How am I training myself to avoid sin? For that matter, what is training in the first place? A soldier or a boxer spends a lot of time training for future battles. The purpose of the training is to make certain behaviors and actions become second nature, so that in a fight, he does not have to think about how to react, he will just react the way he has been trained. For much of my life, I have trained myself for sin, so that when temptation or conflict or opportunities arise, I just sin without thinking or resisting. As Saint Paul says: “I don’t do the kinds of things that I want to do, and I keep doing the kinds of things I despise doing.”
The good news is that the same principle works in reverse if I will only utilize it. I can do the good I want to do and avoid the bad I want to avoid by focusing on the good. The mistake that many people make is that they try to bring about a good by stopping the bad. I cannot avoid sin by worrying about sin or by trying not to sin. I avoid sin by doing the opposite of sin. I no longer fight against sin, I actively pursue the good that I want to exude. I no longer resist evil (Mt. 5:39), but I overcome evil by doing what is good (Rom. 12:21)
So many of the things that I do throughout my day, especially those things I do in the morning, are preparations for that moment when temptation comes upon me. Temptation rarely comes with a warning or a glowing neon sign, but it pops up suddenly and without warning as I go about my daily business. The training I have done up to that point will determine to a large degree what happens when that temptation arises. If I have done my homework, if I have spent time in my Bible, spent time in prayer, if I have made the decision to give up my will for the day and accept God’s will for me, if I have been proactively engaged in positive behaviors and reminding myself that sin is poison and that Christ is the antidote so that I have spent my time taking the antidote instead of taking the poison – if I have done all these things, then the decision of what to do in the face of that temptation will have already been settled and I will not slide once more into sin. This does not mean that the temptation is not real, or that the temptation may not be enduring. But “We need to throw away the desire to sin that ensnares us. With patient endurance, we have to focus on running the race that’s before us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus” (Heb. 12:1-2).
How many prayers have gone unanswered, how many sins have been committed, because the one who prayed did not patiently endure in prayer and action, but gave into temptation? He lost faith in God’s will for him and relied once more on his own will. He once more began to take matters into his own hands and exerted his will that has been twisted by sin to sin. “But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Mt. 10:22; 24:13).
QUESTION FOR THE DAY:
How have I prepared myself for that time when I will be tempted and can I find the courage to endure through that temptation to the end?
God, I commit myself today to your guidance, trusting that no matter what happens to me today, I can overcome it through faith in you. Grant me courage so that I never doubt your power and once more take matters into my own hands. Amen.