It is a regular occurrence in my life to become discouraged, grumpy or apathetic. In those times, I know what the Bible teaches me – to turn to God, to ask him for help, to lean on him:
“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.” Psalm 34:17
I’ve even experienced great joy when I have done those things. I can recall several times when I felt upset because of a fight with my wife, or a bad day at work and all I could muster was to pray “God please help,” and he did! And yet, despite the wisdom of God which teaches me what to do in times of trouble, and despite my past experience of help and answered prayer, I find that when I’m discouraged, grumpy or apathetic, I don’t want God or his help or his ways. I just want to sit and watch a movie, fall asleep, play on my phone or some other mindless activity that I believe will help me feel better. It does feel better momentarily – it would be disingenuous to suggest that those things don’t feel good – they do. The problem is that it doesn’t really fix my problems – it just kicks the can down the road and I have to face my feelings later. The Apostle Paul had something to say about this:
“For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. ” Romans 7:19-20
Paul suggests to us that there is an evil living inside us – our sin. I continually forget that this flesh I live in is evil, wants to selfishly serve only itself and in the end it actually produces only death for me. In fact I cannot actually do anything good apart from Jesus himself – it is not possible:
” As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. ” John 15:4-6
So it is actually quite natural for me to not want God – to forget everything he’s done for me and reject his word – because inside me dwells sin which is good for nothing but to be thrown out and burned. Don’t be surprised then when you experience a desire to reject God and do only what you feel like. That is the voice of the sin within you, which we all have, and have all had since the very beginning.
“The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?[a] And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to[b] you, but you must rule over it.” ” Genesis 4:6-7
God has called us to rule over this sinful nature. There is a battle at hand and the enemy is in our own flesh. This battle can’t be fought with anger, strong muscles or big weapons. The battle has actually already been won by the work of Jesus on the cross, we need only to call out to him to rescue us. And we get to fight right alongside him with the weapons he gives us. He gives us the following:
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. in all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” Romans 6:13-17
Truth. Righteousness. Peace. Faith. Salvation. Spirit (God’s Word). It’s a battle and the sin in us wants us to lose – in fact our sin has already caused us to lose. So we have only one hope – to call out to our hero, Jesus Christ and pray for rescue.
Remember that it is normal to want to reject God. It is normal to want to turn inward and to find joy in small comforts and selfish living, especially in hard circumstances. But it is deadly. Remember the verse about Cain and Abel? Here’s what happened when Cain did not turn to God for help:
“Cain spoke to Abel his brother.[d] And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.” Genesis 4:8
If we fail to turn to God in those times when we don’t want to, our sin will produce death. Jesus has defeated sin and death, and if we will turn to him he will defeat it each and every day for us.
Dear God remember our weakness in our flesh and help us in our time of need. Only you are strong enough to defeat our enemy. Please rescue us and have mercy on us for our sin. Amen.
“Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. For their sake he remembered his covenant,and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love. He caused them to be pitied by all those who held them captive. Save us, O Lord our God,and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise. Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, “Amen!”Praise the Lord!” Psalm 106:44-48