Saved and Strugglin’

Being virtuous is no feat once temptation ceases.Heavy Lifting
– Arnold Glasow

When I asked God to remove my temptations, He answered by allowing more of them to come, and in stronger forms, and more often. I said, “Thanks a lot” and I could swear I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Anytime, Kid.” But He also did a major, life-changing work in me. He empowered me to deal with temptation, rather than remove it, and I got stronger and humbler in the process. Stronger because my resistance abilities grew; humbler because my reliance on Him becomes clearer than ever when the Nasty beckons.

The goal is to be strong, not temptation-free, and the only way to know you’re getting stronger is to be pushed further than usual.

You start by curling a 50-pound barbell. It gets easier each week; you add more reps; you think you see some growth in those biceps. But until you try curling the 60-pound barbell, you can’t know for sure that you’re getting stronger. So you finally pick that baby up, stagger a little under its weight, but are delighted to find you can now curl what you couldn’t earlier. And all because more was required of you.

Today’s temptations are your barbells. And until they come, perhaps in a “stronger than ever” form, you can’t really know you’re getting better.

“Blessed is the man that endures temptation; for when he is tested, he shall receive a crown of life which the Lord has promised to all those who love Him.” -James 1:12

That’s why I encourage my clients not to expect an end to temptations, much as we’d all like that. But since we still carry our old nature, inherited from Adam and lovingly referred to as “the flesh” in scripture, we can expect them. Holiness, then, is not an absence of temptations; it’s a response to them. So the kind of man I am is revealed both in the fact that I’m tempted, and in the way I choose to handle it.

I’m a sinner saved by grace, a fact attested to via the sort of temptations I battle. I’m also a new creature, evidenced not by the absence of sinful tendencies, but by the presence of a new nature which cannot find peace in sin, and will not, in the end, tolerate its ongoing practice, not matter how strong the temptations.

I remember, for example, staying in a hotel about ten years ago which offered porn on the tv and, worse yet, featured ads for its “Adult Movies” in the trailers it showed over its regular programming. The clips were raunchy enough in their own right, and they were just what I didn’t need to see, a point I said out loud as I snapped the television off.

Which didn’t end the temptation to hit the remote’s on-button and look again, then keep looking, And since it had been years since such material was anywhere near me, the pull towards it felt like a riptide. How easy it would have been to turn the set back on, drink in the images, and tell myself that if I didn’t actually order the product, but only watched the previews, then it wouldn’t really be so bad. Sniffing the brandy is a far cry from drinking it, a rationalization thousands of men comfort themselves with when they compromise.

“How shall we who are dead to sin live any longer therein?” – Romans 6: 2

But my new nature, in concert with the Holy Spirit and a bit of common sense, kicked in bigtime, prompting me to call the front desk and ask that the Adult Movie service be turned off. Then I sat on the edge of my bed, sweating and disgusted with myself over feeling so drawn towards something so filthy.

That’s when it hit me: I’d just curled the 60-pound barbell! By then it had been over 10 years since I’d viewed porn, and in my day to day activities since then, I’d had no access to the stuff, so the temptation level was usually a mere 50 pounds or less. But this time, at this point, there it was, a bigger barbell than I was used to lifting, demanding I give it a shot. I struggled – hate to admit it, but I surely did – just as I struggle when lifting a heavier weight than I’m used to. But what do you know and God be praised, I lifted the sucker.

Never in a million years would I have made that decision were it not for the new nature He birthed, born of His Spirit and washed in His blood, as one of my favorite hymns declares. And while I hate the fact something I’m so opposed to could still have any appeal to me, I also love the fact He gave me the power to say No to the tasty poison.

You can’t know you’re getting better until you’re tempted and respond differently to the temptation than you would have before. It’s just for now – a fact I repeat to myself daily and often – and someday the 60, 70 and 90 pound barbells won’t be necessary. Our glorified bodies will need no work, our sinless state won’t be “temptable”, and sin itself will have been banished.

Until then, a few more reps, heavier perhaps, may be called for. So be it, because like it or not, that’s how it happens. See you at the gym. I hope you have yourself a good workout today.

“You have not yet resisted unto blood striving against sin.” -Hebrews 12:4

 

Comments

  1. Another great word, Joe! I love the analysis and the connection between lifting weights and being tempted.

    Blessings!

    Wayne

%d bloggers like this: