by Margaret D. Mitchell
"I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh." -Ezekiel 11:19 (NIV)
Soil of Our Hearts
Did you know that God will use persecution to perfect us? He will. He cares about the condition of our hearts that much if this is what it takes. He will purpose to root out wickedness and fill up that empty space with Himself to make us more holy, like Him.
Isaiah 11:1 (NLT) informs us that Jesus is both a branch and a root that bears a crop of good fruit. This makes sense because He is both man and God—The Son of God—man being the branch and God being the root…
"Out of the stump of David's family will grow a shoot--yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root."
Isaiah 14:9 (NASB) informs us that the enemy is also a root and that he produces bad fruit…
“…For from the serpent's root a viper will come out, And its fruit will be a flying serpent.”
The Message(Bible) especially illustrates the multiplication of this bad fruit…
“From the death throes of that snake a worse snake will come, and from that, one even worse” (Isaiah 14:9).
Makes no mistake about it—good or bad, whatever is in the heart will spring up, multiply so devour continues to cycle.
Do you know what kinds of roots are in the soil of your heart? Have you asked The Holy Spirit to search your heart and reveal any secret sins to you so you may confess and repent of them privately? Or do you hold onto any dark secret(s), too fearful to entrust them to the light of Christ?
Good or bad, whatever we hold in our hearts will spring up and produce fruit…and others will notice, even if we do not.
Evil Destroys Evil
By nature, evil is destructive and produces more evil unless it is harnessed as a tool used by God. In Isaiah 10:5-7 (NASB), God uses the evil in Assyria to destroy the evil in Israel to make room for His remnant to reign. In this case, He uses arrogance to attack arrogance…
"Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger and the staff in whose hands is My indignation. I send it against a godless nation and commission it against the people of My fury to capture booty and to seize plunder and to trample them down like mud in the streets. Yet it does not so intent. Nor does it plan so in its heart. But rather it is its purpose to destroy and to cut off many nations."
What’s more is that when God’s purposed destruction was made complete, He went after Assyria’s evil leadership by punishing “the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria…” (Is. 10:12).
It’s important to note that God also uses starvation as a tactic to kill evil. In Isaiah 10:16, He allowed destruction of Assyria’s “stout warriors” with a “wasting disease.” And later in Isaiah 14:30, He used famine to starve and destroy an evil root in Philistia.
God uses evil to prune evil so that the righteous can reign and rest in Him. God uses persecution against us to get our attention to stop sinning in ways we may not realize we are sinning. Our delivery from persecution is purposed and appointed so that all that remains at the end of the trial is the remnant of our submitted hearts.
How is God getting your attention through persecution? Are you feeling like a victim and ensnared in blaming your persecutor? Or are you asking God to show you His perspective on your circumstances?
The enemy desires we be deceived, worn out from fighting alone in our own carnal strength (i.e., strife) and feeling defeated. Persecution often requires longsuffering (patient endurance) to rise up in us and to be developed.
Divine Strategy to Defeat Persecution Cycle
· Remember God is with you in the midst (Isaiah 10:23). He is for you and will never forsake you. His love is everlasting (Deut 31:8, Psalm 13:17).
· The persecution may feel like it lasts forever, but God assures us we only suffer for a little while (1 Peter 5:10). God will use the persecution to develop a Fruit of The Spirit known as longsuffering (patient endurance) in us.
· Choose careful obedience to God – He exalts the humble (1 Peter 5:6, Luke 18:14). So submit to God and His ways no matter what your circumstances. (Beware of pride and fear. When you sense yourself about to self-justify or fight back in your own strength, that’s pride and fear rising up against humbleness and faith. Submit to God and choose to trust God to fight your battle His way to bring change.)
· Take up your shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16). Guard against false shields of hardness of heart and bitterness. Remind yourself that divine joy is your strength, so don’t depart from it to go fight a carnal battle (Neh 8:10, 1 Chron 16:27, Psalm 28:7). Remember, God’s grace is sufficient and more powerful than your circumstances or sins (2 Corin 12:9).
· When you feel persecuted, take a moment to ask God, “What is this? What do You want me to see, learn and know from this?” (God is trying to get your attention.)
· Immediately repent of the very sin that you see your persecutor committing. The Holy Spirit will bring conviction in your heart. (Romans 2:3 informs us that we commit the same sins others do and that if we judge them, God will judge us.)
· Ask God to search your heart and repent of anything The Holy Spirit reveals. Ask Him to uproot evil in the soil of your heart and fill the void of that root with His root of holiness and righteousness: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:23-24).
· Forgive others. Bless your enemies. Release them to God. Then back away and let The Lord have His way regarding judgment or mercy (Matthew 5:44; Romans 12:19, Hebrews 10:30). You can even pray for their deliverance and ask God to bring healing to their hearts.
· Starve evil provokes (which the enemy attempts to use to ensnare you). Respond from The Holy Spirit. Use gentle words (Proverbs 15:1). Cast your cares and don’t condemn: "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing" (1 Peter 3:9).
· Give time for God to work in you. As God’s root of light rises up in your heart, and when God’s purposed work has been completed, He will remove the persecutor from you and safeguard you (Isaiah 10:17, Psalm 138:7). God is known for His “sudden” deliverance appointments (Isaiah 15:1).
· Remember, God will “pay back trouble to those who trouble you” (2 Thess 1:6).
· Also remember Proverbs 24:17-18 (NLT) – “Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble. For The Lord will be displeased with you and will turn His anger away from them.”
Margaret D. Mitchell is the Founder of God's Love at Work, a marketplace outreach purposed to share God's greatest power source - the love of Christ. This devotional was adapted from Margaret's forthcoming book, Enduring Grace. All rights reserved.