Fighting the Good Fight
Just when I start to think I am getting victory over my flesh God is there to straighten me out. You see, sometimes I catch myself in what I see now is sin in God's eyes. I will go over my day in my head and notice that I don't seem to have sinned. The problem is when I think to myself that it is something I have accomplished through my own efforts. It is self righteousness when I should always be giving glory to God.
"Thanks God, but I didn't need to use up any of the grace you provided for me through the shed blood of Christ today. I did it all on my own, ain't that great?"
I can practically visualize God facepalming as He hears this. I am so ready to take the credit any time I can manage to put a few hours together in a row without an evil thought, prideful remark or whatever. The fact is that if I have not sinned it is because of Christ in me not my own efforts. My sin here isn't really done intentionally though, it is based on a flawed understanding of my relationship with my Heavenly Father.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee:
for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I
rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
When an earthly Dad deals with his son one of the things he tries to instill in him is to be strong and independent. As men we tend to project that way of thinking onto God because He is our Heavenly Father. But our God wants us to be the exact opposite; weak and totally dependent on Him. It is difficult for us to wrap our heads around this fact because it is so counterintuitive to our life experience.
And lest I should be exalted above measure through
the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the
flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above
This is the lesson Paul is learning in the above verse from the same passage. I believe what Paul was struggling with was an evil spirit that would continually contend with him, causing him to stumble and sin on occasion. Although I'm certain Paul was able to resist sin much of the time his writings seem to make clear that he wasn't always successful (Romans 7:23-25 KJV).
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I,
not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into
subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself
should be a castaway.
This isn't a matter of giving in to sin, but of getting knocked down by it and getting back up. God never said we won't get knocked down, what He does is give us the strength to get back up again and fight on. He is like our boxing coach; our job is to do exactly what He tells us and fight the good fight (1 Timothy 6:12 KJV).
Getting back to my experience, when I do pretty good for a period of time I start to think I got this down now I don't need my coach every moment of the fight. I am not rejecting God but trying to show Him that I can be self sufficient. But the secret to a good fighter is that he has not only has a good boxing coach, but heeds his voice. When I start to think I am pretty doing good and rely on my own strength I am eventually going to fall flat on my face and go down for the count.
Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save
one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered
shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often,
in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen,
in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the
wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In
weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in
fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
Paul knew exactly what I am talking about, in the previous scripture he used the word 'buffet' which is to pummel someone with the fist. I have no reason to believe that Paul did any better in his fight than the best of us do. Sometimes he got knocked to his knees and maybe he was even down for the count more than once. But no matter what he kept on getting back up and fighting the good fight.
To continue Paul's boxing allegory what God has been showing me is that we all need to learn to take a punch without going down. When we are hit with temptation we need to be able to resist it. We must refuse to give in to it. Every fighter has their weak points, what are yours? What knocks you to your knees? Is it lust, addiction or pride? Jealousy?
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is
common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted
above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to
escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
Knowing our weak points is crucial to the fight because they determine our boxing technique. Satan is not going to hit us in our strong areas, but our weak ones. If you don't know your areas of weakness you had better learn them soon because trust me, Satan certainly does. If you have what they call a 'glass chin' you had better not lead with it.
Don't put yourself in situations where you will be tempted to sin. Television is a temptation machine, all of the media influences us to either sin or accept sin as normal behavior. Save your money, sell your TV and cancel your cable subscription. It is destroying your relationship with Christ. Spend time with the Lord and ask Him to help you overcome whatever your weak points are.
The music is just as bad, even the so called Christian music. Turn off the radio in the car and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your mind as you travel. If you're an alcoholic stay away from bars. Sounds so easy doesn't it? But it is hard to do.
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