FIRST-PERSON: The struggle within

by Keith Shorter, posted Friday, May 03, 2019 (one year ago)

EASLEY, S.C. (BP) -- I'm still not sure why I did what I did while eating lunch with my wife.

While looking at her as we were talking, I reached to my right to grab the red ketchup bottle. But I had actually picked up my red water glass and proceeded to pour ice water all over my french fries!

The water soaked my fries and spilled onto the table and the floor. My wife asked the obvious question: "Why did you do that?" I gave the obvious answer: "I don't know! I just wasn't paying attention."

What made matters worse was when the waiter came over to help clean up the mess. He said, "I will bring you another glass of water. Do you want that in a sippy cup?" It got even worse when he brought the check to our table. "Would you all like a to-go cup?" Then he looked at me and said, "So you could spill it in the car?" It was only by the grace of God that I smiled and left him a tip.

That's the way life is. Have you ever done something foolish that made no sense and you can't explain why you did it? You certainly hadn't planned on doing something that would cause you so much embarrassment. It just happened, and you're left shaking your head wondering, "What's wrong with me?"

Then to make matters worse, people pile on. Family, friends and coworkers all have something to say about your behavior, and that makes you feel even worse about yourself.

That's what's so amazing about God -- He doesn't pile on when He has every right to. We are people who somehow have incredible worth to the living God, even in those times when we pour ice water on our french fries.

I can certainly relate to what the apostle Paul said in Romans 7:15: "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do" (NIV). Paul had some type of inner struggle with sin that he could not win. At least, not on his own. In verse 24 he makes a statement about his condition and asks an important question: "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?"

Paul realized that willpower is not enough to defeat the sins that are defeating us. Desiring to live right and deciding to do so are noble steps to take in changing sinful practices, but they're usually not enough.

We need to do what Paul did and ask the right question. Please note that Paul asked a "who" question, not a "what" question in verse 24: "Who will rescue me from this body of death?"

When we have inner struggles with sin, we tend to default to the "what" question most of the time. "What can I do? What can I read? What can I change?" The "what" question is easier because it leaves you in charge.

The "who" question, on the other hand, expresses dependence on someone else. It's important to note that Paul didn't say, "I need someone to help me." He said he needed someone to "rescue" him. We have to understand that when it comes to sin, we can't win.

The only way to conquer what is conquering us is through someone who is stronger than we are. Paul identifies our rescuer in verse 25: "Thanks be to God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord."

If you are struggling with something right now, let me remind you that though you may feel helpless, life is not hopeless. The empty tomb is proof of that.

Several years ago, I wrote these letters in my Bible -- TJCOL (Through Jesus Christ Our Lord). They serve as a reminder that God never intended for me to live the Christian life on my own. Perhaps today would be a good day to write those letters in your Bible as well.

Keith Shorter is pastor of Mt. Airy Baptist Church in Easley, S.C., and a former president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
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