As believers, how do we manage the battle that goes on inside us? Paul made the perceptive observation in his letter to the Christians living in Rome:
Romans 7:19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.
It wasn’t just the Christians in Rome who struggled with this. Paul also addressed how to deal with this inner turmoil in his letter to Titus:
Titus 2:12-13 [The grace of God] teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age
I think we all want to say “No” to the things we know aren’t good for us. Living a life that is self-controlled, upright, and godly certainly seems like an attractive alternative…but we also have some doubts about that kind of life. We wonder things like “Can I really live like that?” and “Is a godly life truly fulfilling?” and “What if it’s hard, or even boring?”
It’s at this point that many of us just try a little bit, lose the fight a few times, and then check out. We entertain thoughts that sound a lot like “I gave it my best shot” or “I’m too much of a mess to have any significant change” or “Maybe I’m not cut out for this Christian life like other people seem to be”.
When we have discouraging times like these, we’ll find us glaring at ourselves in the moment. We have a very limited perspective because we are narrowly focusing on a particular failure, or even characterizing our past as “bad” due to our present failures. Instead of looking back, we need to look forward. We need to broaden our view to include God’s future plan for us, both individually and for all of us who trust him as our Savior.
But if I should look forward, then what I should look forward to? What event am I waiting for, what am I hoping will someday happen that will actually be “good”?
Titus 2:12-13 [The grace of God] teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,
When we fail, when we say “Yes” to the ungodliness and worldly passions within us, the last thing we need to do is wallow in our sin and self-pity. Instead, look forward to Christ’s coming. God’s grace – the gift of Christ himself – continues to work in you even after accepting him as Savior. In the very next verse, Paul reminds Titus that it was Jesus
Titus 2:14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Jesus has not abandoned us to figure out this Christian life all on our own. His mission is twofold – redemption of sinners and purification of his people. Today’s failures do not negate his purpose toward you.
So, what do we look forward to, what event are we waiting for? Keeping our eyes on his coming keeps us focused on Jesus, remembering that we are a people that are his very own, and that he is actively training us to be eager to do what is good.