Breaking the Cycles of Spiritual Failure

by APC on February 05, 2015

“Breaking the Cycles of Spiritual Failure” is the first segment in our study of Judges. Studying the book of Judges has much merit to the Christian because the story of Israel parallels our spiritual walk with God.

Historical Background

The book of Judges, assumed to be written by Samuel, covers approximately 325 years of history. It records 6 successive periods of oppression and deliverance of Israel, with 12 different deliverers. The 12 “heroes” (deliverers) were simple men God rose up to stand against the culture around them. Through God’s guidance, they were able to bring a victory for Israel.

History vs. Today

The book of Judges is preceded by the book of Joshua. At the end of this book, Joshua assessed the culture around Israel and delivered a much needed warning:

If ye forsake the LORD, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good. And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the LORD (Joshua 24:20–21, KJV).

The people of Israel were convinced they wouldn’t need to be cautious about the people and the culture around them. They believed they would never do anything that would displease the Lord.

Many times in our walk with God we make a promise that we will stop committing a particular sin or that we will embark on a more committed relationship with the Lord. And, after a few days, weeks, or months, we find that we’ve returned to our previous state. We are much like the people of Israel who want to be changed and committed, but we follow a cycle of “ups-and-downs” in our walk with God.

If we don’t take precautionary measures, we could wind up like Israel. The book of Judges closes with this last statement: In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25, KJV). We need to overcome our cycles of spiritual failure, and not end up like Israel: doing what’s right in our own eyes.

Cycle of Spiritual Failure

Israel started a decline in their spiritual walk with God and began to partake in cultural practices, including idol worship. Because of their disobedience to God, God allowed them to fall into the hands of their oppressors and became slaves. Israel would wake up to their sin, repent, and cry out to God. And, God, in His grace, would raise up a deliverer to help them overcome their situation. Israel would be more committed to serving the Lord than ever, but then the cycle would begin again.

Israel’s story is our story today. Humans are prone to repeat actions, and we fail to live and learn lessons. However, the message of Judges is not how much Israel failed, but how often God was there to forgive them and deliver them when they were ready to repent.

We have the ability to walk right and live for God in a victorious fashion regardless of what the world tries to teach us! We don’t have an excuse to fall over the same stumbling blocks in our spiritual walk—God gives us power through the Holy Ghost to learn our lessons and move forward.

How to Break the Cycles

Complete Obedience

In our relationship with God, if He asks us to do something, doing half or part of what He wants us to do is not enough. We lose sight of the fact that sin isn’t just doing wrong when we should be doing the right thing. Sin involves missing the mark or falling short of what God asks us to do. If we find ourselves walking in the wrong direction away from God, the first step can be traced back to incomplete obedience.

Judges 1:19–36 shows how Israel started to disobey God. They had a mentality of “compromise;” they only did half of what God asked them to do. God gave Israel directions to eliminate the people in the culture around them because God, in all His wisdom, knew that Israel would be influenced—and not in a good way.

When we compromise on God’s Word, we will find ourselves in a mess, just like Israel. I Samuel 15:22 tells us, “…Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice…” (KJV). God wants us to completely surrender to Him and obey His voice. If we start to desire the things of this world and not the things of God, it will bring forth sin in our life. And, when all is said and done, our sin will bring forth our death (James 1:15).

Sin—disobedience to God—never stays small. Paul warned the church at Galatia about sin in Galatians 5:9. Just a little bit of sin has the probability of becoming something much bigger that we could ever imagine, and it will consume our life. We need to overcome our sins while they are still small by repenting and turning back to God.

Never Stop Learning the Lesson

Once we identify a sin in our life, we need to make sure we don’t commit the same sin again. We need to keep the “lesson” at the forefront of our minds. When God teaches us a lesson (reveals sin in our life), it is always a foundation for more spiritual growth. If we discard lesson one, the second lesson does not have foundation to grow upon.

When people fail in their spiritual walk, they do not realize that lessons are meant to be practiced for the rest of their lives.

And people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD, that he did for Israel…And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel (Judges 2:7, 10, KJV).

The people in Israel stopped living their lessons every day, and eventually stopped teaching them to others. A generation rose up that didn’t know the Lord or His truths. We should not want our children, grandchildren, or great grandchildren living in a world where they don’t know God.

Because Israel failed to follow God and live a life that was pleasing to Him, God gave them to their enemies (Judges 2:14). Israel stopped living the truth each day, and assumed the generations after them would know what was right when they weren’t setting an example. We need to pass on spiritual truths to others so they do not wind up in the bondage of sin.

Scripture teaches us to pass on our spiritual lessons to others:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God will all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up (Deuteronomy 6:4–7, KJV, emphasis added).

If we do not continue living the truth, our spiritual revelations will fade. Hebrews 2:1 reminds us to pay attention to the things we have heard or we will let them slip away from us. “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:9, KJV).

Spiritual Submission

We need to submit ourselves and make ourselves accountable to a leader in the Gospel. God places people in our life to submit to (e.g., Pastor, leaders, mentors, etc.), but these people will only have as much oversight of our soul as we allow them to. There are insights God has for us that He will only give to spiritual leaders—we need to hear the message from others and then be accountable for it!

Israel chose not to be accountable to anyone—they didn’t have a king or a spiritual leader (Judges 21:25). The people decided what was right on their own. Their roots in independence was the catalyst of their moral downfall. If we do not have someone in our life that holds us accountable, has “veto” power in our life, we will fall into the consequences of our independent decisions.

Hebrews 13:17 reminds us to obey them that have rule over us—they have been placed there by God to watch out for us! God has given others the responsibility to watch out for our soul because our eyes alone on our soul is not enough. Our spiritual leaders, that hold us accountable, should be those who we follow and they follow Christ.

The worst leader in our life will be the one that tells us what we want to hear. A good leader will hold us accountable, and will tell us the truth in love regardless of how hard it is. We need to submit to our leadership, submit to God, and submit to His Word.

Broken Cycles

From this lesson we can relate to the experiences of Israel. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But, we can overcome our sin, and break our cycles if we can follow these practices. God doesn’t want to see us living in a life of bondage. He wants to help us break those chains of spiritual cycles and set us free to live a life of spiritual freedom in Him.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on February 4, 2015