Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Question . . .

What advice would you give someone who has tried over and over to break a bad habit?  Too much alcohol, too much food, too much Internet time, porn, gambling, gossip . . . The list of habits is endless. I'm talking about things that control a person's decisions, things that keep them from changing their lives and being more content. These are things a person wants to stop but just can't.

This question hit me at church today. The teaching was about discipline.  Believe me, I'm all for discipline. I need it badly.  I also have it to some degree. A person can't write to a deadline without plopping one's butt in the chair and doing it on the days when the ideas are flat and the plot just isn't happening. I'm also sorely lacking in discipline when it comes to dawdling on the Internet and healthy eating. I don't like to cook, which leads to unhealthy snacking.  I'd rather wolf down peanuts and string cheese than stop to make a salad or a turkey sandwich. A bowl of cereal is a lot easier to fix than a veggie omelet.

So back to that question . . . What do you tell that person who has failed over and over again?  Do you give them a pep talk?  Do you say, "If you don't succeed the first time, try, try again?"  Do you tell them they wouldn't sin if they had more faith?  Do you tell them that they're dishonoring God and their faith? 

Or do you say what Paul said in Romans 7?  To paraphrase: "I do what I don't want to do, and I don't do what I do want to do . . ."  Man, I relate to that!

I also relate to Romans 8 . . . it's here that Paul reminds us that Christ died to set us FREE. We're spiritual beings as well as fleshly beings. We struggle with that dichotomy, but Christ defeated sin on the cross. That's a little Christian-ese-y.  Maybe a 12th Step Program paraphrase would help:  We admit we're powerless over sin and humbly ask God to remove our shortcomings.  HE did / does the heavy lifting. We approach the throne of grace through prayer and his Word, but when push comes to shove, He's God and I'm not.  I can try and try and try to do what's good for me, a.k.a. uphold the law, but I'm doomed to fail without the work of the Holy Spirit. 

Paul understood this when he wrote, "You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?"  After starting out with a strong faith in the work of Christ on the cross, the church in Galatia slid into trusting their own efforts to uphold the law. 

I don't want to be a Galatian.  I also want to be 20 lbs. lighter.   So . . . a prayer: "Lord, here we go again. Help me to lean on you and not my own strength. Help me to choose wisely. Help to resist those old stupid habits. Amen."

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