“I finally beat it.”
“I no longer struggle with that sin.”
Famous last words.
2 Kings 7 tells the story of the king of Israel’s final interaction with the prophet Elisha. Elisha, speaking for The Lord, tells the king to “strike the ground” with arrows (repeatedly shoot arrows into the ground). In the scene, the symbolism of shooting the arrows is very clear: every arrow shot represents a victory against their Syrian enemy. The king has a quiver full of arrows, but for some reason (possibly self-confidence or lack of faith), he only shoots 3 arrows, meaning Israel will only defeat them 3 times. God had invited him to fully defeat them by faith, but he settled for partial victory.
Too often, we do the same thing today.
I’ve counseled with many people who wrestle with the possibility of defeating a sin or addiction. Some begin to drift away, thinking they will always be defined by what they’ve done or what they’re doing. “Will I ever overcome that sin?” they ask. One day, we will all overcome sin…when we meet Christ in the air. Until then, we have a battle to fight. 2 Timothy 2:22 says to “flee youthful lusts,” and 1 Corinthians 10:12 warns against feeling as though you’ve arrived.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul said that God had given him a thorn in the flesh that kept him humbled and reliant on God. He asked for God to remove it, but God told him that he wouldn’t, which brought him to this realization:
“when I am weak, then I am strong.”
He recognized that it was when he felt his weakness that he relied on God the most, resulting in supernatural strength. However, in the context of partial victories against sin, I’ve also found the converse to be true:
“When I am strong, then I am weak.”
When I feel that I’ve conquered a certain sin and will never fall again in that area is when I am at my weakest. It’s when I decide that I no longer need accountability in that area or will never go down that road again that I’ve become self-reliant, not God-reliant.
Temptation is everywhere: it comes at us (Satan and his demons); it’s around us (the world and its temptation); and it’s in us (our own sin nature). We have to battle it on every front, and not settle for partial victory.
When you get to heaven, you can breathe a sigh of relief and say, “I’ve arrive.” But not till then. Keep fighting.
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