Why Struggling Against Sin Is Better Than You Think

“I’m still dealing with the same sins I’ve had all my life.”

“Join the club.”

“But you don’t know the sins I’m still committing.”

“I don’t have to. I’ve got my own.”

“Not like mine, you don’t.”

“Right. Yours are special.”

“Exactly.”

“You want advice about what to do with your special sins?”

“That’s why I asked you to meet me for coffee.”

“Get over yourself.”

“Is that it?”

“There’s more.”

“I hoped so.”

“Thanks for buying me coffee.”

“You’re welcome. But can’t you be serious? I’m struggling here.”

“That’s good.”

“You think it’s good that I struggle with sin? You’re supposed to help me!”

“All right, fine. Tell me how you struggle with sin.”

“I thought you said it didn’t matter what sin I was struggling with.”

“It doesn’t. What I want to know is how you struggle against it.”

“Well … sometimes it’s emotional, like I start feeling like I’m missing out on something everyone else has. I know that’s not true but that’s how I feel.”

“What do you do with those feelings?”

“Do with them?”

“Do you like them? Indulge them? Analyze them? Reject them?”

“I’ve never thought about it much. I guess sometimes I catch myself in time to realize I shouldn’t go down that path.”

“And other times?”

“To use your word, I indulge them.”

“What happens when you indulge the feelings?”

“I sin.”

“What happens when you don’t let yourself follow the feelings?”

“I don’t sin.”

“Which comes more often?”

“What do you mean?”

“Do you catch yourself more than you let yourself indulge?”

“Sometimes. Maybe. I mean, it seems like it’s getting better sometimes and then I go through times where it seems to be happening constantly.”

“Would you say you struggle more now than you did before?”

“What do you mean? I’m struggling all the time!”

“Are you struggling more against this sin now than a few years ago? Overall, I mean, not comparing your worst moments now with your best moments then.”

“I guess.”

“I think your struggle against sin is a good sign.”

“How can you say that? I thought I’d be free of this sin after all these years.”

“I’m older than you, so can I give you a little bit of advice?”

“Like I said, that’s why I wanted to meet with you in the first place. Tell me how to stop.”

“Sorry, but that’s not my advice.”

“You don’t think I should stop sinning?”

“No, I don’t think you should stop struggling. The way I see it, every time you struggle you acknowledge you belong to Jesus, that he loves you and wants better for you than the sin could deliver. Your struggles testify that the Holy Spirit is in you, working against those sins.”

“I’d rather God just make me stop.”

“You’d rather be dead than have God work in you?”

“Not when you put it that way.”

“Every time you struggle and succeed, you have given in to God that much more and sin that much less.”

“But why?”

“Why?”

“Why does God work like that?”

“Because he’s kind.”

“Kind? What’s kind about letting me sin?”

“His kindness is proven every time you struggle against sin. It’s his kindness that leads to repentance in the first place, according to Romans 2:4, and your struggles are a sign that you want to repent.”

“Sure they are. Even when I give in and sin.”

“You think I’m painting too rosy a picture? A struggle against sin is an agreement with God that his ways are better, and that’s a start on the road to repentance. Sometimes you take a step down that road and sometimes you don’t. But eventually you will complete that journey.”

“You sound more confident than I feel.”

“I’m confident in God’s grace. Read the second part of Titus chapter two: it’s grace that teaches us to say no to unrighteousness.”

“I haven’t learned the lesson, apparently.”

“Teaching is not an instantaneous event. Teaching is a process. And God is a gracious teacher.”

“And I’m getting a failing grade.”

“No one who belongs to Jesus gets a failing grade.”

“Except me.”

“There you go thinking you’re special again, so hear this: everybody’s sinning.”

“I haven’t been able to stop, and that means I failed the lesson.”

“It means you still have a lot to learn. But you’re not getting an F. No one does, because there is no condemnation for those in Christ, not even for those still struggling against sin. That’s one of the main points of chapters six to eight of Romans, isn’t it?”

“I guess.”

“I know.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“I must know something. Why else would you buy me coffee and sit here listening to me for so long?”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning that if I were a fool, would you have even bothered asking me to meet with you? Because if so, that would make you foolish too. And you know I don’t think you’re anything of the kind.”

“You don’t? Even after all I told you about struggling with this sin for years?”

“I like what it says in Ephesians 4:2 – ‘Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.’ We’re in this together, with God and with each other, because he loves us all. You’ve just realized that you still have a lot to learn.”

“So what do I do next time?”

“Next time you let me buy the coffee.”

“Not what I meant.”

“I know what you meant. And I think you know what to do. Keep up the struggle.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s all I got. And I’m serious about letting me buy the coffee next time, because it’ll probably be me who needs your help with something I’m struggling over. Just be there for me.”

“That I can do.”

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13 Responses to Why Struggling Against Sin Is Better Than You Think

  1. JYJames says:

    Lovely. With my girlfriends, it’s tea. Buy the tea next time.

  2. Good stuff. Worth way more than a cup of coffee! Thanks, Tim.

  3. Brady Mayo says:

    Thank you for this article. I needed to hear this today.

  4. Laura Droege says:

    I really like the line about how teaching is a process. It’s difficult to remember that at times.

    One related question, though. What is the difference between indulging in the emotion versus working through the emotion to get to a place of healing? I suppose I’m thinking of several layers of emotion that need to be acknowledged for healing to take place. For example, say I’m angry and tempted to sin by that anger. But the anger is based on an event that sparks memory of a similar event from my past.

    It’s covering other emotions: fear (that this situation will turn out exactly like previous ones did) and grief (that the previous events happened at all and that I lost a great deal as a result). So is it indulging in it to feel the anger, fear, and grief? How does someone work through the emotions of this event (and the previous ones) without indulging in them? How does someone get “unstuck” such that when “trigger events” occur, the trigger isn’t pulled? I hope that makes sense. This happened yesterday, BTW. Sigh.

    • Tim says:

      Dealing with those emotions is a godly act. It’s the situation where you know from experience that indulging them inevitably leads to a repeated sin that I think is the problem to avoid.

  5. Struggling with sin is a distraction from getting on with real life and its challenges. I have wasted so much time, energy and emotion on this one and the attendant loss of self-worth has merely made me depressed and sapped any ability to function in a positive way.

    T

    • Tim says:

      Good perspective, in light of Hebrews 12 where we’re told to cast off the sin and turn our eyes on Jesus. Sin should never be our focus, not even our struggle with sin. Jesus should always be our focus.

  6. Jeannie Prinsen says:

    I like the part about the struggle being an acknowledgement that God’s way is better. And there’s so much grace in knowing that we don’t have to perform or earn, but just be willing to let God take us on the journey to where He wants us to be. “No one who belongs to Jesus gets a failing grade”: that is a great antidote to shame.

  7. Please pray for me, my family and for that young woman.

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