Article by Pastor Tom DrionElder at GraceLife London
When was the last time you told someone how much you hate your struggle with your sinful flesh? Brits typically keep a stiff upper lip. We don’t admit to our struggle. That’s tragic because we all have a struggle going on.
If you haven’t noticed it yet, the Apostle Paul didn’t think he was fine, and he didn’t say, “I’m fine” when he was talking about his struggle with the flesh. It’s true that he taught Christians to take their eyes off things below and fix their eyes on things above (Colossians 3:2). Yet when we paper over the cracks in our life and keep up an “I’m fine” front, we are not truly acting biblically.
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Paul knew exactly where he stood in Christ, and was continually fixing his eyes on Him. Yet he also admitted to others - publicly - that he had struggles! “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” He told people on other occasions that he was, “hard pressed on every side,” “perplexed,” “cast down.”
In some Christian circles, if Paul were to share this kind of detail about his struggle, he’d be looked down on. In other circles, church gatherings are more like twelve-step recovery programs, and there seems to be no expectation of victory. The right path is to hold both truths tightly: the reality of our struggle with the flesh, and the certainty of our victory in Christ. We need to be able to share our struggles. We also need to be able to give and receive encouragement. We even need to learn to encourage ourselves! Here are five guidelines to help us get the balance right:
1. Make sure you understand your struggle biblically
Your problem is your “flesh” — the remaining sinful nature that you will carry with you until you die. Listen to some sermons on sanctification from trusted bible teachers. Read a book on sanctification Mike Riccardi’s “Sanctification: The Christian's Pursuit of God-Given Holiness.” If we don’t understand our struggle correctly, then we’re easy prey.
2. Learn to speak about yourself humbly
Many of us need to repent of the pride that causes us to want everyone to think we always have it together. Confessing our struggle will be painful to our pride, but that’s good.
3. Learn to talk about your struggle truthfully
On the one hand we mustn’t overplay our struggle, as if it’s impossible for us to do what’s right. It is possible. We fail because we fail to depend on the Holy Spirit correctly. We fall because we’re stupid. Confess that to someone and you’re telling them the truth. On the other hand, we mustn’t underplay our struggle as if we had it all sorted. Until you get to heaven that’s just not true.
4. Choose who to talk to carefully
Unbelievers won’t understand your struggle. While gossips might listen attentively, they will then share it widely. A faithful brother or sister, however, will take the opportunity to encourage you and pray for you. Oftentimes, it’s when you overcome your pride to share your struggle with another believer that the bonds of fellowship are forged most strongly as they side with you (and the Holy Spirit) in your struggle against your flesh.
5. Find others to encourage you regularly
We’re supposed to encourage one another daily as long as it’s called today (Hebrews 3:13). Seen another way, we need daily encouragement! Who will you be encouraged by today? If that’s a strange thought, then you need to start being honest with more people at church than you have been so far. In your struggle against your own flesh, you need some more people on your team.