Over the last few weeks I’ve been writing about how to overcome especially difficult sins in our lives. I’ve discussed eliminating the bad company in our lives who encourage sinful be- havior, learning how to change the channel, and finding someone to whom you can be account- able. This time I’d like to talk about the power of watching others doing it right.
There is a significant advantage to watch- ing someone else do what you want to do. It’s the way that we first learn all the essentials of our early life about how to get along with others, how to be a parent and spouse, how to deal with emotions, and so much more—we watch and emulate. Consider what we learn in school: classroom stuff is fine, but watching the teacher, seeing how something is actually done is way more than half the learning. That’s why schools have labs and workshops and why they demand internships for many disciplines before they will give you a diploma. Seeing how things are done, the nuances, the little “tricks”, the right order in which to do them, etc. are extraordinarily impor- tant in obtaining skills of all sorts, professional and personal. The Lord Himself knows this and it is part of the reason that Jesus came to the world as God’s Word. He knew that telling us to love one another is one thing, but that showing us what love looks like and how it acts is better by far. Jesus told us how to live, yes; but more than that, He showed us how to live.
So also, overcoming the stubborn sins in our lives will often include finding someone in the church who have had godly outcomes, have gotten the upper hand over the sin or sins that you struggle with. Once you’ve found them, ob- serve them: what they do, what they say, what their attitude seems to be, and all the other little details of how they deal with the sin you seek to overcome. You may want to tell them that you’re observing them, so that they don’t think you’re merely stalking them. Though most brothers or sisters will be humble about their struggles, most will also understand and be happy to tell you what they know, to help you toward your growth. Mere observation can be especially effective in learning how to parent or be a godly marriage partner; find those who’ve experienced success and watch.
Perhaps, the sin you seek to overcome is one that doesn’t lend itself to casual observa- tion: for example, what do you do to avoid get- ting angry and out of control? You may need to talk with them. Share with them what you seek to overcome; tell them that you’ve observed that they seem to have gained skills that you’d like; and ask them what they do, how they think, what they don’t do, how they dodge or tone down the power of the temptations. Then ob- serve them some more and take their advice on several test runs. Come back to them and share your results, ask more questions, fix the mis- takes, and obtain the spiritual skills through practice.
I mention practice, because very few will get it right the first few times. When children be- gin to learn how to ride a bicycle, they will watch others do it, they will ask mom or dad how it’s done, but then they will have to get on the bike and obtain the skill. It will include more than a few failures and skinned knees, a few adjust- ments, the coordination of pumping legs, bal- ance, and handle bar adjustments; but in time you start to get it. There still might be further spills as you hit sand the first time, try to do a “wheelie” on the bike, or simply forget to watch where your going; but you learn and get better.
The flesh is powerful. Bad habits are stubborn. Satan is crafty. But don’t get discour- aged. With the Lord’s guidance, Christ’s exam- ple, the Spirit’s help, the church’s encourage- ment, and your own heart’s desire to please the Lord, you can overcome! Don’t forget, 1 John 4:4 “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”