There is something about trying to diet that makes losing weight more difficult—so I’ve heard anyway. There is something about trying to not look at a woman that makes lusting more difficult—as I’ve experienced (yes, I am male). Focusing on discarding deceit from my mouth actually causes me to abstain from the truth.
When I focus on that with which I struggle the most (in order to defeat it), I inevitably mess up again—and then I find myself entrapped (guilty) even more. Furthermore, when I focus on that with which I struggle in addition, I inevitably mess up again—and I find myself entrapped (enraged) even more.
Why the wrath? In our finite minds, the guilt that is associated with committing a recurring problem again (or out of habit) isn’t as bad as committing the same recurring problem after consciously planning to avoid it. For example, if my struggle is swearing, and I decide to concentrate on keeping swear words from spilling out of my mouth, I feel more guilty when one happens to come out than I would A) had I not consciously said to myself, “I’m not going to cuss anymore,” and/or B) had I not taken the time to make specific plans and goals to remove filthy language from my character.
“I don’t understand because I know I am stronger than that” is the ‘internal expletive’ phrase.
I, for too long, have gone through this vicious cycle—and I am SO glad to have finally realized the key to escape. The most ironic part—I’ve known it all along. Let go. Let go of this crazy obsession of thinking I am ‘strong enough.’ Let God.
I’ve always wanted to know what fuels the fire of someone who did not grow up knowing the good news, but later was taught. I’ve always been jealous of their fire. Now—you can be jealous of me. But I don’t want you to be jealous…so please keep reading.
I am beginning to realize just how much I have considered the Bible to be a rulebook for my life. I have constantly battled with ‘doing good’ in order to gain God’s favor. I have always felt guilty when I fall short, when I mess up. I have always tried to be perfect on my own—and I have never succeeded. I have never been truly happy.
I am beginning to realize just how much the Bible should be considered a narrative. What I have forgotten is that God’s favor does not have to be gained. The entire message sent to the Jews and Gentiles in Rome verifies that fact—over and over and over and over again. The entire point is that none are righteous, and the only chance at righteousness that any man has is through joint communion with God.
Our Sunday school class has been going through this very book. While in chapter two, we spent most of our time discussing the inherent risk we all have of ‘becoming like they were.’ (I don’t know about you, but the phrase “Doesn’t that remind you of us sometimes?” is quickly becoming one of my in-class pet peeves). In doing so, we failed to see the big picture. Now, I recognize the fallacy of expecting to cover the entire book in one class sitting, but I must emphasize that understanding the big picture of any message is difficult when the message is broken down and explored in parts. 99 percent of Bible teachers go through a book to discuss the lessons that are taught and the rules to follow each day. I am human. Even if I could remember every single rule and every single lesson, I know I will mess up—otherwise I’m setting myself up for failure and my ensuing burning frustration. I didn’t like learning what I already knew. I didn’t like learning that I could be a sinner like those early Christians—I didn’t like it because I don’t like it. The big picture of Romans is very simple: We ARE like they were. We are not perfect.
The Jews were not concerned with avoiding hell and finding heaven. Paul articulates in 16 chapters everything that will convince them that a spiritual shift has taken place. The Jews had become so concerned with following the rules that they lost sight of the big picture; namely, that a Messiah was coming, that they should be on the lookout, and that they should follow Him. As such, they lost sight of the majestic wisdom of the new and better covenant. They had lost sight of the simple (love) because of focus on the complex (tradition).
I now have true happiness. Though still not perfect, I can attest to the peace that surpasses understanding that results from simplicity. The burden that once was “I need to evangelize, avoid this and avoid that” has become, “Lord, I give these struggles to you as I allow your Spirit to intercede in my place.” I have truly been in awe within the past month having experienced—I’m almost sure for the first time—a yearning for the Word of God. No longer do I feel constrained to read my Bible, nor do I find it as difficult to avoid sin. This compulsion to find God has, consequently and naturally, drawn me away from the worldly pleasures more than ever. Genuinely. Simply.
“There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and make his soul enjoy good in his labor.” “Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is needful for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is Jehovah? Or lest I be poor, and steal, And use profanely the name of my God.”
When I read in Don Miller’s book “Blue Like Jazz” how he had spent a month or so in the Oregon wilderness near a resort, I was reminded of these two verses (which I only recently have come to internalize). Having learned that a guy can earn enough money cleaning resort room toilets and feeding on the leftovers of past residents, I learned that there is so much more to less.