We all fall short, don’t we? We know we don’t always act as a Christian should act. Sometimes people see us behaving badly, and we are ashamed and embarrassed. Sometimes people don’t see us, but we are still ashamed, because God knows. Of all people, even the Apostle Paul was frustrated with his behavior, as we read in Romans 7:18-19, New Living Translation:
I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.
Obviously Paul was facing temptations, and they often got the better of him. He knew what he should do – what God wanted him to do – but didn’t do them. Sound familiar? Frustrated that he gives in to temptation, he cried out in anguish in the New Living paraphrased version (Romans 7:24, NLT):
Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?
We might be more familiar with Paul’s lament in the traditional version, which says: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24, NKJV)
The Apostle Paul loved Jesus with all his heart. He gave up everything to serve him, was constantly away from home, and often put himself in danger. Despite his almost superhuman dedication to the cause of Christ, here he is crying out in frustration, writing:
I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. (Romans 7:15, NLT)
We can all identify with this, because as it says in Romans 3:23: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (NIV) Jesus said something that summarizes Paul’s and our struggles with temptation: “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:36, NRSV) We all suffer from weak flesh – it is because of our propensity to sin even when we know it will do damage.
More on our struggles with sin and temptation in a future post.