Identifying where you are along this spectrum is important to know what needs to be done.
The categories, again:
deep bondage: a person who thinks not of living in holiness, stuck in sin.
sloth: a person who would like to live in holiness, but without the energy to do anything about it.
delusion: a person who thinks they are living in holiness, but is far from it.
front lines: a person who has entered into the full battle, and has a great deal at stake.
The danger of self reliance is in full force in man. Have you ever been in a situation where you realized, maybe by a light bulb suddenly turned on, “Ahh, I figured this out. I know what I must do”? Already we are in danger.
In this chapter, our master Don Scupoli describes the seeming victory, and the actual defeat. We come to realize what must be done, and we dangerously decide how we will fix it. NOTICE: is it YOU, or is it the LORD, who will fix this? If it is something you will do, you have already lost.
Three points he makes for us to ponder. 1) is it a resolution, or is it a decision, that will govern our movement; 2) are you striving for a particular result, or are you engaging in the fight to gain the result; 3) are you looking to the result that you would desire, or are you looking to the will of God in this case? The resolution gets us nowhere, but decision actually moves us. Going for a result is according to your ideas, whereas engaging in the fight is the will of God. Looking for your result is misguided, but looking to the will of God is the way.
In all of these, the dangerous snare is to lean on our own understanding and power. This is always and everywhere a major mistake. Think of it this way: Who is my Saviour? Myself? or God? If I lean on my own understanding and power, then I am my own saviour. Rather, I ought to look to the One who is able to do all things, God Who is powerful, steadfast, able, willing, and the rest.
Read the Spiritual Combat online here.
Read all of chapter 29 below.
To read previous posts on the Spiritual Combat, click here for the whole series.
Coming up next, chapter 30: The Devil’s Devices IV of VI
all of chapter 29:
When a man begins to perceive the evil of his life, and to desire to change it, the devil often deludes and overcomes him by such means as these:
“Cras, cras” (tomorrow, tomorrow) as the raven cries.
“I wish first to consider and dispatch this business, this perplexity, that I may then be able to give myself with greater tranquillity to spiritual things.”
This is a snare in which many men have been, and are still daily, entangled; and the cause of this is our own negligence and heedlessness, seeing that, in a matter touching the honor of God and the salvation of the soul, we neglect to seize instantly that effectual weapon: “Now, now;” wherefore “presently?” “Today, today;” wherefore “tomorrow?” saying each one to himself :
“Even supposing this `presently’ and this `tomorrow’ should be granted to me, is it the way of safety and of victory to seek first to be wounded and to commit fresh disorders?”
You see, then, that the way to escape this snare, and that mentioned in the preceding chapter, and to subdue the enemy, is, to yield prompt obedience to all heavenly thoughts and inspirations.
Prompt obedience, I say, and not mere resolutions; for these are often fallacious, and many have been deceived thereby from various causes.
First. Because our resolutions are not founded upon self-distrust and trust in God. But our excessive pride, whence proceeds this blindness and delusion, prevents our perceiving it.
The light to see and the medicine to cure it both proceed from the goodness of God Who suffers us to fall that He may recall us thereby from self-confidence to confidence in Him alone, and from pride to self-knowledge.
Your resolutions, therefore, to be effectual, must be steadfast; and to be steadfast, they must be free from all self-confidence, and humbly based on confidence in God.
Second. When we are making our resolutions, we dwell on the beauty and excellence of virtue, which attracts our will, slack and feeble as it is; but when confronted by the difficulties which attend the attainment of virtue, the weak and untried will fail and draw back.
Learn, therefore, to love the difficulties which attend the attainment of all virtues more than even the virtues themselves, and use these difficulties in various measures to strengthen your will, if you desire in good earnest to acquire these virtues.
And know, that the more courageously and lovingly you shall embrace these difficulties, the more speedy and complete shall be your victory over self and all your other enemies.
Third. In our resolutions we too often look rather to our own advantage than to the will of God and the acquisition of the virtues He requires of us. This is frequently the case with resolutions made in times of great spiritual joy or acute sorrow, when we seem unable to find any relief but in a resolution to give ourselves wholly to God and to the practice of virtue.
To avoid this snare, take care in times of spiritual consolation to be very cautious and humble in your resolutions, especially in your vows and promises; and in tribulation let your resolution be to bear your cross patiently, according to the will of God, nay, to exalt it, refusing all earthly, and if so be even all heavenly consolation. Let your one desire, your one prayer, be that God would help you to bear all adverse things, keeping the virtue of patience unstained, and giving no displeasure to your Lord.
Humbly, acknowledge that you are weak and feeble. God alone is able. Cry out with the psalmist: “Where shall my help come from? MY HELP COMES FROM YOU, MAKER OF HEAVEN.” (Psalm 121).
God is able.