A daily devotional walking through God's word together using The Bible Reading Plan at http://www.bible-reading.com/bible-plan.html. Our website http://alittlewalkwithgod.com.
We’ve been talking about Goliaths in our life the last few weeks. We’ve discovered everyone has giants in their lives at some time or other. We’ve learned we should not face them alone, but always face them with God by your side and with a friend, a mentor, a praying church when you can. We discussed the fact that often fear keeps us from fighting that Goliath in our path and we must push through that fear to face it head on. We also discussed the fact that we often fail to face those giants in life because we are afraid that when we get rid of those giants in our life, we will be rejected by those around us. None of these are healthy, but they exist nonetheless and keep us attacking that thing that destroys our joy and freedom in Christ that we long for.
Today we continue that theme with another issue that keeps us from facing those giants that seems to overwhelm us, whatever they might be. Whether some addiction, some task you think God has laid out for you, some apology or act of forgiveness you know you should make, some act of kindness you should demonstrate. Whatever that giant might be in your life, let’s look at another reason we today we just don’t want to face that bully in the valley.
What is it that gets in our way? Sometimes it’s comfort. Now that might sound a little ridiculous at first, but stop and think about it for a few minutes. It’s hard to see how giants that you want to get rid of and comfort go together but let’s go back and look at the story again. Goliath came out into the Valley of Elah every morning and taunted Saul’s army. His men heard the challenge. They knew the reputation of this beast. They saw his stature. He stood some nine feet tall and his spear looked like the trunk of a tree. No one wanted to go down into that valley and face him.
What did Saul’s soldiers do instead? They sat by their fires and filled their bellies with food. They kicked back in their tents and took a nap. They sat around sharpening their spears and shining their armor. They got comfortable around the camp because they didn’t want to go into the valley to fight. Fighting meant using muscles they weren’t used to using. Fighting meant getting out of their tents and leaving their campfires. Fighting meant facing these professional warriors. Fighting meant risking pain and death.
They were comfortable where they were. They were comfortable just sizing up the enemy on the other side of the valley. As long as the Philistines stayed on their side of the valley and Goliath just keep shouting at them, they were okay with that. As long as the armies didn’t have to clash in the middle of the battlefield, they were content to stay where they were. It wasn’t as nice as their bed at home. The food wasn’t home cooked and they sometimes were a little wet and cold. They didn’t get to see their wives and kids much. Life wasn’t what they would like it to be, but that was okay. They could put up with the comfort of the camp compared to the unknown discomfort of the battlefield.
There is a old saying that goes something like this: “People will keep the devil they know before they will accept the angel they don’t know.”
What does that mean? It means we just don’t like change. It’s the problem the Israelites faced in that valley. It’s the problem we sometimes face when we take on the Goliaths in our lives. It’s the problem we must overcome if we are going to get rid of those habits and challenges and giants that plague us. We have to accept the fact that change must happen and whether or not we like change, we must embrace it if we are going to face those giants in life. We have to recognize the damages that devils keep doing and know that there are angels out there that are anxious to help us find a better way.
Part of our problem with these comfortable habits, these Goliaths that plague us comes from something akin to muscle memory. We get so use to something that we must train our bodies and mind to do something different. That muscle memory reflex happens so easily and is so difficult to change. It becomes ingrained in our subconscious so we are often not even aware that it is there. Take for instance your driving skills. When you first got behind the wheel of a car, it was probably a horrifying experience. How do you coordinate all the movements you have to make with your hands, feet, head, eyes, virtually every part of your body to make those rapid movements required to operate that 3,000 pound monster?
But after a couple of months you’re not even thinking about it. Feet find the accelerator and brake pedals without thinking. There are no jerking motions when you start and stop any more. You don’t have to look to see where the turn signal is, you just flip it at the appropriate time and don’t even think about when and how much to turn the steering wheel to make the turn in to the appropriate lane of traffic. Merging into traffic, parking into spaces in the parking lot, backing out of the driveway, all those things that seemed like nightmares the first few times in those early days of driving are now routine. You don’t have to think about them. You even carry on conversations with those in the car with you as you make all those tiny maneuvers because you’ve trained your muscles to do them almost without thinking.
You can think of hundreds of those kinds of muscle memory things you do every day without thinking. I would venture to guess when you brush your teeth, you start at the same side at the same spot every time. You probably put your first sock on the same foot every day. You more than likely put the same foot in your pants first almost every time. I would guess you wash and dry your body in the same pattern every time you bathe.
The same is true for all of us. We build these patterns in our behaviors and don’t even think about them after a while. It’s why bad habits are so hard to break. They become ingrained muscle movements that just happen. That’s one of the reason it is so hard for long term smokers to break the habit. It’s not just the nicotine, although the drug is extremely addictive in its own right. But it is also about the muscle memory developed over time. You eat a meal, a cigarette appears in your hand. You get into a car, you light up. You finish a project, a flame touches the end of that paper stick. All those cues that have told your body to make those movements must be relearned and replaced with something else.
It is much more difficult to unlearn muscle memory and relearn something that it is to learn it the first time. The brain is such a complex organ, more capable of storing and sorting memories than any computer. And unless there is some sort of trauma to the brain, that memory is there...forever. Stored away, never overwritten. Never erased. Always available for recall. So why is an alcoholic always a recovering alcoholic? For just that reason. The memory never goes away. They muscle memory is always there. Don’t get me wrong, change can happen. But habits must always be replaced with equally strong habits. You just have to make them good habits instead of bad. The better angel out there. The uncomfortable change. The unknown that we know must be better but our minds and bodies are afraid to try because of the comfort of our habits no matter how bad they are.
So, as we close today and think about the Goliaths in our lives, those habits that are out of control that we wish to change. The giants that we face that seem to just envelop us. Think about the muscle memory we’ve discussed and the comfort we must push away from if we really want to change. When we face the giants, we will be uncomfortable for a time. When we get into the valley with those things that seem to overwhelm us everyday, we will find our bodies wanting to revert back to old patterns and old ways, but we can overcome with God’s help and sometimes the help of a friend. Remember he will never leave us or forsake us. He will fight our battles for us, but he expects us to carry the shield into the battleground.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn’t, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.