When Your Spirit is Willing but Your Flesh is Weak
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
I’m going to make an assumption about your character. You are not a liar. You believe lying is wrong and place high value on integrity. That said, I also believe you tell little white lies.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, a white lie is “a harmless or trivial lie, especially one told to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.” For example: “Does this skirt make me look fat?” “No, sweetheart. Not at all.”
We all do it. But why? Because it’s easier to withhold the truth than face retaliatory wrath or inflict embarrassment or hurt on someone.
My purpose here is to get you to think about the meaning of Jesus’ statement, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
In most instances, we know the right thing to do. But sometimes that right thing is a monumental task. Jesus was facing the cross. His spirit was willing to do the right thing. He even prayed to the Father, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) But that doesn’t mean He wasn’t tempted to find a way out of His predicament. He could flea Jerusalem and hide from His appointment with death. He could have summoned the Father to send twelve legions of angels to deliver Him. (Matthew 26:53)
While Jesus agonized over the challenge of the cross, He remained concerned about His disciples. Their faith and loyalty to the Lord were about to be tested. Would they remain faithful to His commands or cower in fear? Would they stay by his side or run and hide?
It’s easy to stand on the promises of God when things are going our way. But when pressure is applied that’s when we discover what we truly believe. We learn if the flesh is in agreement with the spirit. Will we continue to hold onto our faith or cut and run?
Have you ever prayed about a problem, but instead of things getting better, they got worse? I’ve had some job situations like that. Seemed like the harder I prayed, the more my troubles intensified.
In times like that, our faith comes under attack. Doubts emerge. Fear sets in. Followed by panic. The spirit is willing, but the flesh rapidly grows weaker.
When faith turns to panic, we’re presented with quick fixes for our pain. Drugs. Alcohol. Spending money foolishly on things to give us instant yet temporary gratification.
When the pressure of testing becomes overwhelming, we risk abandoning the faith and turning back to our old sinful ways.
Jesus was concerned about His disciples. He knew the evil one was preparing to launch an attack. Danger the likes of which they had never seen was lurking in the shadows. Standing idly by without taking the proper faith action would leave them vulnerable. That’s why He told them, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” (Matthew 26:41)
“Watch…” Their situation required them to be on high alert. Do you recall the terror alert levels given after 9/11? Red was the highest level followed by blue, yellow and orange. Well, the Lord doesn’t use a color-coded warning system, but the Spirit does alert us within our spirits when we come under demonic attack. The voice of the Spirit is one communication device that should never be turned off.
When the alarm sounds, our response is to pray. “Watch and pray” means that our minds and spirits must be fully engaged and in sync with God’s counsel for our protection and so that we will ultimately remain true to the faith.
Satan’s arsenal of temptations offers a way out of impending danger or suffering. At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry after 40 days of fasting in the wilderness, the evil one presented the Lord with an attractive alternative to crucifixion. The attack came when Jesus was physically weak. The devil never plays fair. He hits us where we are most vulnerable.
While Satan provides temptation as a way out, God always gives a way out of temptation. “…God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
So in those times when your spirit is willing but your flesh is weak, follow Jesus instruction. “Watch and pray.”
For more on this topic, check out this article: The Way Out of Temptation
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 3 (July – September) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.