Sometimes, I find it hard to remain totally committed to hope when a cursory look around provides plenty of reasons to despair. Thankfully, I am totally committed to hope. When I wrote Look on the Bright Side (which appears in The Listening Book) I was trying to nail my colours to the mast, the reasoning being that if I publicly put my beliefs on paper then I can’t really give up without looking like a hypocrite. That’s one way to make pride work for you. Read more
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about spiritual warfare, it’s that Satan is no gentleman. He isn’t one to say, “Hey, James has had a really rough week. Let’s go easy on him for the moment.” Quite the opposite in fact. There may be times where the conflict is more overt, and I am more aware of it, but rarely do the guns actually stop.
As a preacher, I know that the build up to a sermon can be a time of conflict. The act of preparation, with the temptation to take shortcuts or play fast and loose with the truth, feels like a battle. When we’re working towards something specific, we can be conscious of the spiritual struggle, wrestling with motives and prayer, but it’s a mistake to think that after the event there’s a ceasefire. As soon as the seed has landed on the path is the best time for the birds to swoop. The moment the preacher sits down is as good a time as any to push him into pride or drag him into despair.
However, as relentless as the Enemy is, God is even more so. The truth doesn’t ever stop being true. There is not a moment where resisting the devil doesn’t cause him to flee from us. I don’t stop being a child of God because I’ve had a bad week. We are always vulnerable to attack but, equally, the Enemy is always vulnerable to the truth.
One of the many wise things that my counsellor, Derrick, said to me was, “You can humble yourself, or you can let God humble you. The first one is less painful.”
How do you humble yourself? Well, that’ll be between you and God, but it will require some decent soul-searching and some brutal honesty, I can tell you that. Read more
I admire Mark for the way that he ended his gospel: “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.” Read more