Sure, there’s a specific name attached to it. But trust me, any number of names can be substituted in place of yours. The message, while personal, is also general in nature, because so many Christians fall victim to the same trappings, bro. So here we go.
Last week, Sunday School teacher, Ms. Angie, gave the children’s church kids a week long homework assignment. The kids were charged with memorizing Matthew 26:41. If you don’t know it by heart, it reads like this in the NIV:
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”
Billy, your flesh is weak. My flesh is weak. Everyone struggles with the flesh in one sense or another. As Christians, we’re supposed to stay close enough to God to recognize when we’re being attacked. That’s basic Walk with Jesus 101 stuff. The word of God is how we learn to determine what is good for us versus what is bad for us. God doesn’t just randomly allow weird and disappointing stuff to happen to us. More often than not, we are the cause of our own discomfort, by way of blatant disobedience.
Example: When the car breaks down, is it an act of God, or did I seriously forget to check my oil levels for four straight months?
Example: When my lights are suddenly turned off on a Tuesday afternoon, is it an act of God, or could it be the four new pairs of Jordans in my closet plus the new Playstation and the new motorcycle?
Example: She dumped me because she said I’m irresponsible. Was that an act of God, or was she tired of taking the bus to work because my car is collecting dust in the back yard; she’s tired of listening to my new Playstation at 2AM; and she’s tired of me wearing Jordans every time we went on a date? Oh yeah, she also hates motorcycles.
Example: My boss just fired me. Was that an act of God, or could he have been tired of me posting negative commentary (about my job) all over Facebook?
When we became Christians, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. He is our paraclete. That simply means he is there to turn us away from danger, in all its shapes and forms. Danger doesn’t always announce itself with bells and whistles. Sometimes, danger is so silent you don’t even know you’re in it until its too late. You have to remember brother, Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy. He’s like a master chess player. He can spot your best move 4 moves before you make it, and counter it before you even realize the game is lost! I tell you this so that you can get a grip on why it is so important to pay attention to the direction of your paraclete. The Spirit knows when you’re about to make a bad move, and He warns you. But some times man, we’re so stupid…we ignore His direction away from evil. Then, and really this is the funny part, we act surprised when things go upside down in our lives!
So let me get back to the homework assignment. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” I must have read that scripture at least 20 times in the past two years, but this week it took on a whole new meaning in my life. See, I figured if I was going to help my kids with their assignment, I might as well take it to heart myself. So I got down to brass tacks. I started honestly looking at all sorts of areas of my life where I feel like I’m falling short. Looking in the spiritual mirror is not always a fun activity. Sometimes, we hate the reflection. That mirror is the word; you get it? The mirror is the Word. The bible tells men how we should behave in matters of marriage, family life and basic manhood principles. Man, I’m falling short in all three categories! So the best thing for me to do, is to keep on reading. But reading alone doesn’t cut it. See, I’ve gotta live out what I’m learning. Quite frankly, that’s where the divide comes in: the struggle between the spirit and the flesh.
My flesh says, “I can’t believe this dude just wrote that garbage on Facebook! I have to attack that!”
My spirit says, “Who are you to tell him right from wrong, Mr. Pharisee? Shut your mouth!”
My flesh says, “I feel bad. Let me post my sorrow all over social media.”
My spirit says, “Why? You want someone to fix your problems? Come read my word!”
My flesh says, “Pay day! Time to go buy…”
My spirit interjects, “…yeah buy another month in the house; another month of lights, food, and internet; another month of car insurance!”
My flesh says, “Eh, I got all day to read that scripture.”
My spirit says, “Read it now. God may be trying to warn you of an upcoming attack.”
You see how this works, brother? Too often, we spend too much time listening to too many prods from the flesh. Now you take those four examples, which (by the way) are very real situations in my life, and erase the immediate responses of the spirit. I honestly wouldn’t make it to the third temptation, because the first one would cause so much trouble, I’d be too consumed by it to do anything else. Right there, Satan’s got me hemmed up by simply responding negatively to a Facebook post. He doesn’t even have to get to the point of talking me out of reading a scripture for the day, because I’m already doing his bidding!
Billy, there is real power in the word of God, brother. Everytime you or I shirk the word, we give Satan dominion over our circumstances. I know this personally. That’s why I’m always hastling you about getting in your word. Let’s get really personal for a moment. You’re about to get a few visits to your page.
I want you to go back through your FB posts for three days; just three days. Now, I want you to look at not only what you post, but look at the responses and conversations. This is going to tell you what’s really important in your life, and who your real friends are.
Now, go to your pastor’s page. Look at his posts. You won’t find three consecutive days worth of stuff because he’s busy doing the Lord’s work, Amen. But just check out what he does post to Facebook. Look at the responses and conversations.
The bible says, “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”. Look at your posts. Look at pastor’s posts. Your posts tell the world where your heart is, young sir. And right now, the devil is laughing at you, because he knows where you are. But that’s not the worst of it. Being the master chess player that he is, he actually knows where you’re going to be next week, because he’s allowed you to be here before.
Yeah, that’s right. I said he’s allowed you to be here before. Do you know what that implies? That implies that you’re so deceived by his danger, that you actually think you’ve been behaving like a genuine Christian.
That hurts. I know, because I had to admit it for myself. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s the proof. How many times have you stumbled over the same issues in your life? How many times have you looked for someone’s kind words to make you feel better, whenever you trip over those same blasted issues? How many times have you put off actually studying the word, because you thought of something better to do with your time?
Life doesn’t lie, brother. The Israelites walked an 11 day journey for 40 years, because they couldn’t get it right. But you know the sad part? Even in their punishment, God took care of them. They were just too stupid to see His love covering them. I don’t know about you, but I would love to be able to buy a pair of pants that lasted 40 years worth of Michigan weather!
Dude, its time. You have to stop circling your own personal desert. You have to become mindful of what you do and say. Watch and pray is specific. It means watch everything including your own motives. It means pray for everything, including your own motives! Your spirit is willing. You have the spirit within you. I’ve seen it. But your flesh is weak, and you simply haven’t learned to deny some of the basic temptations of the flesh. He can’t give you what you desire until He’s confident you can handle it on your part.
Do you know what I would do if God delivered 1 million dollars to my doorstep right now? Probably unspeakably ignorant things. That’s why God keeps me financially dependent on Him. He knows me, and I’m smart enough to know when He’s protecting me from my own flesh. Now if I continue to grow in Him, who knows. Maybe He will deem me worthy of a raise. In the meantime, I’m going to continue to do what He tells me to do, when He tells me to do it.
You gotta get there, brother. There’s no choice in the matter. You claim to be Christian, so you have to continue to grow in the faith. That means you have to do what your flesh hates to do. I know life kicks us in the balls pretty hard some times (sorry ladies). But that’s what Satan does. We have a responsibility, to God, to learn how to fight Satan. Otherwise, how can we honestly claim Christianity if you’re not doing what Christ instructs us to do?
Take a look at your personal life for a moment and assess. How much time do you spend talking about or thinking on the things of the Lord versus, oh let’s say, sports? Since this weekend is going to be “Fast and Furious” weekend for you, did you invite Jesus to at least quote a few scriptures during your brief intermissions? Do you remember any quote from last week’s sermon?
If you’re feeling convicted by any of those questions, then you know you’ve got man-work to do. Get to it. Ask for help if you need it. You have amazing people in your corner. Show some initiative toward God, and watch how He loves you right back, brother. Do anything different! Just get your butt off the sidelines, roll up your sleeves and get on the side of truth for real!
It will be hard, but you have a paraclete to walk with you. You’ve got family and true friends to help you. But, no one can do it for you. That’s what your life has been about up to now: having someone tell you exactly what to do. When David got into trouble, he didn’t run home to Jesse. NO! He cried out to the Lord! Then he did whatever the Lord instructed him to do. Time to be David, Billy. Time to strap on your armor and join the real men and women of the Christian world, brother.
Starting a life changing task can be just as daunting as the task itself, if you don’t know where to start. Well I just might have a suggestion for you.
MATTHEW 26:41 (NIV) – “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”