Warring Tendencies and Spiritual Airs

Rebecca Van Noord

2 Kings 3:1–4:17; Mark 14:22–50; Proverbs 6:6–11

“I will do this!” I declare as I resolve to get in shape, eat better, save money, study and meditate on the Word more, journal more, read more. My plans escalate, growing grander in scale and depth. Although I succeed in them for a while, I easily become overwhelmed when I can’t live up to the inflated vision I’ve projected for myself.

It’s especially easy to do this spiritually. It’s simple to hand out godly advice with a spiritual air, to speak wise words about past failings (read subtext: “Look how far I’ve come!”), and to talk about personal growth. But when we mess up on a colossal scale, it’s humiliating and surprising to all—especially ourselves. “What happened?” we might ask. “I was doing so well!”

Simon Peter had a tendency to make grand plans: “Even if they all fall away, certainly I will not!” he declared, proclaiming his loyalty to the Savior (Mark 14:29). They’re words to fall flat on your face by. When Jesus found the disciples sleeping, He knew who needed the reprimand and the warning: “And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you sleeping? Were you not able to stay awake one hour? Stay awake and pray that you will not enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak!’ ” (Mark 14:37–38).

Jesus’ reprimand should have exposed Simon Peter’s pride, which was parading as loyalty. For all his exuberant claims, Simon Peter lacked true understanding of his nature. When he considered his spiritual state, he was optimistic about his own efforts. No one was more humiliated and more surprised than he when he later betrayed Jesus around a charcoal fire to curious strangers.

Our desire to follow Jesus is not the problem. Instead, it is our competitive nature, our pride, that needs to be repeatedly humbled. We need real understanding of our spiritual state—a picture we shouldn’t try to project in any other way—coupled with a total dependency on Him. A war is being waged inside of us. We can only win because of what Christ has done and because of the Spirit’s work in us. To God belongs all the glory.

Are you spinning your sin, making it seem less dire than it really is?

This article was originally posted in Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan.