Wednesday, September 18, 2013
The Very Thing I Don’t Want to Do
By Micky Wolf
One the things all of us struggle with, on occasion, is why we spend time on things or activities we would really rather not. And even more specifically, stuff we know is not God’s desire for our life. It is in these moments we can feel like unseen companions standing next to Paul of Tarsus as he wrote and spoke to his contemporaries in the early church:
"What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate." (Romans 7:15)
Paul goes on to elaborate in detail about what he “doesn’t understand” and why he is “doing what he hates”. It is his openness and willingness to share what he experienced that can be a great source of encouragement for you and me.
Flesh and Spirit…
Our flesh—the essence of our earthly humanity—often appreciates comfort and ease, pleasure or satisfaction, in some manner or form. One way these things manifest is when we are presented with a choice or action: we may opt for what appears to be the easier or less challenging way rather than choose the one which seems more difficult or uncertain. On occasion, we may not do anything, however, we eventually realize that is a choice as well.
Rather than despise ourselves for repeating the choices and actions of the sort “we hate”, accepting and acknowledging they are part of our nature can go a long way toward helping us recognize what is happening. Sometimes we have to venture pretty down the path of “not doing what I want” in order to discover what is at the root of our behaviors.
On the other hand, the Spirit aspect of our being is there to alert us, to show us—often by a sense of gentle conviction—of our real priorities, the desires of our heart to make loving choices rather than those of a more selfish nature. The Spirit of God will not abandon us, although when caught in a swirling vortex of thoughts and feelings, it may be hard to sense and hear His still small voice.
Sin and Grace…
It’s easy enough to blame Adam and Eve for getting us into this mess, but God knew that too. His response? Grace. Grace. And more grace. If our actions of “doing what I do not want” lead us into sin, the choice we can make is to trust in God’s provision, clearly made known to Paul, and insightful counsel for you and me:
“…but he (God) said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Kinda makes me wish I could have been a fly on the wall when that exchange occurred.
Law and Love…
If the law of God serves a multitude of purposes, most any Christian will testify to its effectiveness in exposing our sinful tendencies, along with any subsequent actions. How many times have you or I felt the ouch of that process? Why? Because at some point in following the desires of the flesh that lead us into “doing what I hate” we get uncomfortable. Well, thanks be to God!
Whether you consider the poking or nudging stirring around in your thoughts or feelings to stop “doing what I hate” to be the fruit of a healthy conscience or a no-nonsense “Hey, change direction!” shout out from the Heavenlies, the source is the same—the presence of great Love, the heart of the One who will be the best Lover of our soul we will ever hope to be joined with in relationship.
A way out…
In the balance, it is important to recognize there is no sin in desiring comfort, pleasure, or satisfaction in daily life, if, for no other explanation than there are numerous stories and details in Scripture of Jesus having a good time, eating great food and wine, and enjoying the company of delightful companions.
Yet, there’s no way anyone worth their authentic Christian salt can promise you an easy answer, or a three-step formula for avoiding the “doing what I hate” part of life. As sure as we may have engaged in a behavior “I hate” yesterday, we will no doubt be confronted with the urge to do so again, in some manner or form, tomorrow or the next day.
However, there is a way out when it comes to minimizing the frequency and the frustration inherent in taking that first step toward this slippery slope. It may seem too simple, but for as complicated as we might like to make it, God has a better idea. It goes like this: the moment you realize you are about to do what you hate, or have set the first foot on that path, make the choice to move the eyeballs of your heart back on the person and presence of Jesus Christ within. Granted, that is much easier some days than others, but nevertheless, it is effective.
Only the grace and mercy offered to us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ can rescue us from the machinations of our sinful nature. If not for that generous and sacrificial gift of Love, we would have no need for God. Paul discovered that Truth. What about you and me?
Can I name what I do that I hate?
How do I feel when I realize I’m preoccupied with comfort, pleasure, or satisfaction?
Am I open to receiving God’s grace?