The Spirit Is Willing, But the Flesh Is Weak

Let’s take a test. For years, a man makes a habit of going camping on Sunday rather than attend church. One Sunday he sees a mountain lion coming toward him. He says, “God, if you will get me out of this danger I promise that I will start going to church every Sunday.” As soon as he finishes that quick prayer, the mountain lion calmly walks away.

Now here’s the test question: Do you think that man will honor the “deal” that he made with God? The answer is: There’s a pretty good chance that he will go to church that first Sunday, but if nothing else changes he won’t keep up the attendance for long.

You see, it takes more than a quick moment of desperation to create a lasting turnaround in your life. As a pastor, I’ve seen so many people who were going through difficult times make grandiose boasts about what all they were going to do for the Lord if He helped them out of their messes. But how many of those boasts actually came to pass, even after the Lord gave the help? Maybe there were two or three, but right now I can’t even remember there being that many.

One Sunday morning I preached and gave an invitation, and a woman promptly made her way to the altar and knelt for prayer. When I went over and asked her why she had responded to the invitation, she told me something along the lines of she wanted to dedicate herself more completely to Jesus. She was crying hot tears and her face was something of a mess from the running makeup. I knew that she was sincere. I also knew that she was a good Christian woman who had some areas of her life that could have been more submitted to Christ’s lordship. So I prayed with her and asked the Lord to help her be even more devoted to Him. The emotion of the moment was almost palpable.

But did that woman even show up for the evening service that same Sunday? No. As I looked around the sanctuary that night and didn’t see her, I was in virtual disbelief. That was the moment when I truly understood for the first time just how fickle and inconsistent we are when it comes to serving the Lord.

Jesus knows us all too well. On the night of His arrest, He took Peter, James, and John into the garden of Gethsemane with Him and said to them, “Stay here and watch with Me.” Then He walked alone a little further into the heart of the garden and prayed, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). Following that prayer, He returned to where He had left Peter, James, and John at their watch post. And what did He find? Rather than keeping diligent watch, they had all drifted off to sleep.

After a fairly strong rebuke, Jesus summed up the problem by saying, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). In my opinion, those words perfectly describe why that Christian woman didn’t come back for church that Sunday night. Her spirit was willing, but her flesh was weak. When she had devoted herself more fully to Jesus in the altar that morning, she had meant it. In that moment, she couldn’t have meant it any more. But, unfortunately, that moment had soon passed and the rest of her life had come crashing back in upon her.

I’m saying all of this to encourage you to work at eliminating the fickleness from your walk with the Lord. Try to avoid the roller-coaster devotion that marks the lives of so many people. I know that your flesh is weak. So is mine. But we can’t keep using that excuse to consistently fail the Lord and not live up to the commitments we have made to Him. And, by the way, we needn’t expect Him to keep sending mountain lions to keep us committed either.

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This entry was posted in Backsliding, Change, Church Attendance, Commitment, Discipleship, Faithfulness, Obedience, Personal Holiness and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Spirit Is Willing, But the Flesh Is Weak

  1. SPTP2011 says:

    Great thoughts – I was just thinking and writing about Back-sliding and how we slip slide away

    Back Sliding Away

    Do you remember a song by Paul Simon called Slip Sliding Away? Here’s the chorus lines: God only knows – God makes his plan – The information’s unavailable – To the mortal man – We work our jobs – Collect our pay – Believe we’re gliding down the highway – When in fact we’re slip slidin’ away.

    We all believe God has a plan for our lives. He promises in Jeremiah 29: 11: For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

    But, sometimes, we feel like we are slip slidin away. Why?

    Hebrews 10: 32-35-39: Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised … we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

    We have been given Confidence and Perseverance and a Promise. God saved our lives through Jesus resurrection. He makes things right. God takes our “side” because we stand our ground in the face of suffering. When we are at the end of our rope, He pulls us UP. Yes, we can believe we will be gliding down the highway, the Love Highway; the gift of a Gracious God.

    Psalm 16: 1-2: I love God because he listened to me, listened as I begged for mercy. He listened so intently as I laid out my case before him. Death stared me in the face, hell was hard on my heels. Up against it, I didn’t know which way to turn; then I called out to God for help: “Please, God!” I cried out. “Save my life!” God is gracious—it is he who makes things right, our most compassionate God. God takes the side of the helpless; when I was at the end of my rope, he saved me

    Thank you Pastor McKinney – God is impressing these thoughts into me today

    • russellmckinney says:

      I don’t know the song as well as you do, but yes I’ve heard it. Like you, I’ve had the Lord use some secular song that I know to really drive home a spiritual truth. And isn’t it just like Jesus to take a common, everyday thing like a song and use it as a teaching lesson? When His class is in session, all of life really is subject matter.

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