At every point in life, I can find grace from God to do the right thing or go my own way and do the wrong. There is no choice to go my own way and do the right. Going my own way is the sin of iniquity, the worst sin of all.
If I do the right, it often make me feel worse, for a while, before I get the REWARD. If I exercise, the next day I feel pain, if I diet I feel hungry, if I confront a troubled situation I feel tense and wonder if I have done the right thing, if I take proper care of myself, I feel guilty.
One painful but “right” thing is to examine myself ,to ask for feedback, and convince the other person that I really want feedback, to reward any feedback others give; but then, I will be pained by seeing how messed up I really am.
BUT THEN COMES THE REWARD.
How do I hang in there till I get the REWARD?
Take something simple such as exercise, the preprogrammed part of my brain is saying: ” You’ve tried before and quit, wasted time and money on gym membership or bought a treadmill, exercised a bit and quit, looking foolish and undisciplined to yourself and your friends. You’ll just try for a while and then give up, so why even start?”
Now, I can get all pollyanish and say to myself,”this time I’ll be fine” but the preprogrammed, habit, part of my brain will trump the good intentions unless I answer it’s objections.
What will be different this time? How will I make it more enjoyable and fit it into my schedule and get enough support so that it will work.
I remember a family where the husband had abandoned his wife to shack up with another woman then had felt guilty enough to return to his wife who took him back without evidence of change. Their pastor was thrilled and became irritated with me when I asked, “but what has changed? Won’t they just go back to their old ways, remind themselves of why the marriage fell apart and then blast apart permanently?” The pastor decided that I was not trusting in the power of God enough. Still I had not heard of any point at which God was being allowed to work, except for turning “God” into a genie who will do the magic of “abra cadabra there you are all fixed” without asking the people involved to show any humility or confession or accountability. Sure enough, three months later they came into my office to see the “Christian shrink” so that when they got the divorce they had decided on, they could pretend that they had done all they could.
The “negative” part of my brain, which objects to an easy fix, is not trying to keep me from change or growth, but rather seeks to force me to be practical and do things God’s way. I need to listen to it and be driven to the Lord to find grace to do things well enough for them to work.
The pre-programmed part of me also points out that “you really like your sin and the promised reward is not desirable enough to be worth the pain and effort and emptiness of not indulging.”
I need to ask myself, “what fruit had I then in my sinful ways?” I need to beg God to teach me to HATE THE SIN (take inventory of past damages and the consequences of continuing on the same path). I need to ask him to help me hunger for righteousness (picturing all his promises that he WILL deliver). Let me so run the race keeping my eye fixed on the prize. God says that, far from his rewards being not worth the effort, no one out-gives him! His rewards are pressed down heaped up shaken together and running over. Rewards such as: The very character and likeness of Christ, the chance to bring glory to God, blessing to those around you and inner peace. My pastor was sharing how he has learned to SAVOR the peaceful knowledge that he is right with God, that lets him lay himself down to sleep in peace. Then when tempted to compromise for brief relief or pleasure he keeps his eye on being able to savor the peace that night, thus finding grace to resist.
Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith who for the hope that was set before him endured so much.
There are short term rewards we need to savor now and also long term ones such as seeing our savior with joy and hearing those amazing words, “well done thou good and faithful servant!”
To resist current temptation I need to keep my mind and heart focused on, and thrilling in, the reward.