Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Wait… the title of this story is “The Flesh is Willing“, yet this scripture claims it is weak… and it was Jesus who actually said it… so, that must be right!
No, I am not trying to mislead you or give you some bait-n-switch headliner to draw you in and trick you into reading and doing something you really didn’t intend to do. See… the flesh is very willing to do things, to get involved, to perform or get into action… even to accomplish something in your life, justify your existence… it is very, very odd how subtle… how ingrained it can be in our lives to ‘do’ without thinking… without questioning why… just do.
Many times we just have a physical drive to get involved, to make an impact on our world, to have an influence and “make right the wrongs” as we see it. Unwittingly, this emotional, mental and physical motivation can get RIGHT in front of the Lord’s leading over our lives… His peace for the direction we are taking… His blessing for His calling on us. Sure, we have gotten so good at disguising it that we actually now think this is the right thing to do. Quite some time ago, I tweeted this thought that came to me;
“When you’ve been doing the wrong thing for so long it feels right, so much so that trying to do the right thing feels wrong; that is wrong.” – G.W. Bill Elliott, JR.
See… the longer we do the wrong thing… sorry… the ‘right thing’, it is harder and harder to be convinced that it is wrong and ‘that other way’ is really where Jesus wanted you to go. Again though, this all it not really our fault. I mean, it is your fault… no wait… it is not your fault… dang… wait…
See… all our lives we are pressured into doing things. Many times, whether we want to do them or not… many times out of peer pressure… too many times out of guilt, or some justice-driven commitment (activists). It’s not your fault… wait… it is your fault… wait… dang! OK… one last attempt… it IS your fault. You are to blame for your life, for your choices, for your actions. No one, but you will stand before the Lord and ‘give an answer’ for how and why you lived your life like you did… did what you did, how you did, and why you did.
What Drives Us?
I struggle, struggle, STRUGGLE with why I am doing things in my life… not over-analyzing… not second guessing… not doubting… just ‘checking my heart’, being sure of my choice, learning to listen, hear, and act by His Spirit’s calling and leading. But, why do we do things in our lives? I mean sure, showering, eating, sleeping… these are the ‘part of life’ things we do. But, things like Jogging… like Cycling… like Weight Training and/or Treadmill exercising… like Dieting… like “New Years Resolutions”. Each of us can only answer to the secret and inner part of our core lives for the reasons or motivations for these kinds of things. But, it is these kinds of things (the reasoning) that helps lead you to the deeper “why am I doing this” stuff that the Lord shows you (church, ministry, work, politics, music, etc).
As a ‘template of thought’, or a ‘model of process’… let’s focus on jogging or cycling for exercise. Right out of the gate, one of the core reasons most of us do either is based on exercise. In turn, that means a healthier life, being fit-n-trim, weight-loss, cardio stability and strength. See?? All kinds of GREAT reasons to be doing these activities. These activities are both Physical and Mental… and some would say even Spiritual. No question here… so far! But, for a moment, get back to what was the core purpose, reason, or ‘trigger’ that convinced you to make your body DO these activities. The body (flesh) is motivated to ‘get into action’ by our thought process, which is driven by the mental side of us as well as the spiritual side of us… we ‘think on a thing’, or ‘make a determination’ based on information, thought, convictions (you see yourself in the mirror!).
Nothing EVER wrong with this… just… if your Spirit isn’t as into it much as your Emotions or Mentality are, your flesh is going to be strung out in a bad, bad way! Whatever it is, it ‘makes sense’ (logic and rationale), so you set your body into motion over it. I mean… how long HAVE you jogged before getting really tired… that ‘wall of pain’ or ‘wall of willingness’? See… when your emotions (or rationale) convince your body to ‘do something about it’, you get right into action… you may even go to some great lengths to prepare (gym membership, a trainer, educate yourself on diet strategies, etc)… you may even have had an ‘event’ that occurred, which motivated you. Regardless… once your body gets to that ‘wall’, or once the newness wears off, or once your mental state changes (you become discouraged, or distracted, or even derailed with some other activity)… the willing flesh stops! See… the flesh IS willing, but your Spirit was too weak to drive on… to remain motivated… to own this task.
Other things that motivate us into action though are less obvious… less tangible. Accolades can be a very, very subtle liar in your life! Unwittingly, we can get motivated to do things ‘in the public’ eye so-as to bring attention to ourselves (or even to bring attention to someone else). I have seen COUNTLESS people get involved in a ’cause’ because someone they know (or even themselves) were victims of something heinous, something life-changing (cancer, plane crash, violence)… and now they are a ‘champion for the cause’.
The Need Never Justifies the Calling
Because there is a need does not justify that God called you to solve it. God calls you, period! With His calling on your life, an outlet will be presented… God prepares you to receive and use your calling, and He prepares the world to accept your calling.
Sure… no doubt you can do good… that you can improve things in people lives… that you can have a positive impact and make a change. Great… very good. There is a danger in that though… diving in to solve a problem ‘can’ be a misleading of God’s will for your life… you/we can get SO wrapped in “this is the right thing to do” that we cannot really see that our flesh got motivated into action, but without His leading over our lives.
The Flesh is Willing, The Spirit is Weak
Now here is where we need to explain what happens if and when you are so busy ‘doing’ His will and don’t recognize you are not actually called to be doing that. There are three scenarios Jesus presented in the Gospels to help us understand where people have had “good intentions” that just failed miserably. In the midst of having good intentions, you are actually setting yourself up to be consumed by evil itself… the VERY evil you are working and fighting against… consume you! Worse, as you turn to the Lord and lean on these ‘works’ as badges of your efforts to ‘make something of your life’, He will literally cast you away! Wait… God rejects us? Uhhhhh… yea… who’da thunk it!
Consumed by Evil
Right… without the protection of the Holy Spirit over your life, your calling, your very ‘work’, you expose yourself to being consumed by the very evil you are battling… the very ’cause’ against which you are fighting… the very, very turmoil you are trying to settle can and will cause turmoil for you, but not just by a little bit, either.
Acts 19:13-16 (KJV), reads;
13. Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. 14. And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. 15. And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? 16. And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
Sure, the King James version is a tough-read, right! But, it helps us to re-read it and try grasping what the Lord is telling us. These Jews were really just trying to ‘cast out demons’. Remember now, they are God’s chosen people remember, not run-of-the-mill citizens… and, their ‘intentions were good’, right?! But, even ‘the evil spirit’ knew they had no spiritual backing… no spiritual strength… their flesh was willing, but their spirit was weak (I’m wearing that out, eh!). For more on this, please read the Demons & Exorcism story on this site, too.
There are times in the scripture where God actually tells people ‘get away from me’. Now… he NEVER said that to Satan… ever! He always told Satan to “get in his place’, by telling him “Get thee behind me”. But, the people on this earth who get all energetic and are so focused on diving in and being involved (some of those ‘wrong reasons’ discussed earlier) are prone to be rejected and told to ‘depart from Me’.
Matthew 7:21-23 (KJV), reads;
21. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23. And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Yikes… right! Not to fear… well… too much, anyway! God is NOT vindictive, vicious, or out to get you (that would be Satan coaching you from the sidelines). If you can, go back to that passage, and read from the beginning of the chapter, or at least from verse 15 (beware of false prophets)… Jesus is working to let you know how not-to-be-fooled about how He actually wants us to live. He “knows thy works”, sure… but even better, He knows ‘why’ you are doing the work… the spirit that has motivated you… the purpose… your flesh is willing to do this work, but His Spirit is weak in you.
In all your efforts… all your work… all your passion to ‘be involved’, have you ever ‘surrendered’ to God’s primary criteria? Mark 10:17-25 provides us with a great example of “the flesh is willing, but the spirit is weak”. In this passage a very wealthy and well meaning person wanted SO badly to be included in this ‘movement’ that Jesus has stirred… we don’t know by this passage whether he was motivated by those ‘accolades’ we discussed earlier or if he genuinely wanted to help (good hearted, good intentions).
But, when Jesus told him ‘one thing you lack’ it mad this man so sad… so broken, likely. We get all zealous and motivated and excited and even plan our lives to ‘get out there and DO something’ only to find that Jesus’ primary criteria is that we start by stopping! By selling out? By giving away ALL that I can use to forward this cause? Seems backwards, dumb, and rather impractical. But, it DOES quicken your spirit and make you check your motives, right! Well… it better… it should!
Too Scared to Move, Now?
Don’t be… please… just be ‘aware’… just be in a ‘waiting on the Lord’ posture in your spirit… not SO ready to pounce and solve a problem, provide a solution, get involved. Sure… “there is a fire”, JUMP on it! But, you’re bored (in your spirit/soul) and seeking an activity where your skills and passion can make a difference… wait! His leading will let you know when it is time. If you ever feel ‘frozen in your tracks’ and unsure if you should even MOVE… please read the Dead Weight story on this site… it is safe to be moving in the Lord… just listen, too!
“Asking God for direction in your life MUST be preceded by a vulnerable willingness to follow. Otherwise, asking a turtle is the same!” – g.w.bill elliott, jr.
One of the other, and worse, things about waiting on the Lord’s calling on your life… the ‘want’ to have God lead you… that yearn to “let go and let God”, as they say… is keeping your spirit, your heart, and your mind in a place where you are at least ‘willing’ to follow His leading. See that? “Wanting to” is way different than “Willing to”. This is not a “Lead me. But wait… not over there.” discussion with the Lord. Submission is key, but you’ll never get there without being vulnerable with yourself, with the Lord.
Bill knows everything about a few things, a little bit about a lot of things, and almost nothing at all about everything else. And… you can quote him on that!