I have struggled most of my life with my will. My will wants what it wants, when it wants it and for some reason me and my will do not always agree. Very rarely, in fact, do we ever agree. There have been times throughout my life that I have fought my will and won, but then there are those times when I have fought and lost the battle, more wounded then when it begun. For instance, many years ago, I was a smoker. I fought and lost more times than I care to admit with my will over that one. But one day, I decided that no matter what I was going to win this battle and my will was going to do what I wanted it to do for a change. It worked, and I am now a very happy and healthier non- smoker. But then, there is this other drug called sugar that I struggle with. My will loves it. It loves it in every form it comes. It loves it in cupcakes, cookies, Little Debbie cakes, and especially in our famous southern sweet tea.
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped form the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desires. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:3-8 ESV
How many of us have set out to do something, to achieve some goal and only found ourselves right back to where we started from? When I tried quitting smoking, I would do good then I would give up and give into the desires that my body had. I would cave to the temptation and fall right back into the same bad habits. I haven’t changed much in that department! I may not smoke, but the unhealthy habits are still there! I start out strong, resisting the urge to eat those cookies, but December comes and I fall right back into the same pattern of sugar and sappy movies! I have, over the years, let this keep me down. I have let my will win and I have allowed it to condemn me. I have told myself repeatedly how worthless I have become to just waste away so much of the Lord’s precious gift of time, not to mention the harm I am doing to my body by constantly eating that much sugar! But there I am, sitting on the couch, letting my will have the best of me, as I spoon another mouthful in. Oh, wretched woman that I am! How do I finally win this battle with my will?
I will never win this battle with my will until I am ready to fight. I struggled all those years with smoking because, deep down inside, I didn’t want to give it up. I knew the Lord was prompting me to lay them down and trust the goodness He had waiting for me on the other side of obedience. But I was afraid. I didn’t want to let go of what I knew was working and take a chance on the unknown in front of me. The battle we have with our wills is not so much a battle for power, but more a battle for position. When God clearly shows us an area of our lives that He wants us to let go of- whether that be an area of sin, a liberty that you once had freedom in, or the simple pleasures of sugar- He is asking us to trust in His promises of something better for us. But, our wills become fearful because what we are doing today is comfortable, we know the consequences and we are safe where we are, we like the sugar, and maybe, deep down, we even like the sin. Our will’s want to keep us in fear. But God calls us to live in faith. When God asks us to put something down, or to walk away from a sin in our lives, He is calling us to take a leap of faith and trust that what we leave behind cannot be compared to the glory that is before us. If we are ever going to win the battle with our wills, we must firmly believe that He who is in us is greater than what we face right now. We must have the courage and the strength to trust God enough to walk to the other side.
Peter’s word fill me with much encouragement because, I will be honest, I struggle with trusting the Lord more than I care to admit. But Peter encourages us that all that we need to fight this battle with our wills is already in us. Within each one of us, as believers, is the strength we need to live the life He has prepared for us. Ephesians 2:10, my all-time favorite verse, reminds us that He has a plan and a purpose for our lives, all we have to do is walk in it. We must trust Him enough to know that what He calls us to lay aside, to put down or to obey Him in is greater and more valuable than anything we are fighting to hold onto. Within every one of us is the courage we need to walk in obedience, the hope we need to keep pressing onward and the mercy we need to pick us up when our will knocks us down. It is in us already because He is in us! We can overcome these desires and temptations because He has overcome them first. We can have victory to walk away from that sin, or to turn off the TV, or to not put that tub of ice cream in our grocery cart, we can have the victory because He is the Victor!
Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior walked this earth and showed us how to resist the desires of His will and His flesh. Yes, He was God. Yes, He was perfect and sinless. But we have His Holy Spirit, His divine nature living in us and through us. All that we need to fight off our wills is already in us, we only need to have confidence enough in His ability and trust in His promises to win this fight. We have to be determined enough and ready to face whatever comes our way in the pursuit of this obedience.
There is nothing wrong with setting goals, making resolutions or starting that diet one more time. Peter tells us that we must add to our faith the characteristic of self-control. This is not an area of my life that I have excelled in. Obviously, when it comes to sugar and Hallmark Movie Channel, I have absolutely no self-control whatsoever. But I want that to change. I no longer desire to live my life wasting away behind a bowl of fat (no matter how delicious it is!). I want more. I want to live in the very precious promises of God so that I might become a partaker of His diving nature through Jesus Christ my Lord. I want to be so into Jesus that you have to go through Him to get to me.
But without self-control that is never going to happen. We all know the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5, and according to Peter they are already in us, we just have to make the choice to use them. God has given us everything we need to live this life in obedience to Him. But without self-control, without the willingness to master the desires and passions we have, we will end up right back where we started. But it’s more than just having the ability to resist. It’s also the ability to continue to resist. I would put those cigarettes down for a week, and then pick them right back up. I have gone off sugar for a few days, and picked it right back up. I have turned off the TV and chosen to read His word many times before, but where do I end up? Right back where I started from. The desire was there, but the determination to keep going was not.
Peter says that in addition to self-control we need to add steadfastness. It is easy to get distracted from your goals and take the easy road. But God calls us to make a decision and stick to it. Isaiah describes Jesus as setting His face like a flint when it came to obedience. He knew that God would help Him, and there was nothing to deter Him from the purpose God had put before Him. (Isaiah 50:7) Jesus knew what He needed to do and He gives us the perfect example of how to walk it out. He set His face like flint. He was determined that no matter what, no matter who tried to talk Him out of it, no matter what temptations He faced, He knew God’s will and He was determined to walk it out. His unshakeable confidence in the promises and power of God was the strength He needed to be nailed to that tree.
Self-control cannot be achieved without a determined willingness to confidently trust that God has the power to get us through to the other side. There is a saying among us Christians- “If God had brought you to it, He will bring you through it.” He has given you everything you need to live this life of obedience before Him. I have everything I need to live this life, to fight my will and win this battle once and for all. Will I succeed? I am sure there will be times where I fall, but I know my God and I know He will help me. I have fought my will once before and won through the strength and courage He gave me. It was through prayer and a confidence in His Spirit being with me that got me through the first round, and it will be through prayer and confidence in Him that I will win this next one too.
We have been given “all things that pertain to life and godliness” but it is not until we come to a confident knowing of His diving power working in us that we can lay down our wills, walk away from the sins that bind us and walk into the life of obedience which He has called us to. We must resist the desire to take the easy road, and choose to put our feet upon the narrow path. He has already given us everything we need to make this journey. All we need to do is trust that He will get us through everything that comes before us. We can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens us. (Philippians 4:13) Amen?