I caught a post from a friend the other night which grabbed my attention and with which I identified with a little more than I would like to admit at times. Her frustration came through in the post - not because she was ranting at something others had posted, but because she found herself having reached a point of "failure" in her life. What came through loud and clear in the post was the fact she has been this route before! There was something so honest in her post - the ability to admit she was at the end of her rope - traveling an all too familiar path right into the compromise she knew would lead to this exact place of disappointment. Wow! Been there, done that, bought the shirt, and wore it out! Somehow, I felt directed to this passage this morning as I awoke with this friend on my mind and others who also might be at the place of having fallen just one more time. I hope you will take heart as you read this with me.
But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. (Romans 7:17-25 MSG)
The truth is - we all need something more. We know what is right, but we somehow keep doing what is wrong. I like the way Paul puts it - sin keeps sabotaging our best intentions. Sabotage is just an underhanded interference from some force. When Paul says sin keeps sabotaging our best intentions he is simply stating there is some "interfering" force which makes our "best intentions" a little feeble at best. Maybe the most telling point in this statement is the idea of sin counteracting our intentions. You see, intentions are nothing more than mental determination - they aren't really totally connected to the heart and often not connected to the spirit. We make all kinds of "mental determinations" in life - the truth be told, we actually act on very few!
The point I'd like us to see in this passage is the very next statement - "...I obviously need help!" Truer words could not be spoken! We don't have what it takes - this is why we keep falling! We make all kinds of mental commitments - but these commitments can get easily misplaced or sidetracked when something else takes over the space in our minds. We can only "think" so much about a commitment we have made. Will yourself to avoid the chocolate bar in the refrigerator simply by mental commitment - go ahead, do it! You spend more time thinking about the chocolate bar than you do anything else! The problem with mental determination is the "space" the determination must occupy in order to be effectual in our lives. I have found I get distracted pretty easily - so mental determination is not the best way to "fix my fix".
Paul puts it very plainly - my decisions don't result in the actions I had hoped for because of some "internal" influence which "comes along" and distracts me from my commitment to my decisions! Now, tell me you haven't been on this trip yourself! You have heard me say this before, but it bears repeating: The loudest voice gets our attention the quickest. The problem with this is that God's voice is still and small! So, if we are to listen to the right voice, we need to learn where it is we hear it the best - I assure you it is not in your mind! Your mind is one mess of a jumbled up bunch of voices - sorting these out takes some work! Your heart, on the other hand, is quite closely connected to your spirit, so the best place to hear God's voice is when we draw near to him in our heart and allow him to enter into our spirit.
We don't find answers to our failures in any better source than in his presence. Failure is just an open door to bring us to a place where we move from our minds into our hearts and spirit. Somehow failure gets us out of the clouds - there is not as much attention turned toward the mess in our minds, because we find ourselves humbled and hurting. This is the place we end and God begins. Humbled hearts and hurting souls are his business! He delights in taking the pieces we are left with and putting them back together again. The thing is - he doesn't put them together in quite the same order again, though! We tried putting the pieces together OUR way - each time finding ourselves humbled and broken. Maybe it is because we weren't meant to find the right "fit" for the pieces - only he was!
I guess we all need to hear these words now and again. It saddens me to think we have to fall in order to hear them, though. Yet, even in the failure, there is a redemptive quality - when the failure is an open door for God to begin afresh in us what we could not do through "mental determination". Just sayin!