Life can be very hard.
It is hard enough when others betray you, but even harder when you have betrayed yourself, when you have done something that you never thought you would be capable of doing. One example would be a Christian who has walked into sexual sin outside their marriage, or maybe greed has overtaken you and money has taken God’s place in your life.
So many men of God in the bible began strong and finished shipwrecked and damaged. Saul who was the first king of Israel, and Sampson were once anointed men of God, but they grew proud, forgetting God and their lives ended in tragedy.
I can see how this happens because there has been times in my life when I have realized that unbelievers behave better than I do. The fighting and failing to do what is right wares you down, until you begin to think you might as well give up.
The apostle Paul describes in Romans chapter 7 an inner battle we all fight. It is a war between our flesh (selfish wants, pleasures and desires) and our spirit. As Jesus said, the spirit is willing to obey, but the flesh is weak.
Romans 7:21-25; I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?
Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
Matthew 26:41; Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak! – Jesus
Does this sound familiar? We can all be free, we just need to know how. If the apostle Paul experienced the same things we do, we can take comfort and direction from him.
Romans 8:1-4; So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.
It is not enough just to know what is right (Law of Moses, God’s commands) to free us from sin, we need the Spirit of God to be free. Since we have the Spirit of God in us, we now have the choice to follow our sinful way or God’s way. Then why do we still fail?
We also have an enemy working to destroy your faith and your witness to others;
1 Peter 5:8-9; Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.
Ephesians 6:10-12; A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
Jesus told Peter he was going to be tested and fail, but that he had prayed for him and when he turned back, to strengthen others. Failure does not mean God turns his back on us. Peter swore he would die for Jesus, yet he denied even knowing him three times, yet Jesus told him ahead of time he would not only be forgiven but restored and strengthened.
Luke 22:31-32; Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers
You need to know that you are in a spiritual war and the enemy is serious about keeping you from sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. Some of the thoughts going through your mind are not yours, they are lies to steel your faith and bring doubt. We can’t make the same mistake Peter did and rely on our own will and strength. We will always fail in our own determination. We have to realize our weakness and rely on God’s strength, by actively seeking it.
Matthew 26:40-41; Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” – Jesus
Keep watching for God’s leading, through prayer and reading his word. We can’t just go about our day expecting God to do everything.
The word of God is where we find truth, not in our emotions or our own wisdom. We are not forced to do the things we do, and cannot blame anyone outside ourselves. But we can be free from wrong behaviors if we believe what God says, trust him and put what he says into action.
2 Peter 1:3-5; By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises.
These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises.
What does that look like practically?
Romans 8:5-6; Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
Set your mind on God. Read the bible and put into practice what you read. Everything starts in the mind, so we must set our minds on God and not on sin. If we dwell on our sinful desires, we will fulfill them at some point.
James 1:14-15; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin;
We cannot change the things we have done, but we owe it in love to God and those we may have hurt, to strive to live a godly life from today on. Relationships may have been destroyed, but there is hope that God can restore them, and if that doesn’t happen, you can effectively pray for God’s grace and peace in their lives.
Being a Christian takes effort, remember we are in a war, and the enemy may be relentless, but we are protected by the one who created him, if we would only use the tools he has given us. We don’t have to try and defeat him because we can’t. Thanks be to God that Jesus already has.
2 Corinthians 9:24-27; Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.
If Paul the apostle was frustrated in Romans 7 as we are today, and found freedom that he shared in Romans 8 and 2 Corinthians above, then how much more should we heed his words and endeavor to do the same.
We have to take responsibility for our own actions, but in doing so we can’t dwell on what you cannot change. Set your mind on God and to the best of your ability, try to make amends for what you have done and try to repair broken relationships. It may not be possible right now, but if you relinquish your life to God, the changes others will see in your life may bring some reconciliation in time.
If you are so disgusted with yourself because of things you have done, and you are having trouble believing God could or would forgive you, he will. Maybe you think he is so fed up with you he could not possible want you back, that you have crossed a line and its too late, that is one of those lies. Others may not forgive you for what you have done and they may not ever want to see you again, but you can still be a positive affect in their lives through prayer.
Take comfort in this, God sees our struggles, pain and regret in our hearts that others do not. When others won’t forgive you, and even when you think you cannot forgive yourself, God will if you repent from your ways, and follow God’s ways.
If your hope is gone and you have nothing to cling to, remember this truth, that God is love, He doesn’t merely love, he is love. Love is his nature, and here is what he says about love.
1 Corinthians 13:5-7,13; Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance…
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
Read that again only this time replace the word “LOVE” with “GOD”
When we have given up on ourselves, God has not, and sometimes that one truth has been the only thing that has gotten me through another day.
Three things will last forever, Faith that God is who he says he is, Hope that he will do what he says he will, and Love which enables us to carry on through struggles, mistakes and even rebellion.
It is because of God’s love that we can have faith and hope for the future.
Love (God) never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
And as Jesus had prayed for Peter when he knew he would fail, he also prayed for you and me.
John 17:20-23; My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. – Jesus