Cut the Ballast!

balloon gondola

It was a beautiful, mild Spring morning when Mr. Henry took off in the brightly colored hot air balloon with his new assistant, Cardone Stevens. It was just a routine training session, so the two ascended with little fanfare. In fact, the only other individuals around were an older man and his wife walking their dogs. Mr. Henry had performed these training sessions hundreds of times in the past with very few incidents, so he had no reason to be concerned about this one either. Cardone, on the other hand, was both fascinated and terrified from the moment he severed the anchoring ropes. He had only rode as a casual participant in two flights with another seasoned balloonist prior to this one.

The ascent went smoothly and much more quickly than he had expected, but Mr. Henry wanted to go to a much higher altitude. This pleased Cardone, since his prior flights were always kept somewhat low, due to his inexperience.

“Cardone, please cut some of the ballast,” ordered Mr. Henry. Cardone took the knife given to him for this purpose, reached over the side, and systematically cut off a few of the small bags of sand. He had never really seen these bags up close before, and their size and appearance intrigued him. He just couldn’t bear to drop the bags, so he decided to just to quietly stow them on the floor beside his feet. After a few moments, Cardone wondered why the balloon was not climbing higher. As it began to drift and sink a little, Mr. Henry ordered Cardone to cut more of the ballast. Again, in obedience to Mr. Henry’s orders, he proceeded to cut some more of the little bags of sand from the side of the gondola. He let one drop, but just wasn’t able to let the others go. “They might hurt something below,” he thought, so he again placed the bags on the floor a short distance from himself.

Thirty minutes went by. The balloon had only ascended a few dozen feet. By now, Mr. Henry’s patience had grown thin.

“Mr. Stevens!” he barked, “Did you cut the ballast like I asked?”

Cardone replied sheepishly, “Uh, well, sort of.”

“Sort of!” Mr. Henry shouted incredulously. “How did you “sort of” cut them?”

“Well,” Cardone began, “I just couldn’t let them go. I kind of grew fond of them, so I carefully placed them by my feet. Besides, I didn’t want anyone below to be injured.” He felt justified with this last response.

“I think I’ve heard it all now,” Mr. Henry grumbled. “Just how did you expect to go higher if you didn’t get rid of the ballast?”

Cardone knew that it was necessary to get rid of the ballast. He read all about these things in his textbooks. He just could not bring himself to do it in real life. He wanted to go higher, but how could he if he did not get rid of the ballast? Past experience had led Mr. Henry to believe that Cardone really did want to go higher, but also that he was afraid to do anything to make it happen. After fifteen more minutes of wrangling with Cardone, he reached over and cut almost all of the remaining ballast. With some cries of agony, Cardone reluctantly took up cutting where Mr. Henry let off. Now, with the ballast actually dropped from the gondola, the balloon began to ascend rapidly.

multi-colored balloon floating in sky

“Wow!” Cardone responded in amazement. “We are rising higher than I’ve ever been before.”

“Hrmph!” Mr. Henry replied gruffly in disgust. “Want to go even higher?”

“Oh, that would be great!” Cardone replied eagerly.

“Then get rid of those sandbags you put on the floor!” Mr. Henry hollered.

“Must I?” Cardone responded with anguish. “They are dear to me. I just can’t let them go!”

“Here we go again,” Mr. Henry muttered.

While this narrative might sound a little silly, the truth of the matter is that we as children of God do this with Him all the time. We have these bags of “ballast” in our own life called “the flesh.” It is the part of us that desires the sinful pleasures of this physical life that we have not yet completely removed since we surrendered our heart to the Lord. The more ballast we have in our life, the lower or more shallow our walk and relationship will be with the Lord. As long as we cling to the flesh, our intimacy with Him suffers. Therefore, God does not want any of this flesh to remain in our lives.

“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). When Jesus said this, He did not intend for us to literally haul a wooden beam around all day and follow Him. The essence of this verse is that we are to daily die to our self or flesh. We need to give sinful and unproductive desires of the flesh over to Him. Just like the balloon, we need to cut off and discard all that weighs us down spiritually. Naturally, we won’t always know what we need to surrender. This is why God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. As we seek God in prayer and really want to commune with Him more, His Spirit will reveal to us the works of the flesh that we need to cut off.

Notice that Jesus said, “let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily” (emphasis mine). No one-time house-cleaning or ingesting some magic pill can make us totally clean and perfect.

This process is continual. God expects us to make the choice to let go of a part of our flesh, the same way He expected us to make the choice to surrender our life over to Him. He did not make a planet of robots with no choice or free will. If He was to do everything and we do nothing, then we would become like spoiled children—taking His work for us for granted, with no real gratitude or love for Him in return.

God desires for us to fellowship with Him and be a part of His family so much that He went to efforts beyond our comprehension to make a way for us to be with Him. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). In return, He wants us to give up these hurdles or impediments of the flesh in our life that spiritually hinder our walk with Him. “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify [subdue, kill, or permanently eliminate] the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Romans 8:12,13).

The longer we hold onto these works of the flesh, the more that we separate ourselves from God—until our relationship with Him is dead. At the same time, if we continue to keep the flesh, we demonstrate to God that we have little interest in Him.

Therefore, like a balloon, let’s cut the ballast of our flesh, and let Him bring us higher in our relationship with Him.

Let’s desire more intimacy with our Lord and less with our old self. Remember, if we don’t cut this ballast, we will only cause ourselves to sink lower and lower, until we are no longer in the air at all, but back on the ground of this sinful world.

Advertisements

The Ultimate Temptation

cross against blue sky

Jesus was tried, tempted, and tested throughout His ministry here on earth. In order for Old Testament prophecy and all of God’s laws to be fulfilled, His Son had to go through the most awful agony and torture anyone in history has every known. Jesus, as man, could not dodge or skip anything that was sent His way. He had to be brought through all of this to fulfill His Father’s will. But He was never worried, perplexed, or concerned, because He knew that He was doing His Father’s will, and He knew that His Father would never send Him into something that He could not handle or that would cause Him to fail.

On the other hand, the devil (the ultimate deceiver) had deceived himself into believing that he actually could cause Jesus to fail. He was determined to find an area, one little place, where he could cause Jesus to slip and fail. He tried with the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. He tried with each of the groups of religious leaders. He tried through Jesus’ own family. He even tried through Jesus’ closest disciples. Yet he could not seem to find the right place. Then he saw what he perceived to be a potential weakness, when he saw Jesus praying in the garden. “And [Jesus] went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt” (Mark 14:35-36). If these verses are read quickly at face value, they make it appear that Jesus did not really want to go through the agony that was to come. And that He did not want to die (at least, not in the manner foretold). But read the verses carefully again. The last part of verse 36 stands out: “…nevertheless not what I will, but thou wilt.”

Jesus never did anything except what His Father told Him to do. He never cared what the people thought of Him, whether good or bad; He only wanted to please His Father. He was never out to fulfill His own will.

This did not stop the devil from trying to persuade Jesus to do otherwise, and he proceeded step-by-step to try to get Him to beg His Father to deliver Him from enduring the cruelty that was to come.

The devil also used one of Jesus’ twelve closest disciples, Judas, to deliver Him up to the religious leaders. When they came to arrest Him, Jesus could have slipped away, just like He had done at other times when His life was threatened. But He resisted and stood strong against any temptation or desire to flee. Another disciple, Peter, tried to use violence to prevent Jesus’ capture. Jesus stood against this temptation also, saying to those present, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53)

Jesus knew He could give in and save Himself, but He also knew that if He yielded to any kind of temptation, His Father’s Word would return void.

Then the devil had Him tried illegally before the Jewish leaders in a trial that was rigged before it even began. With His vast knowledge and His connection with His Father, He could have easily confounded them with the truth and set Himself free. But He continued to stand against this temptation too. Even when He was sent before King Herod, and then Pilate, who found no guilt in Him and had full authority to set Him free, He remained mostly silent. Throughout all of this, despite the beating, mocking, scourging, and being forsaken by those closest to Him, He still stood by what He had prayed earlier: “…nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.”

Jesus’ ultimate temptation came when He was hanging upon the cross at Calvary. The devil knew that time was running out for him to get Jesus to fail. Up to this point, all of his attempts had been thwarted. Yet he still held onto the belief that Jesus just might give in. Jesus was physically beaten by order of the Jewish leaders, and then once again by the Roman soldiers. He was scourged to the point where most individuals normally would have died, and then had a crown of thorns shoved down onto His head. He also had to haul a heavy wooden beam for quite some distance. Finally, He was hung on that beam with nails (spikes) driven through the area of His hands and feet. He refused anything to dull the pain or lessen the suffering and agony that He had to go through in order to redeem every man, woman, and child from sin.

Not only did He have all of this physical agony, He also had the indescribable burden of bearing all of the sins of the whole world—past, present, and future. Yet He continued to stand steadfastly against the temptation to seek His Father for just a little relief from all of this.

Even with the scoffers and skeptics railing against Him as they passed by, He did not succumb to the temptation to leave the cross and the agony. “And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God” (Matthew 27:39-43). His intimacy with His Father and His desire for the world to be able to freely have this same close relationship was greater than all of the temptations He endured.

Finally, Jesus reached the point where He knew that all that needed to be fulfilled had been accomplished. After exclaiming, “It is finished” (John 19:30b), He willingly gave up His life. Note that He gave up His life. He did not take His own life, as in suicide. Once again the devil failed. Not only did Jesus withstand the ultimate temptation, but three days after He was taken down from the cross and buried, He rose victorious from the grave and ascended (returned) to His heavenly home and His Father, God!

Jesus defeated the power and control of sin over our lives through His sacrifice of Himself on the cross. He made it possible that no temptation should ever overcome or defeat us.

He demonstrated the absolute necessity of prayer and knowing God’s word in order to avoid succumbing to temptation. When we yield to Him and develop an intimacy with Him, then whatever we are tempted by will no longer hold the appeal it once had. Instead, He becomes our greatest desire, and we will want to please Him. Jesus told us several times in the Bible to watch and pray. When we ride a raft down a swift-moving river, we should not wait until we are being thrashed about among the rocks and rapids to start looking for the paddles or oars and the guide on how to safely navigate through rough waterways. In the same way, we should not just wait until temptation comes and then desperately seek God for victory and deliverance from it. Jesus wants us to be prepared by continually trusting and following Him.

We are most vulnerable when we wander away from Him. When we take our eyes off of the cross and put them onto our self, our temptations then become more than we can bear.

Jesus’ success came because He did the will of the Father, regardless of the circumstances. Therefore, our success will only come when we do not do our own will, but our Heavenly Father’s will also.

“Where art thou?”

brick pathway

“…Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?” (Genesis 3:8-9)

Have you ever walked down a path leading into a forest in the quiet of the day? Maybe you’ve strolled down a weather-beaten brick walkway leading into a beautiful garden, where the rich freshness of beautiful flowers blossoming surround and overpower you. At times like these, have you ever felt like someone was approaching when a gentle breeze caressed your face, and a soft voice whispered to your heart, “Where are you, my child?”

That voice is the Lord God calling unto you. How hard we work to try to satisfy the endless desires of our sinful nature in this world in so many different ways. You may be experiencing this in your spiritual life today, like our first parents did when they were in the beautiful Garden of Eden. They hid from the approaching presence of the Lord among the things of this world. Stop and listen carefully. Listen to the Heavenly Father in the distance calling, “Where are you, my child?” When He comes nearer, you may begin to feel very uncomfortable, like Adam and Eve did, and try to hide behind the things of this world as He draws closer and closer to your spirit and soul.

Why do you run away when He approaches you, hiding from His presence, which brings peace? Could it be because you love the things of this world too much, the things so many others desire to possess?

Are you unaware of the real purposes and uses the Lord has intended them to be for? When He freely gives them to you by His love and grace, then they are yours to be used and enjoyed. Do not seek or value them only for your own selfish purposes instead. They are intended for His glory, not your own. Love for the things of this world draws the heart away from God. The more the love of this world has superior strength or authority in your life, the more your love of God will go downhill.

You may be experiencing wrong desires of the heart—a passion for indulging in what excites and inflames the senses. Maybe it’s the desire of the eyes, which delight in looking at and longing for beautiful material possessions. This can become a main avenue leading to covetousness (strong, envious desire). There is also the temptation toward the pride of life, which involves a passion for honor and applause for yourself.

All the things of the world will fade away, but holy affection is not like these fleeting physical desires.

If you love the world more than you love God, you will have no root in yourself to overcome the world, but will fall away, or, at best, remain an unfruitful child of God. Vain, empty, and valueless things corrupt worldly hearts. Watch and pray that you will be able to escape the desires of this world and have victory over the god and prince of it. The first step in this victory over the world begins by asking God to come and reign in your heart. His divine, eternal love will never fail.

Are you running away from the Lord, hiding from His divine presence, the only source of eternal peace? Run to Him instead when you hear Him calling “Where are you, my child?”

Click here to find out more about how to find God.