“Why am I like this? What’s the deal? Why can’t I just overcome this temptation?”
We’ve all probably had thoughts just like this. I feel inadequate. I feel unworthy to even wear the name Christian. I don’t understand how someone like the Creator of my very soul could bring Himself as low as to even acknowledge that someone like me exists.
I mean, look at me. I’m dirty. I am stained with the stench and tar of sin that I can’t seem to get off my hands, no matter how hard I try. I long to be righteous. I long to be pleasing to God. I long for a life that is free of sin and instead is glorifying to God.
However, it seems like as soon as we turn around, we are right back in sin. Often times, it is the same sin over and over. For you, maybe it’s cursing. Maybe it’s anger. Maybe it’s gossip, or gluttony, or pornography, or lying, or drinking, or on and on and on. There seems to be no end to how many times and ways we can fail. Even though I want to do what is right, it’s like my fleshly desires have a mind of their own.
I was recently asked to fill in and teach a Bible class one Sunday morning. To keep the class on track, I needed to cover Romans 7. Let me tell you something. If you have ever felt any of the feelings I listed above, go read Romans 7 right now. I learned something so real and so encouraging. You know what it is?
Paul had these same feelings.
Paul. The same man who wrote nearly half of the New Testament. The same man who was handpicked by God to be called an apostle. The same man who endured beatings, shipwrecks, and stonings for our Lord. The same man that is set by us on a pedestal so high that we struggle to even see the top.
Yes, that Paul. He struggled with fleshly desires. He longed to do what was right, but it’s almost like his body worked against him.
Listen to what Paul says in Romans 7:
“For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. […] For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. […] For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” [Romans 7:14-15, 18-19, 22-24]
Does it sound like someone found your private diary on the street and copied a portion of it to put in the Bible? I know it does to me.
But you want to know what comfort I find in this passage? This didn’t come out of my diary. This is Paul. The same Paul who did all those great things. He struggled, too. He dealt with the strong desire of wanting to do good but having to try and convince the rest of his body to go along with it. If he could go through struggles like that and still make a statement like “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” [II Timothy 4:7], then I know there’s hope. I can do this. I can overcome.
You want to know what else Paul said in the Romans passage? He gave the answer to the question of who would deliver him.
“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. […] There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” [Romans 7:25-8:1]
Hallelujah, what a Savior!
We can’t give up on this war that battles inside each of us between a sinful flesh and a mind that longs for righteousness. By ourselves, it seems like an impossible task. We want to give up. However, when we realize that a man like Paul had the same struggles, and we have a Savior through which the war can be won, a light begins to shine through the tunnel that leads to a heavenly home.
Keep your chin up. Continue to fight the battle. Work hard toward the joy of one day hearing the sound, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Excellent article and most encouraging. I too know what Paul felt and described in this passage. Keep up the good work!