:34-36 says, ” Be on guard, that your hearts may not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. But keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Ephesians 5:16 commands us to “make the most of our time, because the days are evil.”

Are you ready for Him? Are you ever watching, waiting, praying, and looking for His return? When He arrives, will He find you wholly given to Him and doing the things He has made know to us to do? He is coming for a people set apart and in love with Him! Do not allow yourself to drift off to sleep. He is coming and we do not know the hour, but He is coming! Just as you would wait, anticipating your husband’s return home from a long trip, this, in a small way, is like the way we are to be looking for Him. As you go about your day today, anticipate His return, be ready for Him, live awake, and stay alert!

In closing, I hope that the major, overall point of this article comes through: “the challenge” for us is always to “be doers of the word and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22). When we are commanded by the Lord through the scriptures, we are to draw on His grace and “put feet to it” and begin walking it out in our everyday lives. If we fail to make the practical applications, we “delude ourselves,” thinking that we have something because we agree with the idea of it when, in reality, we have nothing because we do not live it.

Having said this, I want to point out a popular way many people “delude themselves” nowadays while rationalizing their inaction in spiritual-sounding terms, so that you can get free if you are ensnared in this notion. A lot of folks will look at a listing like this of the Father’s commands and turn away crying, “Legalism!” Likewise, whenever people try to encourage them to go beyond talking theory to actual obedience, they assert that this is “legalistic.” Legalism is us trying to establish our own righteousness by fulfilling our set of laws, biblical or self-construed. That is an impossible task, and something we are clearly warned against in the scriptures (read Galatians). We are to trust the blood of Jesus for our righteousness-period. But, from a place of righteousness in Jesus, we are to keep our Father’s commands, and, living from this place, our obedience to Him is never, ever legalism!

Let me ask you this: What would you think if you directed your children by giving them a list of 10 things you wanted them to do throughout their day, and they responded to you by saying things like:
• “I read the list, but I just got overwhelmed, and I remembered that your love is not based on what I do, so I just decided to let all of these things go and to take in your love and not feel all that pressure to measure up.”

• “When I read what you commanded, I knew you really didn’t care if I did them or not because what really matters to you is that my heart is in the right place-and it is, see (big, cheesy smile)?”

• “That’s legalism, Mom, and it doesn’t make me feel loved! You don’t want me to be legalistic, do you?!”

• “When I read the list of the things you wanted me to do, I could tell that it really wasn’t in my heart to do them, and I know you don’t want me to perform and pretend and be a hypocrite, so I just decided to take in your unconditional acceptance and rest in your lap, Mom.”

Ladies, this kind of nonsense is the very kind of things many Christians today go to the Lord with as a way to make provision for their flesh and avoid the accountability we have, as His children, for obedience. If you find yourself caught in this kind of foolishness, turn away from it and ask the Lord to purge any remnant of this leaven from your heart. Let us all obey our Father and do those things that please Him!


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