image by Elizabeth Lies from Unsplash
When I first read about Jesus's last night in Gethsemane, my low opinion of the disciples sunk even lower. Three times? They fell asleep three times during this intense scene? Picture it as you would a Hollywood movie: the shadowy leaves of the garden, the dramatic splashes of moonlight, the mysterious rustling noises, the anguish on Jesus' face as He prayed, the sweat like drops of blood glistening on His face, and the underlying tension of what was about to happen--the greatest event that the world has seen so far--and ruining all that moonlit mystery and suspense and emotion, a half-smothered snore from Peter (he would!)
And the fact that they did this repeatedly, despite being gently but earnestly reproached by Jesus each time-- I mentally facepalmed on their behalf.
Then I got older, and I found myself reenacting the disciples every morning during prayer time, every Sunday during worship. I exaggerate, but we all know the very real struggle of staying awake--such a basic, humiliatingly simple thing really. We blush to admit it, but it's painfully obvious, so much so that our admissions aren't even needed...when we nod off so hard that we bump our head against someone's shoulder, or drop our pen with a deafening noise, or can't seem to stop our head from falling forward!
Search the Scriptures asked what was the reason for the disciples' repeated failures, according to Jesus; and how does that apply to us, being in a similar situation?
"Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
When I was a young(er) Christian, I did not realize it but the only times I prayed about sin were when I had to ask for forgiveness. In other words, I didn't like to consider it until it was unavoidable, until it had already happened, until I had clearly failed. Despite the significance of grace, and its liberating power, I think our pride and self-reliance is so much a part of us that even as Christians, we cling to it without realizing it. We hate to confront our weaknesses. We like to assume that "next time," we'll be more prepared, we'll have more self-control; I just didn't try hard enough this time, I can do it next time, I will be stronger next time...
And we unknowingly reject grace.
We push the cross away a bit further. We fall back into the same self-reliant, self-confident, and fruitless mentality of the Pharisees, living each day treading on eggshells, trying desperately to prove that they can control themselves completely, that they can be free from sin, that they do not need Christ.
Although God values our hearts' emotions and desires--"a broken and contrite spirit...You will not despise" (Psalm 51:17) when it comes to dealing with sin, it's not enough to merely have a willing spirit, as the disciples demonstrated. Jesus knew that they desired to overcome temptation, as His words and the gentleness of His tone indicates. Having good desires in our hearts, but simply hoping for the best and assuming our self-control will have our backs when temptation hits is naive.
Humility. Our first step is to humbly admit our weakness, our propensity to sin, our instinctive obedience to the call of our old slave driver even though we no longer belong to him. Admitting our weakness enables us to prepare ourselves realistically, without relying on delusions of our ability and strength of will. As 1 Peter 5:8 reminds us, the devil is constantly on the lookout for the best opportunities to send temptation our way--when we are complacent, when we are distracted, when we are tired, wallowing in self-pity, feeling wronged, struggling with jealousy... Realizing just how vulnerable we are, and what are our weaknesses that are most prone to manipulation, is necessary if we want to resist such a vigilant and strategic enemy.
Watch and pray. With this humbling but eye-opening awareness of our own unreliability and vulnerability, we prepare ourselves for temptation even before it hits, knowing just how often and how subtle it is when it comes. Watchfulness implies the purposeful preparation for and awareness of possible crisis. Which sounds rather extreme if you're trying to apply it to not falling asleep during sermons, but if we were watchful, instead of hazily promising ourselves that next Sunday we'll do better, we might try sleeping earlier on Saturday night, or asking a friend to help us stay awake (swallowing our pride in the process!) or focus on writing better notes. Or we might find ourselves staying awake for the simplest and best reason of all, that we are watchfully waiting for something we can learn, something that can help us.
Watch and pray. There's a reason why the two come together. Mere watchfulness by itself is exhausting and ineffective, because it becomes yet another self-centered, self-reliant form of legalism. But watchfulness rooted in humility, and more importantly, grace, empowers us. We turn instinctively, naturally, to God for help.
Keep me from sin today, Lord. I'll try, but I need Your help. You promised us that the Spirit would be given to us for this. Give me the strength and the steadfastness to be loyal to You, to remember my love for You, when other desires drag at me, when emotions shred my resolve and distort my priorities.
My spirit is willing--help me be stronger than my flesh.
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
Click to set custom HTML
ALL IMAGES FROM PINTEREST UNLESS OTHERWISE SPECIFIED. THANKS, PINTEREST!