WONDERFUL THING IN THIS PASSAGE – I heard about a young country boy who asked his mother if he could go swimming in the river on the way to school the next day. She said no, it was too dangerous by himself. As he went out the door early in the morning, she noticed the waistband of his swimsuit sticking out above his pants. When she stopped him and asked if he’d heard her tell him not to go swimming, he explained, “Oh, yes ma’am. This is just in case I’m tempted to disobey.”
He apparently wasn’t familiar with Romans 13:14: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and don’t make plans to gratify the desires of the flesh.” Isn’t it interesting how we sometimes undermine and even sabotage our desire to live for God? We cling to things we love but which we know we’ll probably use to sin – we wear our swimsuits under our clothes – “just in case.”
There’s a war between sin and righteousness going on inside each of us. And there’s a predictable sequence that will result in our defeat: “Each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death” (Jas 1:14-15). What an effective four-step formula for disaster:
- Entertain harmful desires.
- Consider tempting possibilities to fulfill them.
- Eventually dive in.
- Suffer the consequences.
Peter lovingly suggests that we stop the process when it is easiest to do so, at step 1: “Dear friends, I urge you … to abstain from sinful desires that wage war against the soul” (1 Pet 2:12).
WONDERFUL THING IN OUR LIVES – Just like Paul and James – and you and me – Peter knows by personal experience about the war within, and he urges us to stop carrying the enemy’s ammunition. Just throw it down and walk away.
The Lord brought these four things to mind that can help:
Be realistic, alert, and prayerful. – Despite your best intentions and resolutions, you are susceptible to that four-step formula. “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt 26:41).
Look for God’s way out. – “God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor 10:13). The first and best way out is usually “abstain from sinful desires.” (See the Wonderful Thing for day 144 for more on this verse.)
Live in surrender to the Holy Spirit. – “Walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal 5:16).
Know that God is on your side. – And He’s fiercer than any enemy you face: “The LORD advances like a warrior; he stirs up his zeal like a soldier. He shouts, he roars aloud, he prevails over his enemies” (Isa 42:13). He’ll always win the battle for you, unless you fight against yourself.