In life, everything and everyone is influenced by a variety of factors and we knowingly or unknowingly submit to the factors that have the strongest pull over us, regardless of the consequences.
Growing up with siblings would teach you the importance of being the one with the remote when it’s time for everyone to watch television. It was obvious in the way we rushed to get custody of the remote, just getting back from school and even before we could find the chance to take off our school uniforms. The struggle all boils down to one point, who would gain autonomy and possess veto power to influence what everyone watched. As the younger child then, with two older brothers, I was stuck watching Ben 10 and horror movies. Sucks right?
As Christians, we are not left out of this equation. We, like Christ, battle with; the world in all its wokeness, the problems of circumstances, and the enticement of the flesh for autonomy over our decisions. We become slaves to whatever we let influence us. It determines our thoughts, words, actions and inactions, and of course the consequences of these actions too.
Do you know those shows on the television where a person is in a position to make a decision, and it’s followed by a good angel dressed in white and a bad angel probably dressed in red or black with horns on its head appear on both sides of the person’s shoulder, one on each side proving their case ensuring the said person leans over to one of their pleas? That paints a picture of our everyday life. We constantly battle between what is light, what is darkness, and what is finely in-between.
When we look at the story of Jesus, we realize that even He was not spared from Life’s daily temptations. From the constant suggestive questions from the Pharisees to the devil’s temptations in the wilderness, even to the temptation to give in to the desires of the flesh and circumstantial uncertainty when he cried out for his ‘cup’ to pass Him by if it were possible. However, the glory of it all was that Jesus was wise and stood strong in the face of temptation, knowing what the will of God was. The importance of this is that if Jesus, being our example, was able to come out a victor in the face of every temptation, then we too are empowered by the Spirit to stand strong and come out victorious.
You may ask, “How do we ensure that we are not swayed by negative influences?”
The way to stay strong in the face of temptation is to have God’s word imprinted in your heart and to discern his voice constantly guiding you. The psalmist states in psalm 119:11 “your word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you”. David tells us that there is a correlation between keeping God’s word close and avoiding negative influences. In further verses, he goes on to say that He would meditate on God’s precepts and constantly think about his ways and not forget his words.
Also, God speaks to us through his Spirit. Hearing God’s voice ensures that we know his mind concerning every situation.
John 10:4, “And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice”.
John 10:27-30, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me”.
Jesus tells us in the New Testament that those who are His can discern his voice and that they learn to master it and keep to it. It’s in the same way a baby learns to distinguish its mother’s voice among a multitude of voices by constantly hearing it. We learn to know God’s voice by constantly hearing from God and constantly studying his word. When we meditate on the scriptures, we learn to know God’s stance on every matter, which makes it easier to pick out his voice amongst others. The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:16 & 17, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works”.
No wonder God said to Joshua in Joshua 1:8; “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.”
For anyone struggling with discerning God’s voice, continue to study his word and listen to him in fellowship. When you pray, expect an answer. When you ask for guidance, expect him to lead you. Never forget that it is in constantly hearing that you learn to master his voice when he gives directions.
Another way to avoid negative influences is to constantly fellowship with God. The constant fellowship enables us to hear and understand God’s voice clearly. Remember the example I gave earlier of the baby and its mother, the only reason it grows to recognize its mother’s voice is that it had learnt the difference from constantly being attached to her hip. It is in the place of fellowship – public and private – that we get clear directions from God.
Lastly, beyond hearing from God and reading his word is the doing of His words. It’s not enough to hear or know what God’s mind is concerning a matter, we must also ensure to do all that he has said to do, and avoid all that he would have us not do. Remember, his sheep hear his voice, know him and are known of him, and they follow him – all three together.
Galatians 5:16-26 better summarizes all that has been said.
16. So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.
17. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.
18. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.
19. When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures,
20. idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division,
21. envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
22. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23. gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
24. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.
25. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26 Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.
In these present times, being directly led by God’s spirit is the only way to save ourselves a lot of trouble and keep us free from anxiety and worry. God is a friend willing to guide you through your life choices, and your everyday living – to keep you from all wrongs and to help you live your best life possible on earth.