How do you get victory over besetting sins – a sinful habit or way of thinking?
Many people know the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat over some particular struggle with sin; they feel good about themselves when they get it right; they beat themselves up over it when they get it wrong. It becomes a barometer for the measure of their holiness in life; after a while, it becomes the WHOLE measure of their success in life and the amount of holiness they have obtained, or else the WHOLE measure of their failure as a Christian and what a horrible person they still are. Ironically, in some ways this “measuring stick” becomes their God – it is their focus, their goal, their indicator of how good they have become when they succeed, and an indicator of the need for self-punishment and self-loathing when they fail.
The problem is, you don’t get victory over a besetting sin by beating yourself up over it when you fail any more than you stay in victory by getting all excited when you have some successes along the way.
Beating Yourself Up Is Not The Answer
Beating yourself up in your failures and feeling good about yourself in your victories are two sides of the same coin: they are the two sides of this little coin with YOU on it – the you who is on the “heads” side of the coin to be worshipped in your victories and the ugly underbelly of “you” on the “tails” side of the coin when you fail. The problem here is this coin is still one that has been minted to commemorate you. The problem is that this currency still focuses on you. And like it or not, this is a problem of pride. The focus, good OR bad, is still really on YOU.
Victory comes one way: by spending time with the Lord, and by Him changing you over time, as you delight yourself in Him and by being in His presence. It may take a little time, or a lot; you may slip up occasionally, you may get to a point where you don’t anymore. But the bottom line is that as you spend time with the Lord in prayer and worship, He WILL gradually change you. You WILL gradually get to a point where He replaces those desires with more Godly ones.
If you keep focusing on the god of “I failed again” or the other god of “I’m acceptable to Him because I succeeded again” you are still measuring your worth, your value, your goodness or badness based on how you do with your struggle with sin.
In the end, the best path to success is simply to confess when you fail, rejoice when you succeed, but whether you fail or you succeed, just keep putting the focus back on Jesus – how good HE is, how faithful HE is. As you fall in love with Him more and more, this stuff will fall off of you. You will eventually see it is gone. As it says in 1 John, 3:2,
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
Focusing On GOD Is The Answer
Stop focusing on how good you have been or how bad you have been. Stop focusing on yourself at all. Delight yourself in the Lord, feed on His faithfulness, and as you do, He will do the changing and the transforming and the getting victory for you.
Perhaps you’ve just struggled and failed again with some sin or habit. You’ve beat yourself up again, and you’ve confessed. So now, believe that He already knew you would, believe that He loves you anyway. Move on, focus on God’s faithfulness and enjoy His love which never fails you, never changes, always anticipates the best from you, always is quick to forgive when you fall down. And then, as quick as you can, get your mind off of yourself altogether, and fall in love with Jesus. Focus on Him. Delight in Him. See His goodness, and as you look at it, let Him transform you by it. He will transform you, and especially if you focus on Him instead of your success or your failure. Get the focus off of you, and onto Jesus.
Throw that coin away.
A saint is just a sinner who falls down, but gets back up again.