When we initially trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, some fleshly patterns of thought, attitude, word and emotion may quickly pass away from our practice. Others, however, may remain a temptation to us, some for a long time.
We rejoice in the carnalities quickly eliminated. The challenges that linger, however, confront us in two ways. First, we must seek to overcome our particular temptations through the leading and power of the Holy Spirit. Regardless of how long we have been dealing with the issue (or how many times we may have failed), we continue to seek God’s grace to “through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13). We cannot change the past. We can trust the Lord for His promised forgiveness and cleansing, and we can live this day in expectation of His enabling. As David declared, “My expectation is from Him,” meaning that we anticipate today’s experience based not on yesterday’s failure, but on God’s presence in the present (Psalm 62:5).
The second front of challenge regarding lingering temptations involves the possibility of discouragement. While God is never responsible for our sins, the devil nevertheless tempts us to waver from trust in the Lord Jesus. We may feel we have trusted God, prayed and submitted to Him as best we can. Temptation and failures nevertheless continue, and our spiritual enemies whisper or scream that God has let us down. We may know and even affirm that this is not true. Still, the notion may remain in the back of our minds. If allowed to do so, we can be sure that it will work its way to the forefront of our thoughts and attitudes, leading to the discouragement that leads to flight from the field of battle. More importantly, we find ourselves discouraged from knowing our perfectly faithful God as He is, and from trusting Him without reserve.
Our Heavenly Father Himself left us with our flesh and its proclivities when we believed. Never is there an excuse or condoning of our sins, but there is understanding in God’s mind regarding the challenges we face. Most of all, there is mercy in His heart, and the patience that enables us to also endure as we remember that “the Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression” (Number 14:28). Thus, we do not give up because He does not give up. If we have failed 500 times regarding a particular fleshly matter, we still look at the possibility of the 501st challenge with expectation of God’s grace and enabling. We continue to trust Him, recognizing that this is the primary challenge that must be overcome if all others are to be faced in the attitude of heart that ultimately leads to triumph.
“He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”