Sometimes afternoon lands heavy and hard. The morning caffeine has long expired, the daily to-do list looms unfinished, and it’s clear I’m going to run out of energy before I run out of day. That’s when the brownies in the pantry start crooning my name. The open carton of mint chocolate chip in the freezer has my number on speed dial.
Standing at the intersection of tired and tempted, there’s a collision that dissolves all my pious parsing of doctrine into a howl of dismay: God, don’t You see me struggling here? Why don’t You do something?
At the boundary line between willpower and God’s power, I see what a courageous risk it was for God to give us freedom, for Him to release His beloved into the threatening territory of our own poor choices.
Every day, we trust for grace in our battle against a custom-made constellation of sin tendencies: When I indulge my craving for chips and salsa or my inordinate longing for human affirmation and acceptance, I reveal my misplaced values and expose a heart so easily satisfied by pale substitutes, so easily distracted from the smile and approval of God.
For others, perhaps it’s the tyranny of another glass of wine after dinner. And then another. Maybe, for you, the craving involves an image on a screen, and even though you realize it’s sucking the oxygen out of your soul, you can’t look away.
Paul’s New Testament writings reveal he was no stranger to this fight against active disobedience and that he also knew the stubborn reluctance to follow the Spirit’s prompting toward good. When he prayed for his friends in Thessalonica, fellow believers and warriors in the fight, he asked God to help them to “fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:11 ESV).
“Resolve” is a powerful stance that invites me into an active role. The power of God is at work within my will, but it does not take the place of it. The glorious power that raised Christ from the dead makes a sinewy resistance to sin’s dominance over my soul possible.
A Partnership of Wills
When I soldier on alone by the seat of my pants, by sheer force of my own will, I have chosen darkness over light, death instead of resurrection. But when I am passive about temptation and neglect the hard work of that forceful “no,” I’ve relinquished my soldierly prerogative to step up to the line of skirmish.
Far be it from Paul to let his readers ever forget the purpose behind this partnership in obedience. We strive for a faith-based following “so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified . . . according to the grace of our God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:12 ESV).
This paradox of engagement in which we take strength from God while also exercising our own will in the fight against temptation embodies the movements of a dance set to the music of the gospel. When I live empowered to act in obedience to “every resolve for good and every work of faith,” I put the glory of God on display. When I find that the superior option of holiness has diminished my attraction for the lesser choice, my will is strengthened for the next battle.
God’s open-handed love and His commitment to my growth in holiness reassure me that we are in this fight together. God is faithful, and He will meet me there at the intersection of my will and the siren call of temptation.
God is faithful. He will meet us there at the intersection of our will and the siren call of temptation.Tweet
And Now Let’s Talk Books…
Jeff Barker employs a unique format I have yet to see elsewhere. Whispers from the Lord follows Arlene Schuiteman’s career as a missionary nurse during four of the most challenging years (1975-1979) in the history of modern Ethiopia. However, rather than just publishing her journal or converting it to narrative non-fiction, each entry begins with a Scripture text followed by a story from Arlene’s life and then an entry from her journal with reassuring “whispers from the Lord.”
At the age of 98, Arlene collaborated with Jeff Barker to curate her memories and God’s encouragement to her during the years when a violent political climate forced her to leave behind her nursing students and the church she called home. In her journal, she wrestled with singleness, loneliness, and overwork. She battled idolatry of her professional role, disappointment with co-workers, and the frustrations of living cross-culturally.
It is wise to be skeptical whenever you hear someone say she has received a specific word from the Lord outside the pages of Scripture. However, this peek into Arlene’s journal gives us the opportunity to bear witness to the Holy Spirit’s application of truth to a heart fully saturated with Scripture, devoted to prayer, and surrendered to the will of God.
Holding You in the Light,
Bear witness to the Holy Spirit’s application of truth to a heart fully saturated with Scripture, devoted to prayer, and surrendered to the will of God in #WhispersfromtheLord by Jeff Barker via @hendricksonpub #missionarybiographyTweet
Did You Know that I Also Publish a Monthly Newsletter?
Every month I send a newsletter with biblical encouragement straight to my subscribers’ email inboxes. Frequently, I share free resources, and the newsletter is where everything lands first. I’m committed to the truth that women can become confident followers of God and students of his Word, and it’s my goal to help you along that path.
To add this free resource to your pursuit of biblical literacy, simply CLICK HERE. There, on Substack’s website, you’ll find a prompt that looks just like this image for Living Our Days with Michele Morin. Over on that site, simply enter your email and then click on the purple “SUBSCRIBE” button.
You’ll receive a welcome letter to confirm your subscription and monthly encouragement in your email inbox.
I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase any of the books or products I’ve shared, simply click on the image, and you’ll be taken directly to the seller. If you decide to buy, I’ll receive a few pennies
Many thanks to Hendrickson Publishers for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which is, of course, offered freely and with honesty.
Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash
10 thoughts on “Celebrate the Glorious Partnership of Willpower and God’s Power”
For me it is definitely the chocolates in the pantry or the ice cream in the freezer… and always around mid-afternoon too!
Yup, we’re invincible in the morning, but mid-afternoon the wheels come off, don’t they?
“The intersection of tired and tempted”–I love that phrasing. I’ve always wondered at what’s my part and what’s God’s part in the walk of faith. Sometimes I think I must be waiting for Him to “do something” when He’s expecting me to use the tools and will He gave me.
I’m with you in this! I yield to temptation far too easily.
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Yep, with chronic illnesses morning energy wains just after lunch! Then mid afternoon salt & vinegar crisps call my name Lol! So I have fruit instead 😉 then I may have a few crisps Lol!
I’ve learnt that God wants us to know our capacities in each season & work within that, resting when needed, for refreshment comes through being still with Him.
Bless you, Jennifer
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I know the siren call that comes during that afternoon slump. I think Neil Anderson said heaven will be a place where there are no wrong choices. Love that. In the meantime, I like how you pointed out the cooperation required between our will and His power.
No wrong choices! Now THERE’s a blessed hope! Thanks for reading, Debbie!
Oh how encouraging this post is, Michele! Remembering, ““Resolve” is a powerful stance that invites me into an active role. The power of God is at work within my will, but it does not take the place of it.” Makes all the difference. I am not alone and I don’t have to fight these battles in my own power!
I’m prone to forget, Donna, but grateful for his gracious reminders!
oh, the ‘superior option of holiness’
that’s grabbed my notice this evening and already lodged in my heart. Michele, thanks. there’s a reason God brought me here at this time.
i hope you’re having a wonderful weekend. and yes, i hear you about the brownies and the ice cream. i’ll meet you at the freezer.