This summer I experienced an awfully bad case of poison ivy while away on a trip. YEE HAW! It had been many years since I’d had it this bad. It seemed like more spots would appear nightly, and pretty soon they were everywhere! The itching was horrible! I had a hard time sleeping at night and spent most of the time scratching, trying my best not to remove skin from my body. It got so bad that I went to a clinic to get steroid pills to get rid of this stuff!
On this trip I had the blessing of being able to share a message in church on Sunday. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to say, but even so, I was excited about the opportunity. While thinking about how I wanted it to go, I stopped and asked the Lord if there was anything He wanted to show me about this poison ivy I had. In my experience with the Lord, He likes to give me messages using everyday things in my life. So, I asked if He had anything to reveal to me using this mess of torture I had going on.
He indeed did have something to show me and it hurt in a different sort of way. My poison ivy case started as a small spot between my toes a good week or so before it started to spread. I didn’t deal with it because it was just a small annoyance. I bought some anti-itch cream and gave a half-hearted effort to stop it. That didn’t happen and it eventually spread over my body and was getting serious! The itch! The burning of scratched-off bumps! The never-ending screaming of my flesh for relief! It literally felt like my body had complete control of every aspect of my life. IT HAD TO BE SCRATCHED, or it screamed for MORE attention!
The message I sensed from the Lord was this: when I start to do things my way, and on my timing, an issue begins to form. What started as a “minor” issue grows over time and spreads through other areas of my life. At first, even though I know it’s not God’s will for me, I believe I can control it because…well…I’m a Christian, right? However, as I keep trying to maintain control and let it have my attention, the matter grows and grows. It can get to the point where it feels like it has taken over my life, or is screaming so badly for attention that I cave in to it, or can’t perform everyday tasks.
Now, when I mention doing things my way or according to my timing, I’m not talking about things God desires for me. I’m referring to my own desires. These things are not necessarily bad on their own, but I may be choosing to do them because of they are expressions of my will and not God’s will for me. These self-willed things that appear seemingly unimportant are actually poison to my Christian walk as they start. And then they grow. Do you know of anything in your life that started out small, and seemingly innocent, then grew to be a huge issue that drags you down, and may do the same to those around you?
The Bible says in Galatians 5:16-17, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify they desires of the flesh. The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”
When we do what we want to do, when we want to do it, we are indeed walking “in the flesh.” That can be the case even if there are many people around us demanding the same things for themselves that we desire to do. Just because a bunch of people want the same thing, doesn’t automatically make it right. Choosing to act “in the flesh” is just like poison working in our bodies. Our fleshly desires seek attention and call out to be satisfied. However, nothing we can do will ever satisfy these desires when they run counter to God’s will for us. They just keep screaming relentlessly for attention, to the point that our spiritual walk is indeed compromised.
I didn’t deal with my poison ivy issue when it first appeared as a small problem. In the end, after it had spread, I had to go to extremes to be rid of it. Tolerance of little things (fleshly desires) creates big problems (pride, addiction, abuse, etc.). And big things are much harder to be rid of. What will you do? Will you stand firm and reject the desires of the flesh BEFORE they grow, or will do as I did, and tolerate them, even justify them, until it’s a much harder battle? I pray we will “walk by the Spirit.”
Romans 13:14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Peace and Joy be with you.