Do you ever experience those moments of intense temptation to sin (whether it’s worry, anger, lust, etc.) and find that, although you know you need to set your mind on Christ, you cannot think of the biblical truths necessary to do battle in your heart? In those moments you need God’s concrete promises, the specifics of the gospel, but for one reason or another everything that enters your mind is like a cloud coming of the coast that dissipates in the summer sun.
I have found that the best way to handle those moments is not to waste valuable fighting-time wandering around in your mind until you find something solid and pertinent to your struggle, but rather to create a stack of 3″ x 5″ cards that help you make war with your sin. I know this is old school (I’m sure you can do this with an app of some kind if you’d like), but I find that I need to act fast when I’m being tempted and these pre-written truths help me cut through the ambiguity. In order to do this it would, first, be helpful to know what sins you struggle with most, so you can better tailor the cards to your precise needs.
Here are the categories of cards that I am using currently:
- Bible verses – Remember, these verses do not have to use the name of the sin you struggle with in order to help you. So, don’t just look in the concordance in the back of your Bible and copy down the verses under “fear” or “bitterness”. Use texts that remind you who God is and what Jesus has done for you.
- Wise words – These are pithy statements of wisdom in reference to my sin struggles that I have collected from Christian books or blogs.
- Instructions – These are simple, direct instructions to myself (based on Scripture), telling me to do something specific in service to Christ. Often times, battling temptation keeps us so focused on the fight that we are hindered from practicing active obedience to God, when that may be just what we need to draw near to him in faithfulness. Tip: make sure that if your heart is not in the “doing” that you ask God’s forgiveness and prayer that he would bring it in line with your actions.
- Prayers for others – Since sin is ultimately proud and selfish, praying for others can helps direct our focus away from ourselves.
When you were in junior high and high school there were certain homework assignments and lectures you endured with rolling eyes because you thought, “When am I ever going to use this in the real world?” With much of that content you were wrong and you’ve experienced firsthand the usefulness of knowledge you once thought irrelevant. But with other aspects of your education, you were right and you have not really seen any return on the time you spent studying certain course objectives. The truth is, there are things we learn in school that we don’t use or rarely use, and so there’s not a direct pay-off for having learned that material.
This is not the case for the time and energy we put into pursuing godliness. Let me remind you of a Bible text you’ve probably heard before: …train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
According to God, when you discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness you get a return on that investment now in this life and in eternity. There will be things in this life that you give your time and energy to and never see a benefit, and still other things like “bodily training” that have some value to us in this life but fall short of benefiting us in eternity. But giving your time and energy to godliness has benefit that transcends this life into the next. I’m not talking about a cash return or a return that looks like the things in the world we so often lust after, but true return… like joy and peace and more blessing to worship God with.
The question of how to prioritize our lives is really an investment question. What can I spend myself for that will bring me the most benefit as I seek to glorify the God who loves me and sent his Son to save me?
Let us remember as we invest ourselves that the ultimate goal of this life is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, so my intent in writing these things today is not to turn you toward self-centered pragmatism, but to help you see that working for godliness (by God’s grace) has the most benefit only because godliness means becoming more like Jesus and becoming more like Jesus means obeying the Father and delighting in him. This is where the benefit is found… in God. Discipline for the purpose of godliness is the best investment because it has its end in God and God made us for him.