by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
One afternoon earlier this year, a coworker of mine who is a Christian told me she was trying to avoid eating the last two peanut butter cups in the package. She said, “I know I shouldn’t eat them now, I should wait and eat them later but I’m afraid I don’t have enough self-control.”
I told her, jokingly, “Just remember, ‘Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the peanut butter,’” referring to 1 John 4:4b: “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” She had a good laugh and told me she would pray for strength to resist the peanut butter cups.
Actually, I’m in a position to sympathize with her since I’m currently trying to break a habit—again (see “Person-2-Person,” March, 2007). I keep telling myself that “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the habit” but I admit it’s difficult so I respect her struggle against the peanut butter cups. But if God is on our side then we do have a source of strength that is greater than we sometimes realize (Psa. 124).
Once the king of Syria sent his army to surround the city of Dothan, where the prophet Elisha was staying (2 King 6:11-14). The next morning, when Elisha’s servant got up, he saw the Syrian army and its horses and chariots surrounding the city (vs. 15). He said to Elisha, “‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’” (vs. 15b ESV). But Elisha said to him, “‘Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’” (vs. 16 ESV). Elisha prayed, “‘O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.’” (vs. 17a ESV). And then the servant saw horses and chariots of fire surrounding his master, Elisha (vs. 17b ESV). Elisha prayed for the men of the Syrian army to be struck blind and then led them away to Samaria. After they arrived in Samaria, Elisha instructed Jehoram, the king of Israel to prepare a feast for them and send them back to their master. After they returned, the Syrians didn’t bother Israel any more.
Paul told the Christians in Rome, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31b ESV). The implicit answer is: “No one.” If God is on our side, there is no one and nothing that can prevail against us. He wrote to the Christians in Galatia, “But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . patience, . . . self-control; . . . And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal. 5:22a, 23b-24 ESV). We are not supposed to be subject to our impulses but to God’s direction. Our “flesh,”—our selfish human nature—should be nailed to the cross with Christ, put behind us forever. And he wrote to his young friend Timothy, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Tim. 1:7 ESV). We don’t need to be afraid of the things that seem to be beyond our control—God has taken care of them for us. That includes foreign armies, habits, and peanut butter.
Peter wrote, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, . . . by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature,” ( 2 Pet. 1:3a, 4a). God has given us the chance to orient our lives toward “life and godliness.” We have access to “the divine nature,” through the Holy Spirit, which dwells within us. We don’t have to accept “the way things are.” Instead, we can change our lives and our situations for the better.
There are people all around us who are struggling with adversity, with habits, with life situations, with addictions—and occasionally with food, such as peanut butter. If they see us responding by turning to God as the source of our strength, claiming victory in Jesus’ name, they will also see the one who is in us, the one who is greater than any problem, greater than any situation, greater than any adversity—and even greater than peanut butter.
“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4:4-6 ESV.)