The Struggle to Achieve Spiritual Living

Greetings and good morning brothers and sisters. This is Dr. James Perry continuing with our series where we seek to explore the deeper meanings of our relationship with Jesus Christ. Over the years, the heavenly Father has revealed many revelations of spiritual truth to me, and I want to share them with you. This morning we seek to understand the struggle to achieve spiritual living. 

And now, sit back and listen to today's message. 

The Struggle to Achieve Spiritual Living

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." Second Corinthians, Chapter 10, Verses 4 and 5

Brothers and sisters, in today’’s broadcast we compare the similarities of the struggle to achieve competence in playing basketball to the struggle to achieve spiritual living. Our goal is to gain greater insight into the purpose of the spiritual struggle, and thereby gain an increased appreciation for the struggles of living, and in the process modify our attitude from one of anticipated dread to the joy of overcoming all obstacles that stand in our way of becoming perfect even as the heavenly Father is perfect. In previous broadcasts, we have considered the circumstances of life and the roles that they play in our progressive growth, but we hope that by this discussion, the circumstances of life will become more appreciative in our philosophy of living. We know that everywhere we look, the brothers and sisters are constantly seeking those ease promoting experiences, and finding that their appreciation of life is steadily fading from light to dark and they don’’t understand why. 

Last night, while watching the 1st round of the March Madness, a period when the 64 best basketball teams in the country are paired off against each other. The 1st round usually consists of one of the top teams pitted against one of the weaker ones. This is the reward for the top team having a successful season, as well as the opportunity for the lesser team to participate, having won their conference title. Duke and Butler were playing. Duke is a well known name when it comes to basketball and always manages to have a powerhouse team. Butler on the other hand is a small school, unknown to many. 

But before I continue my discourse, even though we are familiar with the games, I would like to detour for the purpose of pointing out a few aspects of the structure of the game that will be useful when we analogize it with the spiritual struggles of living. First of all the game has a time limited to it. It usually consists of forty minutes of playing time divided into segments of twenty minutes each. Each team has a certain number of time outs, short periods of time when the game is put on hiatus while the team members receive additional instructions from their coaches. There is also a longer period of time where the games pauses. This occurs halfway through the forty minutes of play, and allows for a period of rest, and further instructions from the coach. There are rules to the games, and these rules are enforced by a referee, an official who has unquestioned authority to stop the game when a rule is broken, as well as to enforce the penalty for violating the rules of the game. These penalties range anywhere from giving the team who was violated additional free shots, to ejecting a player or coach from the game altogether.

The game requires skill, tenacity, determination, strategy, physical and mental toughness. Each team seeks to score more points than the opposing team in the allotted forty minutes of playing time, and sometimes the outcome of the game is not known until the final seconds of the game. These are the real thrillers and brings the most satisfaction. And when such a contest is completed, we all exclaim, "that was a good game."

And now back to the actual game. The tip off was uneventful, and most of us settled down to watch the stronger Duke team make short work of the upstart challenger, so we thought, but such was not the case. Apparently someone forget to tell the young Butler team about the powerhouse that was Duke. This team played Duke as if this were a team that it had played all year. They were not intimated nor afraid of the Duke team, and gave them more than they wanted or had anticipated. All through the game, the Butler team threatened to run away with Duke, and it was only the experience of the Duke team that allowed them to win. Even so, the Duke team almost lost the game during the final seconds, when the Butler team made a fatal error in throwing the ball into its team member. Somebody was out of place, and this allowed the Duke team to recapture the ball and make a two point shot. With only 2.1 seconds left, the Butler team received possession of the ball, but it was not enough time to set up a successful play, and time ran out, giving Duke the game by one point. The final score was 71 to 70. And as we watched the game we were thrilled. It is apparent that the closer the teams are matched in actual play, the greater the contest. When two teams are not evenly matched, the game does not bring even remotely the satisfaction of two evenly matched teams playing. And now let us move to the spiritual struggles of life.

Basketball exemplifies the qualities that we need for the spiritual struggle. In basketball, the contest is between two opposing teams. In the spiritual struggles of life, the contest is between the two natures of the human being, the material and the spiritual nature. Basketball calls forth the slumbering athletic potential of its players. And we are more than thrilled to see such physical feat of endurance, skill, tenacity, team cooperation, and faith in their ability to overcome their opponent. The spiritual struggle is also a contest requiring supreme effort. Even though the struggle is internal, its is nonetheless real, and requires all the qualities that the self can muster to overcome the inertia of material existence, and to escape into the freedom of spiritual existence. And as in basketball where there are sometimes physical injuries, there are emotional causalities in the spiritual struggle, as the self goes through the material ups and downs of life, seeking to extract the spiritual values out of its struggles. The spiritual struggle requires the contest to continue in spite of emotional causalities or physical handicaps and limitations. It marshals the spiritual forces of the self despite these material obstacles. 

The victory of the self in its mastery over its material nature is a mighty and inspiring struggle. The victory is eternal life and spiritual perfection. Victory requires living faith, hope, trust, persistence, tenacity, skill, wisdom, but most of all the viewpoint necessary to respond to life’’s struggles divinely. Our resources as material beings must be channeled into the unselfish service of other selves. The self naturally resents this redirection, and so the battle begins. As a basketball team has a coach, who has a strategy, in the spiritual struggle there is a spiritual coach, the divine spirit, who coaches us through our spiritual battles. The divine spirit possesses the game plan for spiritual success. In basketball there are assistants who teach the plays to the players and run training exercises for game preparation; so does the Holy Spirit instruct the minds of the players and trains them in the skill of spiritual warfare. It provides training exercises designed to bring forth the dominating spiritual nature. Under such instruction, the self begins to display the fruits of the spirit. And, as in basketball, role models are provided who demonstrate various complex plays. In like manner, the Spirit of Truth guides the spiritual nature through all of the obstacles with which it is confronted. The Spirit of Truth knows from experience how to win the game.

In basketball, the greatest potential is actualized when the teams are evenly matched, thus the greatest satisfaction and joy is obtained. So, too, is the greatest spiritual achievements are actualized and the greatest satisfaction and joy obtained when the training exercises are equally matched between the potentials of the spiritual nature and inertia of the material nature. Under these training exercises, the spiritual nature comes to the forefront of the self. In basketball the aches and pain and fatigue are swallowed up in the intensity and dedication to the game; so does the spiritual nature eclipse the material nature with its joy and peace from wholehearted dedication to the spiritual struggle--dedication to doing the Father’’s will. As the victories pile up, under the layups of mercy, the dunks of patience, the traps of forgiveness, and the three point shots of love, the spiritual nature tastes the forward rush toward victory--divine spiritual perfection--as the human nature is forever subordinated to the divine spirit.

This concludes today's message on understanding the struggle to achieve spiritual living. We hope you find something in this message to ponder and pray about as you go about your day. 

Until next time, this is Dr. James Perry. 

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