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For our wrestling (struggle) is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.[1]

Ephesians 6:12

We all struggle. We probably do very little physical wrestling, but we struggle all the same. It might be to get the best grades at school, or to get the best cuts of meat at the store. It could be to beat out the competition and get the promotion. It might be to wear the latest fashion ahead of everyone else.

If you grew up in a house with boys, there was wrestling. No matter what you did, no matter how much you begged or bribed, they would wrestle. It was true in the house I grew up in and in the house that we raised our boys in.

And what was once a minor sport, professional wrestling and mixed martial arts has exploded into a $15+ billion-dollar empire. It’s on every kind of broadcasting network available plus pay-per-view.

But wrestling was a very different thing back in the days of the New Testament. It wasn’t a game. It wasn’t for fun. It was serious. Dead serious. Like today, the point of wrestling was to pin your opponent to the ground so they couldn’t get up. And like every other contest, there was a winner and a looser. But the incentives to win were more intense and final.

The winner received recognition, money, a trophy, their picture on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and an endorsement contract from Nike. The loser didn’t just get less money, they lost something more precious. They had their eyes gouged out. Not only did they lose the match, they lost their sight for the rest of their life[2].

We tend to think about our struggles as not being all that serious. After all, what happens if we lose? Nothing all that bad. If we break up with someone, there’s always someone else. If we didn’t get the promotion, there’s always another job. If we lose the playoffs, there’s always next season.

There’s always another chance. Another game. We look at losing like Fred Astaire[3] did.

Pick yourself up, Dust yourself off,

Start all over again[4].

But there are times in life when struggling and losing are serious. You either win and live or you die. It’s that final. It’s that way with serious medical conditions. They remove the tumor, or not. They replace the heart valve, or you die on the table. They transplant the kidney, or you go on dialysis for the rest of your life. When it’s successful, there is great relief and rejoicing. But when they don’t succeed, it’s serious. Dead serious.

We usually don’t like to think about our spiritual lives in this way. Yes, there is a struggle, but if we lose there’s always forgiveness[5]. God is a God of love[6]. There’s always restoration[7]. There is a spiritual get-out-of-jail card with God. And all this is true, but there is a cost when we lose spiritually.

Think about the parable of the prodigal son[8]. The younger son goes away and loses his inheritance through wild living. He comes to his senses and returns to his father. The father runs to the boy, hugs him, restores him as his son and throws a party. But the story doesn’t end there. When the father goes out to the older son, he says something very interesting.

‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.

Luke 15:31

Think about what Jesus said: everything the father owns belong to the older son. Since it all belongs to the older son, that means the younger son will not get his inheritance restored. Yes, the younger son is forgiven and restored relationally as a son. Praise God. But since the younger son had already received his inheritance, that’s gone. Everything the father owns now belongs to the older son.

You see, there is a price for disobedience. And there can be a huge price for losing spiritual struggles. We need to start taking our spiritual lives more seriously. There are not only great blessings, but there are great consequences when we struggle and lose.

So, how do you see yourself and your spiritual struggles? Do you think they’re not all that important? That you can just run to God, and he’ll pat you on the head and say, “There, there?”

The death of Christ for us should motivate us to worship and obedience. We should be willing to struggle with all our might and all the grace God gives. We should never give up the struggle. He didn’t give up on us, so how can we give up on him?

Noodling Questions

  • What spiritual struggles have you run up against recently?

  • How much effort do you put into your spiritual struggles?

  • Describe where a spiritual struggle has led to defeat.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Bible references are from the New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. [2] Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Kenneth Wuest, Ephesians 6:12 [3] [4] Pick Yourself Up, Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern [5] 1 John 1:9 [6] 1 John 4:16 [7] Zechariah 9:12, Psalm 71:20-21 [8] Luke 15:11-32


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