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Force of Will

How do we keep our relationship with God strong? Some people like to emphasize will power. Though it has its place, nothing can take the place of prayer. We ought to be in a spirit of prayer all day long. We must constantly rely on Jesus for strength. It comes through faith.
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Some people pride themselves on being able to accomplish any task or duty by the exercise of will power alone. There's no question about the place one's will can serve in the mystery of many situations in life. But it's very important to also recognize the limitations of the will in dealing with spiritual problems of the individual. I'd like to devote the broadcast today to the question of how to keep your religion, once you get it.

How can man appropriate unto himself this imparted righteousness? I'd like to tell you the only way I know how to keep religion. Jesus said, "Pray without ceasing." That's the only way I know. That is God's prescription. I recommend it to all, who not only want to start with the Lord but who want to hold up. Pray without ceasing. Does that mean what it says? I think so. It means pray every time you are in trouble. Don't ever try to do it with will power. I've had people come to me and say, "Look, you know I'm going to such and such a place just to see how strong I am." That's foolishness. You're not strong at all. I can answer that already. None of us are strong. Christ is, and we should never go anywhere to test ourselves, to see how strong we are. We are kept by the Lord as we ask Him to do it.

Justified instantly, but we've got to be sanctified every day. "We've got to have help every day. And so, first thing in the morning, a born again Christian wants to talk to his heavenly Father in the name of Jesus. He thanks Him for his blessings, he worships Him as his only God, and then he asks for power to be kept all day.

Now, the Bible says, "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." Many people become discouraged because they wonder if they're going to be good Christians six months from now. The truth is you might not be living six months from now, and we should never project ourselves that far ahead and take on next week's burdens. "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."

How do I know I'm going to hold out? When I got married, my Seminary Greek Professor performed the ceremony. Finally he came to the part where he asked me, "Will you have this woman to be thy wedded wife, will you love her, cherish her, honor her, and forsaking all others, keep thee only unto her so long as ye both shall live?" And without hesitation, I said, "I do." But how did I know I would? How did I know I was going to hold out? We've been married 40 years, and it's getting better all the time, but how did I know? Yet, I spoke up quickly, "I do." I didn't know that I would be with my wife two months from then, but when he asked me if I would do these things, I said, "I do", until I die. There were two things I had as many others, that gave me the faith to say I do. I had faith and confidence in God, and I had much love for her. These two things, faith and love, gave me reasonable foundation on which to make my pledge , "I do."

If we love the Lord and have confidence in Him, we can go to Him a day at a time and get strength a day at a time and keep our religion a day at a time. And if God can keep us one day, He can keep us two. And if He can keep us two, He can make it a week. And if He makes it a week, He can make it a month, And if He can keep us a month, He can keep us a year. And if He keeps us a year, He can keep us a decade . . . a day at a time. So a person gets up in the morning, and he asks God to keep him one day, just today. You're going to have enough trouble today without worrying about tomorrow because the devil despises you when you become a Christian, and he's going to do all he can to tempt you and to ruin you today. You get up off your knees and you go downstairs, you know, and you intend really to live for God all day. And as you go downstairs into the kitchen, you turn on the radio and some of this wild music comes on, and right away you begin to enjoy it. That's not strange; the flesh always does. But you've got to do something about it. What are you going to do? You're going to pray. But you've just finished praying. You mean pray again? Yes, you've got to pray again, "Lord help me, give me the strength to overcome this temptation. Wash this foolishness out of my mind." You don't have to pray a long prayer, my friend, you don't have to close your eyes, you don't have to go somewhere and get on your knees. The prayer is the cry of a soul in need; it is the unspoken appeal of the heart. Prayer is reaching out to God as to a friend, and God comes rushing to your rescue as you pray. You cannot pray and sin at the same time.

But it's important to remember that prayer without faith is dead, and faith without works is dead. So, you've got to have all these things. You pray, then you've got to believe that God heard you. That's faith. You've got to believe He can help you and wants to help you. That's faith. But faith without works is dead. Where do the works come in? You've got to reach out and shut that radio off. OK, you've gotten past that temptation; you ought to breathe another prayer and say, "Thank you, Lord." Then you go in to serve your husband breakfast, you see, and he got up on the wrong side of the bed. And you put before him an egg cooked with love, but he wants to argue. He's grouchy and unhappy, and when you put it before him, instead of him showing gratitude and having the spirit that you have, he growls at you that this egg is too greasy. And right away you feel like really telling him, but you can't do it. You belong to Jesus, and that husband has got to see a difference in you. And let me tell you, when you are a Christian, your family is the first to know. Even the dog and the cat know when you're a good Christian. And so you've got to pray again. "Lord, control me . . . please help me." And you've got to believe that He heard you. You've got to believe He's willing to help you. That's faith, but then works must come in. Where are the works? You pick that thing up cheerfully, "Yes, dear, I will prepare another."

Now, I'm merely trying to be practical, my friends. All day long, temptations, may be a hundred or more or less, but all day long Satan will be after you. And all day long every time he shows his hand, the only way you can make him tremble is to call on the name of the Lord in prayer. Pray without ceasing. Every time you need help, ask and it shall be given. Seek and ye shall find. Knock and it shall be opened. Don't ever try to meet the devil with your will power. At the close of that day, the Lord will have helped some of you out of trouble a dozen times; others, three dozen times or more. Go to bed at night with every sin confessed. If you did slip, if you did fall, God takes your motives into consideration, He takes your attitude into consideration. He says, "If any man sins, he has an advocate with the Father." "Let him then come boldly to the throne of grace." If you failed somewhere today, maybe you failed and didn't realize it, the last thing you ought to do before closing your eyes is thank God for His forgiveness and His keeping you all day. You've had a victorious day, and God can do that every day of your life for the rest of your life. This is sanctification. This is how to keep religion.

My closing story is one that I read somewhere about some children playing on a playground. One of the corners of the playground went off onto a high cliff, and beneath it stones where children fell and were hurt and broken. Finally, the town's people got together and appropriated some money. They had to do something about this problem that was maiming their children. Then they had a debate, after the money was set aside. What shall we do? One group said, "Let's buy an ambulance so when these children fall we can rush them to the hospital in a hurry." The other group said, "That doesn't make sense. Let us buy a fence to keep them from falling in the first place." You know which should have been done. I'm glad to report today that the Christian struggling for eternal life has both, the ambulance and forgiveness, but forgiveness only works after the damage is done. Only after you've gotten into trouble is forgiveness needed, like the ambulance. But thank God it's there by the grace of God. He loves us so much He will forgive over and over and over and over again. But I report to you, and this should make you so happy, that God also has a fence to keep us from falling. It is called sanctification, imparted righteousness. Every day God will take His life and share it with you. He will impart it with you so that you can live a good life. You don't have to continue in sin; you don't have to keep doing the wrong things; you can break a bad habit; you can rise above evil, not through your own power but through the power of God. And God will send that power to you every hour of the day, and it's needed just that often.

My friends, I've finished preaching. Men and women that you know who have lived good lives have been justified by faith, and they are being sanctified by faith. Surely temptations come but through His grace He offers absolute victory today over sin.

How many times have I seen men in the valley of decision wanting to obey God but were afraid of a cigarette. "Oh, I've done it for so long I just don't think I can give it up." I ask you to have more faith in God. Our God is stronger than a cigarette. I have seen men who were good men at heart, they wanted to obey God, but they have been drinking for twenty years and they love it; and every time they try to give it up they find themselves going right back. They have been trying with their will power. God is stronger than liquor. I have baptized men who have drunk liquor for years and years and years, and I have seen them sober for the rest of their lives. God can do it. God can keep us. God can give us the victory. He's stronger than all these little things. He just asks for a chance, that you are willing to be justified and willing to be sanctified. God will perform both these needed operations in your lives.

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