As I’ve struggled with sin over the years I’ve leaned how true God’s Word is. I’ve known the Word is true in my mind, yet it’s both exciting and scary to experience its reality. Scary refers not to God but rather what I may have to suffer because of my sin because God carries out His discipline on His children. Although I have a fear of what God can do, I’m comforted to know someone loves me enough to correct me, and His correction, will not be more than I can bear. Experiencing the living Word of God is also exciting: many times I’ve seen God’s hand reach down to provide an escape of the temptation at hand.
Why then, do I sometimes miss His escape and sin? Many I know state that it’s our fallen nature and that’s just the way it is, yet I’m not satisfied with that answer. Scripture tells us to choose whom to serve: Josh 24:15; Rom 6:16. While I know we have a sinful nature, I know too, that God has promised an escape through our Lord and Savior 1Cor 10:13. As I look back on my past failures when temptation overwhelmed me or when I escaped the strong pull of temptation, I noticed a difference. The ultimate difference was in me at the time of the temptation: my sincere determination to end the particular sin. Lest I be misunderstood, at no time was it in my own ability to overcome sin, but in the reliance in and obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Two such examples of temptation in my life, which I find myself continuously at battle, are anger and lust. With one I have much success and the other I have much struggle. As for my lust, I need to apply what I learned back in the late 80’s regarding my anger. I had an enormous temper, which I had no control of, and God convicted me of it. He was ready to change it and so was I, yet I struggled to do so and called out to Him for aid. His answer provided me with a way to control my temper but more than that a way to deal with each of my sins and overcome them successfully. I didn’t stop my anger over night, but within about a month or so I had great success.
My experience went something like this: I would get angry, uncontrolled anger, then regret it, confess it to God and repeat the whole process over again the next time. It was frustrating! Like Paul in Romans 7, I wanted to do right but didn’t. One day in despair, I called out to God, how can I stop this sin? He caused me to realize the sin was against God and not just the person I was angry at. Secondly, He told me to confess my sin to the one(s) I sinned against. Up to that time I only confessed my sin to Him. Thirdly, He told me to confess it each time I did it, if once in a day then once, if one hundred then one hundred. I must confess, that was not easy to do. I must have confessed to my mother sixty or seventy times that first week, but by the end of the month, I was not doing it much at all. I was amazed! And it was exciting!
I’ll never forget, Lord willing, after that time, I actually gained control of my anger. What I mean is, before that month I reacted, without a chance to stop the reaction even when I consciously wanted to stop. After that month, I had something happen that never had happened to me before. In a tense situation, when I would have gotten angry, I had a moment, as if time was standing still, to consciously think: do I want to respond with anger or do I want to respond with love. It has been amazing, wonderful, and awesome to have that ability. And what’s better God has passed on that ability for use in all of my temptations. Before it seemed, I had no choice, I now know I have a choice. And even more, I’ve noticed, the more I’ve exercised the choice of responding God’s way in that split second, the stronger my desire is to obey the next time and the times I’ve given into temptation, the harder it is to obey the next time. It seems to me, the more I use the muscle the stronger it gets. Praise God for His goodness.