Have you been in a battle of your will recently…struggling to flee evil and run toward God? Maybe you’re in that battle now?
I confess that in my weakest moments, I sometimes give in to the temptations of my flesh. I am human, after all. But all too often, I think we tend to use that as our “out”…an excuse to sin. At least I know I do anyway.
It’s as if the argument I have with the devil in my head seems to start like this, “you’re only human; what’s He expect of you? You can’t be perfect. Just give in this one time, and you can seek forgiveness afterward because He is always faithful to give it.”
Then when I do fail and succumb to the tempting of the devil, he keeps going by shaming me with my guilt, “you’re not good enough for God. He’ll never accept you back, look what you just did!”
And when I give in to that conversation, I forget what follows one of my favorite verses, Galatians 2:20, in verse 21.
I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.
Oh, how often I have treated the grace of God as “meaningless”. For you see, when we I return to our my sin like a dog to its own vomit, that is precisely what we I do. We I cheapen the grace…degrade the sacrifice…minimize the offering…undervalue and render worthless the gift that forgives and cleanses us me in His eyes.
As a dad, if I were to freely give my 6 year old son to die in the place of another person, I would expect the person he saved to live differently…not because he knew I expected it, but because he recognized the gift as meaningful…and as a natural outpouring of his appreciation for the love he was shown first.
Doesn’t God deserve the same from us me?!
A battle for our soul rages within us! We win the battle when we claim Galatians 2:20 as our own personal experience, crucifying our flesh and allowing Christ to live in us.
Speaking for myself here, I often…too often…fail Him in choosing poorly. When I fail to apply Phil 4:13 to my daily experiences during temptations, I take for granted and render meaningless the grace of God. I step off the path He has set out for me…even if only for a moment…and that first step is ALWAYS a slippery one.
When we take that first slippery step off the narrow path during a personal battle, we allow the flesh to succumb to temptation. It’s like we use Paul’s illustration of the battle against the sin within us (found in Romans 7:13-25) as an excuse to sin rather than applying it in claiming victory OVER sin through Christ in us.
Convicted of a recent failure of my own, this verse from Proverbs jumped leaped off the page at me:
Unfailing love and faithfulness make atonement for sin. By fearing the LORD, people avoid evil.” – Proverbs 16:6
Wait what?! How do an unfailing love and faithfulness atone for my sin, and more importantly, how do I achieve those two qualities in my character?
In having captured my attention, He hit me with this one five verses later:
The LORD demands accurate scales and balances; he sets the standard for fairness.” – Proverbs 16:11
And then again five verses later with this:
The path of the virtuous leads away from evil; whoever follows that path is safe.” – Proverbs 16:17
Which led to a bit of a word study that in summation looks like this
Confused? Yeah, me too. But bare with me for a few more thoughts, and we shall indeed be one blind beggar leading another to a morsel of nourishment.
Let’s dissect verse 6 word by word:
- Unfailing – constant; everlasting; never-ending; inexhaustible. We see God’s unfailing love for His people defined throughout Scripture, particularly in Psalm 117:2 and Isaiah 55:3.
- Love – love is so many different qualities that it is a book all its own really. Quickly defined for today’s purpose,
- Love is obedience (John 14:15, John 14:23-24, 1 John 2:3-6).
- It is NOT an emotion we feel or express; rather it is a choice me make (John 3:16).
- Love is God…and God is love (1 John 4:7-8).
- Because God is love, love is also confident and fearless (1 John 4:16-19).
- a steadfast loyalty (2 Thessalonians 3:3 and 2 Timothy 4:7)
- a firm adherence to promises (John 14:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:24, 2 Timothy 2:13)
- Atonement – forgiveness, reconciliation, cleansing (Col 1:20 and 1 John 2:2)
- Sin – an offense against God
Simply translated, verse 6 of Proverbs 16 says this…an obedience and steadfast loyalty in adhering to our commitment to sin no more cleanse us of our offenses against God and that people who fear the LORD will avoid evil.
Simple enough…until we question why we should fear the LORD.
Simply put, the answer comes five verses later in verse 11,
The LORD demands accurate scales and balances; he sets the standard for fairness. – Proverbs 16:11
We should fear Him because He is a fair and just Judge…handing down discipline to those He loves for breaking His commands. His justness requires atonement for sin, and His standards are fair and balanced…we are all held to the same standard. When we are continually disobedient, we demonstrate that we don’t love Him.
My sin deserves a punishment. I cannot accept the gift of grace and forgiveness and continue in my sin. What just judge would allow that? My debt is paid, but it does not give me free reign to continue breaking the law.
Our hope can be found again five verses later in verse 17,
The path of the virtuous leads away from evil; whoever follows that path is safe. – Proverbs 16:17
- Virtuous – morally excellent; righteous (Philippians 4:8 and 2 Peter 1:5-7)
But how do we “follow the path” when the temptations come?
When we turn from that which seeks to destroy us and instead seek Him, we keep our feet on the path. When we flee from Satan and draw near to God (in prayer and studying Scripture) Satan will flee us and God will draw near to us, filling us with His Spirit (see also 2 Timothy 2:20-22 about running from anything that stimulates youthful lusts, a study all its own but worthy of honorable mention here).
So the next natural question is, how do we do that…follow the path of the virtuous?
Success in this endeavor comes through proper pre-planning. God tells us to plan, then instructs us throughout the Proverbs that while we make our plans it is He who guides our steps and directs our path.
I’m a planner. I believe in planning for success…not just because God calls us to it, but because I’ve seen firsthand how planning well works in real-life applications.
In the fire service, we pre-plan everything. I mean…EVERY. THING. In particular, we pre-plan what we call our “target hazards”, our high hazard incidents and locations. Our pre-planning process involves the following:
- A Goal. What are our mission priorities? What’s the end game? The mission objective? The measure for success?
- A Response Plan How will we respond? What route will we take to get there? What alternate routes are available if our primary one is not available? What resources will we deploy to assist us in mitigating the problem?
- An Action Plan What are the steps we will take to achieve success? What actions will we implement to achieve the goal? What is the back-up plan when the first plan isn’t successful?
- Hazards. What dangers are out there waiting to entrap and entangle us? Where could we get side-tracked? Murphy says what CAN go wrong WILL go wrong, so how do we avoid those unnecessary dangers and pitfalls?
The saying rings true that “when we fail to plan, we plan to fail.”
Much like our efforts to pre-plan in the fire service pay off, God rewards us when we plan to avoid evil.
Which brings us full circle to find the answer in Proverbs 14:22:
If you plan to do evil, you will be lost; if you plan to do good, you will receive unfailing love and faithfulness.
There are those two qualities again…unfailing love and faithfulness! And it bears repeating because those two words started me on this day-long study.
Proverbs 16:6 says,
Unfailing love and faithfulness make atonement for sin…
and when we question how to achieve those two qualities, we come right back to Proverbs 14:22 for the answer,
…if you plan to do good, you will receive unfailing love and faithfulness.
In planning “to do good” we need to develop a plan that:
- Identifies our goal.
- Identities how we will respond when temptation comes and what resources we will deploy to assist us in achieving success.
- Identifies our Action Plan…what steps we will take to achieve the goal.
- Identifies what hazards Satan has lurking around the corner to ensnare an trip us up.
I encourage you to write your plan out.
Honestly, the entire process of typing this note out was as much for me as for anyone else. I followed the flow and bouncing back and forth of my hand written study because I wrote it out, but in taking the additional time to explain it to you, I better understand it myself. And in better understanding it, I can better apply it when I need it. I pray you can too.
Now, stop reading what I have to say about it and get to studying for yourself what God has to say about it.
Have you pre-planned your next response to temptation? I’d love to hear what practical steps you’ve put in place to ensure success in your faith journey.