Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Frustration of Sin

Have you ever been told you aren’t good enough? Have you ever felt you weren’t good enough? I’m sure this doesn’t bring up any warm, fuzzy feelings inside you.

So forgive me for cutting you back down but guess what? You aren’t good enough…that is, you aren’t good enough to combat sin.

Sin is an interesting thing. For many believers it is easy to avoid certain sins, or what we might call the “big stuff.” We don’t get drunk, we don’t steal and we don’t cheat on our spouse.

But then we struggle with the smaller stuff…lying, gossiping, jealousy. Actually, this stuff isn’t really small because when it comes right down to it, sin is sin. We are the ones that put sin at different levels. In some ways I think it serves to make us feel better. After all, if we are convinced that we are sinning in “small” ways, we don’t feel so bad about it.

It can be very frustrating when you have a particular struggle with sin in your life. You so desperately want to get it out of your life but you can’t seem to gain the upper-hand. That’s because you are simply not good enough to do it.

It can leave us feeling defeated. We know God’s commands and we really want to follow them but we keep falling back. So what is missing?

Paul explained it best in Romans 7:17-25. I love the way “The Message” version so clearly lays it out. Let’s start with verses 17-20: But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

Can you relate to any of this? The one word that sticks out as I read this is…FRUSTRATING. It can feel absolutely frustrating to try and try and yet you get nowhere. Here comes some more frustration in verses 21-23: It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

Here’s the thing. Most of the time we truly do want to do the right thing. Our heart’s desire is to follow God’s commands. It’s not that we don’t want to…but that is what makes it so frustrating. Why can’t it be easier? I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? (verse 24).

In a Bible study one time a friend of mine was expressing the very same thing. She had tried everything to stop a particular sin. She was praying, reading the Word, claiming scripture…but to no avail. The frustration she was experiencing was so evident.

I really felt for her because that particular sin was one I had struggled with for years. Yet I had finally experienced victory and I couldn’t even point to a particular time it happened. I couldn’t explain the steps I took. It was really a very gradual thing that happened over time. The answer to her frustration…to my frustration…to your frustration is this: The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different (verse 25).

You see, there is no formula to overcoming those sins we struggle with. In fact, later that evening after the study had ended and I was alone with God, I asked Him about this. I had never even given much thought to the fact that I had overcome that particular sin until it was brought up. “When did it happen?” I asked within my heart.

What I felt God speak to me was that it happened over time. It happened as I bathed in God’s presence and His Word. It was like I had to take a really, really long bath to get clean.

You see…we think that overcoming sin should be a quick fix. We pray, we stop sinning. We read the Word, we get instant victory. But it doesn’t always work that way. This is especially true when certain sins have been so ingrained in us, such a deep part of our lives.

Have you been struggling for a really long time with a particular sin? Keep enjoying the bath. Soak in it. Don’t be quick to dash out before you are really clean. Let the suds of God’s Word and God’s presence do their thing. The only real answer to your frustration with sin is Jesus Christ.

(Photo by Dan4th in Flickr)

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