Over the past several weeks I’ve been writing occasionally about overcoming tough sins. We started right after New Year’s Day, because that is the traditional time for making resolutions about improvements for our lives. We have talked about how some sins are just tough to overcome and we’ve considered the strategies of separating ourselves from bad company and bad influences, changing the channel, getting someone to be an accountability partner, and watching how others overcome similar problems in their lives. This will be the last in this particular series of bulletin articles on this subject but I think this “strategy” point is utterly crucial: we must persevere in prayer and in fighting to overcome. These were the two things that we see in Jesus’ own life most often as He Himself wrestled with temptation.
Jesus prayed, and prayed, and prayed. In fact, before His greatest temptation and trial, the trial and cross, He prayed from the moment He arrived at Gethsemane to the moment the soldiers arrived to arrest Him—likely hours. He prayed so earnestly and intensely that He sweat drops of blood according to Luke 22:44. Not only this, He urged the apostles, especially Peter, James, and John, (Mark 14:38) “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Did you get that last part? The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak; does that sound like a familiar struggle in your resolution? Jesus’ solution: pray; stay awake and pray!
It is often said, but too seldom grasped, we have no idea how much power we neglect, when we fail to earnestly and persistently pray in faith. The same Person who created the entire universe (seen and unseen) is “at the other end of the line”—and we even have a mediator and advocate appealing to Him on our behalf! We can overcome even the toughest of sins by praying to God about them in faith. The prayer won’t take away the temptation; but we can be strengthened in the inner man through the Spirit, and as we obey the Lord’s command, we’ll find increasing ability to resist the sin and continue to obey God.
And we must persevere in the fight. It would be wonderful if saying no to the sin once would defeat it forever, but it’s not that way. At the end of what is known as the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness Luke records (Luke 4:13), “When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.” Satan didn’t take this defeat as final; he only left Jesus until another opening presented itself. Satan is nothing if not persistent. This means that we must continue to fight for the progress and victories that we’ve won. Sin and temptation will continue to wait at the doorstep of our hearts hoping to wear us down and wear us out until we give in. But we must be vigilant, watchful, and determined to stand firm against Satan’s ambushes, traps, and surprise attacks. We must be like Paul, who was concerned about the attack of discouragement against the Corinthian brethren: (2 Corinthians 2:11) “so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” You have to continue fight for the gains.
Some temptations are really tough; they’ve sunk their claws deeply into our hearts and our “flesh”. But just because they are tough doesn’t mean that they’re indomitable. Our God is tougher than any sin and His wisdom has given us the strategies we need to overcome even the toughest ones. Even better, when we occasionally do fail and later repent, our God forgives. How great is our God!???