A minister writes that he has struggled many years to overcome a particular sin. “I have read, prayed, confessed, wept bitterly, and even shared it with a close brother,” he writes — “all to no avail.” Finally, he resigned his pulpit and found other employment. Can I offer any encouragement?
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Jesus died for sinners. That makes me both glad and grateful, because I am one of those sinners. Because my sin grieves Jesus my Savior, I would like to avoid it and rise above it. Yet I have found it quite impossible to conquer sin by my own strength. Like quicksand, sin seems to increase its grip the more I struggle. The only way to victory over sin, I have learned, is to bring the temptation to God and submit my will to his Holy Spirit with a prayer that he take control. Such a prayer goes something like this, on a repeated basis, as often as needed.
“Lord, I have this struggle against ____ sin. I cannot resist it in my own power. No matter how I determine in advance, when the moment comes, I find myself wanting to do the forbidden thing. I cannot desire to do the right thing myself. Lord, I honestly do WISH to DESIRE to do the right thing. I am WILLING to desire to do the right thing. But you must empower me to have a godly desire when temptation comes. I yield my WILL to you. At this moment, please give me the desire to do what pleases you.”
This approach involves trusting, not trying — and it is always effective. God answers such a prayer by his believing child with supernatural strength and grace. For “though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” And since “the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal body through his Spirit who indwells you” (Rom. 8:10-11).