Chapter 13 – His Part and Ours
In order to have our minds fully prepared to do battle against addictive desires and the sin that dwells in our flesh, we must understand clearly what God will do for us, and what He expects us to do. I have heard numerous people who were struggling with various sins declare, “I have asked God to take this away from me time after time, and it has not gone away.” I have heard this confession in reference to the desire to drink, or to do drugs, and even from those who are struggling with anger.
I wrestled with the question of what God would do for me, and what He expected me to do, for many years. As a young man struggling with sexual lust and an attraction to pornography I sought diligently to understand this matter. I sought the counsel of pastors and church elders, but never received the answer I needed. I looked for books on the topic, and I even found one that had the same title as this chapter, but I was disappointed when I read the book and found that it was not written to answer the specific questions I had.
My upbringing in church had left me confused concerning the matter of what God’s role was in my overcoming sin, and what my own part was. I had heard ministers declare that we must be like Paul who prayed that God might remove his thorn in the flesh. I have found that this is the mindset of many struggling with addiction. Their response before God is to simply ask Him to take the evil desire out of them. When they have prayed this many times, and the desire has not gone away, they are often left confused and doubting. This was my own experience while wrestling to overcome a desire for pornography.
Adding to my confusion was the testimony of many men and women who declared that when they became Christians that some sin they had been enslaved to all their lives was suddenly gone. I have heard reputable accounts of men who cursed like a sailor all their lives, but when they were born again of the Spirit the desire to curse left them, and it was never again a problem. I have heard of men who were marvelously delivered from alcohol or drugs or cigarettes in the same way, and I believe these accounts to be true. I could not understand why God would not do the same in my life, as I had asked Him many times to take away the impure sexual desires.
It wasn’t until later years when the Spirit began to open my eyes to see the parables in Scripture that I understood the truth of this matter and received the long sought after answer. The answer to my question was right before me in the account of the Israelites going in to take possession of the land of Canaan. As we have seen, the land of Canaan is a type and shadow of man’s flesh. It is in man that Christ seeks to establish His kingdom. The enemies we face are those sinful desires and passions that reside within our flesh.
As the Spirit began to open up to me the parable of Israel’s battles, I saw an amazing thing. There were times when God drove some enemy out of the land without Israel having to lift a finger against them. Following is one such account.
“Then I sent the hornet before you and it drove out the two kings of the Amorites from before you, but not by your sword or your bow.”
Without the Israelites having to enter into battle at all, God defeated these two enemies in the land of Canaan. Yahweh completely drove them out by sending hornets into their midst. This story finds its parallel in the lives of those men and women who have been marvelously delivered from some besetting sin without them ever having to fight a battle against it.
The Spirit revealed to me through Israel’s history that although He may choose to drive out some of the enemies in the land of our flesh in this way, He will never drive out all the enemies in this fashion. He will always leave some enemies in the land that we might learn spiritual warfare. Yahweh left some enemies in the land that Joshua’s generation did not drive out fully. He did so that future generations might also learn warfare.
Now these are the nations which Yahweh left, to test Israel by them (that is, all who had not experienced any of the wars of Canaan; only in order that the generations of the sons of Israel might be taught war, those who had not experienced it formerly)… They were for testing Israel, to find out if they would obey the commandments of Yahweh, which He had commanded their fathers through Moses.
This is clearly a spiritual parable for the Christian today. Yahweh wants all His children to experience spiritual warfare. In this way we will not only grow strong and skillful in the weapons of our warfare, but Yahweh will prove those whose hearts are fully given to Him. If we love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength then we will not rest until all the enemies have been routed. If we do not love God it will be revealed in our lack of vigor in seeking to rule over the flesh. Yahshua said, “If you love Me you will keep My commandments.” He has commanded us to rule over the flesh.
As you seek to overcome the desires in your flesh you must understand that God would not have you to pray that He would take the desire away. If He has not freely removed an enemy in our flesh, then He would have us to do battle against it. To ask God to take away the struggle would be similar to an Israelite facing an enemy and saying “God, I don’t want to fight this enemy. Please make them go away!” God will not do such a thing. He wants you and I to learn spiritual warfare.
There are many Scriptures in the New Testament that pick up this analogy of the Christian overcoming sin being like a soldier engaged in a battle. Our weapons are not physical, like a sword and a spear and a shield. The Christian has been given spiritual weapons.
II Corinthians 10:3-5
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…
We are not fighting against a physical enemy. We are waging war against passions and desires and thoughts. Our weapons are those that will enable us to destroy every thought that rises up against the obedience of Christ.
Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit…
We will look at the weapons of our warfare in more detail in a later chapter. For now we want to make the point that God will not deliver you from addiction without you having to practice warfare. It is vain for a Believer to constantly ask God to remove the desire, or evil passion from their flesh. He wants you to cast it down. He wants you to destroy it, and He has given you everything necessary to face this enemy and prevail.
Satan will seek to tempt us to sin, and he will suggest thoughts to us that are contrary to the will of God. There have been times when some impure thought would enter my mind and I would cast it down only to have it appear again. At times this warfare would last for hours. In this way Satan seeks to probe for weakness. He wants to see if our commitment to obeying God has limits. God also wants to reveal the same thing, so He allows Satan to attack us. We must remember that God has promised to always set a limit to the trial that we might be able to overcome, but we will be pressed severely at times. The Scriptures declare:
Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
This is a promise. If we resist the devil he will flee. However, there is no word here that indicates how long we must resist before he will flee. I have learned that Satan hates to be defeated. When he has determined that we are not going to give in to his attacks, he will cease attacking us in a particular area. If he has any doubt, and he believes he might win, he will continue to press us relentlessly. The best thing we can do is to determine to never give the enemy any hope of victory. When he sees our commitment to obey God, he will tire of attacking us.
In college I took a psychology course and we studied operant conditioning. Tests were done on rats to study their behavior. It was discovered that if a rat pushed a button and received food from it, they would always come back to that button and push it again. If they pushed a button and never received a food pellet, then they would give up and never go back to pushing that button. However, if there was a button that gave pellets randomly, sometimes providing a pellet, but other times not providing a pellet, the rat would keep pushing the button until he received what he desired. Even if he had to push the button 99 times before receiving a pellet, he would persist because he knew that it would eventually release that which he sought.
Satan operates much the same way in our lives. If he has any hope that in persisting to push our buttons that he will entice us to abandon our obedience to Christ and give into temptation, he will keep on doing so. When he sees there is no longer any hope of producing the desired result of sin, he will give up. Satan’s role is therefore beneficial to the Christian. By his attacks he serves to reveal if there is some area of our life where we are not fully committed to obedience.
God wants to prove our love for Him. He could have driven all the enemies out of the land of our flesh when we first came to Him. His goal, however, is not merely to have a land devoid of enemies, it is to have mature sons and daughters who love Him and are fully committed to Him. For this reason He requires that you and I engage in the battle. In this way we are made strong spiritually, and our love for God is proven.