We need to realize that we may always struggle with some things. Some temptations might never go away. This is what it means to be humans in a world that has rejected God. This is what it means to be a descendant of Adam and Eve. Life is always a battle to be holy.
If this were the end of the story, we would despair of ever pleasing God. But this is how it works: First, God loved us even when we were unlovable and sent His son to die for us. In fact, He died for us because we were sinners and didn’t deserve it! Through one man (Adam) we were cursed with sin, but through one man (Jesus Christ) the curse was reversed and we were given a second chance. When sin increases, God’s goodness and mercy toward us increase even more. Although it’s tempting to feel like our lives are useless battles spent fighting the same old enemy, we know it isn’t that way. God gives us strength to continue to fight—and to win.
When I was going through a difficult time, I began to rationalize in this way: “God is more pleased when I try and fail than when I don’t try at all. My weakness is nothing new to God. He knows that even when I say sorry, I may still struggle. He wants to see that I will keep fighting to do the right thing.” I truly believed this until I realized that, although this was partially true, it wasn’t enough. This was like making a personal peace with the enemy. This wasn’t victory.
At one time in my life, I struggled to forgive people when they continued to disappoint me in the same area. When I told Mom about my problem, she said she understood, but she reminded me to keep forgiving. Then she said, “When someone keeps disappointing you, you tend to expect that they will continue to disappoint you. But it is not fair to expect someone to fail. You have to keep praying for that person. This does not mean that you ignore the possibility that they might fail again—after all, you have to be realistic—but you shouldn’t expect them to fail, or you are giving up on them.”
This made a lot of sense to me and, when I put it into practice, I found that it helped my heart to stay in the right place, even when I was disappointed yet again. As I learned more about not expecting people to fail, I realized that I wasn’t applying the lesson to myself. I was more gracious toward others for their sins than I was toward myself. While I extended forgiveness and kindness to others for their failings, I punished myself for mine. I let myself believe that everyone else had the ability to fight their faults, but that I didn’t. Yet we all have the same Source of strength!
Even though we understand that we are sinful beings and that we always have the potential to fail in our struggles against sin, we should not expect that. That is giving up the fight before we have begun. Instead of expecting that sin will be too strong for us, we should expect that, as we try to do the right thing, God will strengthen us to achieve victory!
If you’re anything like me, you might be thinking, “That’s wonderful, but I can’t make myself follow through on my good intentions. I can’t make myself have self-control at that moment of temptation.”
Before you start believing that you’re a helpless victim to your own sin, ask yourself two questions:
This is the truth: Everyone knows how to move quickly when a train is coming and everyone knows how to hold onto that heavy object when a loved one’s life is at stake. The problem is not that we are helpless victims of our sin. The problem is that we are not willing to do whatever it takes to do God’s commandments.
Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
One night I found myself struggling fiercely over an area in my life in which I knew I needed to turn control over to God. I wrestled for a long time trying to convince myself to do the right thing. Suddenly, I saw the truth.
“Wait a minute. If I can convince myself into doing the right thing, I can convince myself out of it.”
When I look in the Bible, I see a very different approach to righteousness. I see a righteousness that was so automatic that people did not have to convince themselves to do the right thing. They did not have to evaluate every situation to see how to apply righteousness in that particular situation. They just did the right thing without hesitation! When Joseph was tempted to commit adultery with Potiphar’s wife, he didn’t run down a checklist of the pros and cons. No, he ran away from the temptation!
How do we know how to respond righteously? First, we need to know the character of God, so that we are familiar with how He expects us to respond. Secondly, we must leave no time to second-guess our obedience to the Lord. If we find ourselves in a mental debate, we should ask ourselves, “Why am I even debating this? I need to obey!” Then we should do the right thing—immediately.
There is nothing complicated about this. It’s hard, but it’s not complicated. Make a habit of simply doing the right thing, automatically and with all your might.
Complete victory is possible. I discovered this when the Lord began to deliver me from a struggle that I thought was undefeatable. I had to fight for this victory—He didn’t just hand it to me on a silver platter—but God honored my many prayers for deliverance and my choices to obey Him. This does not mean that I will not be tempted again, but it does mean that I can choose never to sin that way again. Every sin is a choice, and God gives us the power to choose righteousness. If you think an addicting sin is impossible to overcome, don’t believe the lie. Jesus Christ is breaking chains every day. Accept nothing less than victory.
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.