I am a quitter. In some ways I am, at least. There are parts and places in life where I will maintain a stubborn determination to the end (like, say, this whole blog every day thing I’ve been doing). But there are others where I give up, where I can too easily quit. And one of those places is in the battle against sin. Certain sins, anyway.
I believe that God blesses obedience. I believe that God has blessings stored up for those who are faithful to obey his commands. He is a good God who loves to give good gifts to his children. I want those gifts, the most precious of which is that closeness, that relational nearness to him. As I put sin to death and come alive to righteousness, I find that I draw ever closer to God so that I know him better and trust him more. Conversely, when I ignore sin, foster it, or refuse to confess it, I find more and more of that disquieting sense of relational distance. Of course I do, because sin is always aimed at God, always aimed at declaring independence from him. The joy of obedience is the joy of nearness; the curse of disobedience is the curse of distance.
I want the blessing and the joy that comes with obedience, with conformity to Christ. The question is, do I want it enough to endure temptation for it? I like to obey when obedience is easy. I like to obey when obedience is a matter of a quick and simple yes or no or when it is a matter of refusing those things that are not much of a temptation anyway. But what about those times when obedience requires endurance? What about those times when the blessing lies on the far side of a long, alluring temptation? That’s exactly when I am tempted to quit.
And in those times I need to remind myself to hold on. I need to cling to God’s promises. I need to remind myself of the joy that waits on the far side of the temptation. I need to assure myself that obedience is worth it and that disobedience always disappoints.
I speak often with young men who are almost drowning in sexual temptation. And I want them to know that God blesses obedience, but that blessing comes after endurance. Blessing is waiting beyond the temptation. I want them to know that if they just endure the temptation they will learn that God’s promises are true, that he really can and does satisfy. But if they sin now, if they succumb to the temptation, they will never know, they will never learn, they will never experience that sweet joy and fellowship.
I speak often with people who are battling other sins—sins like anger, perhaps. When they are experiencing the temptation it seems like satisfaction will only come by giving in. They are in a situation where they are being needled, where frustration is growing, where tempers are fraying, where it seems for all the world that they can only be satisfied if they blow up and vent some steam. But once again God promises there is greater satisfaction in obedience than in disobedience. But they have to endure to discover it, they have to hold on. God wants them to cling to his Word for just a little while, and then they will see. But they won’t see if they won’t hold on. Again, the blessing is just beyond the temptation.
I speak often to myself in those areas where sin is especially tempting to me. And I remind myself that I need to hold on. I think sometimes of Jacob who had to wrestle with God all night before he would receive his blessing (see Genesis 32). Like Jacob, I want my blessing now. But sometimes God gives the blessing only after I have endured. And when I do endure I invariably find that God’s promises are true, that his presence is near, that obedience was so much better than disobedience. I am never disappointed.
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