I recently spoke with a young woman who despises herself because of her continual struggle with lust and pornography. She’s tried to obey God and run away from sin only to find herself falling into it once again. I’ve met other people who feel similar discouragement in their marriage or on their healing journey.
Why do followers of Jesus stay captive to sin? Why doesn’t God fix broken marriages and heal our wounded hearts? If it is for freedom that Christ came, why aren’t we free?
This is not just a theoretical question but also a practical struggle. And it’s not just a struggle for the men and women I minister to, but it’s a personal battle. I know what it feels like to want to be free from sin and brokenness but to experience it overpowering me day after day.
I was recently reading Luke 18, and the Lord showed me three specific roadblocks that keep His children from victory. In this passage, Jesus is teaching about prayer – how we should appeal to the Father. He gives three separate, complementary pictures about how to approach the Father with our sin and brokenness. I’ve read this passage of Scripture before, but this time I saw it in light of how there may be roadblocks in the journey to freedom. Whether you are battling your own sin or the devastating impact of someone else’s sin, Jesus’ words may unlock victory.
Roadblock #1 – We give up.
Jesus told them a picture-story to show that men should always pray and not give up. He said,
There was a man in one of the cities who was head of the court. His work was to say if a person was guilty or not. This man was not afraid of God. He did not respect any man. In that city there was a woman whose husband had died. She kept coming to him and saying, ‘Help me! There is someone who is working against me.’ For awhile he would not help her. Then he began to think, ‘I am not afraid of God and I do not respect any man. But I will see that this woman whose husband has died gets her rights because I get tired of her coming all the time.’ Then the Lord said, ‘Listen to the words of the sinful man who is head of the court. Will not God make the things that are right come to His chosen people who cry day and night to Him? Will He wait a long time to help them? I tell you, He will be quick to help them. But when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?’ (Luke 18:1-8)
We don’t like to admit the truth that we put God on a timeline. “I’ve prayed about it, but it didn’t work.” “I’ve asked God to heal my marriage, but He’s not answering.” “I’ve repented, but I keep falling into sin again.” The healing and redemption Jesus brings is usually not immediate. I met a woman this morning who told me it took thirteen years for the Lord to heal the sexual aspect of her marriage.
I don’t understand God’s ways and why He doesn’t always act immediately. However, the waiting and persistence to seek Him is often part of the journey of intimacy and maturity. In your battle with sin or brokenness, have you unconsciously given a time by which He must work? Have you given up on God because He hasn’t answered your prayers for healing and freedom? Don’t give up! Be persistent in your prayer that God would bring redemption, freedom and healing.
Roadblock #2 – We want to maintain dignity.
Jesus said, Two men went up to the house of God to pray. One of them was a proud religious law-keeper. The other was a man who gathered taxes. The proud religious law-keeper stood and prayed to himself like this, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men. I am not like those who steal. I am not like those who do things that are wrong. I am not like those who commit sexual sins. I am not even like this tax-gatherer. I go without food two times a week so I can pray better. I give one-tenth part of the money I earn.’ But the man who gathered taxes stood a long way off. He would not even lift his eyes to heaven. But he hit himself on his chest and said, ‘God, have pity on me! I am a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went back to his house forgiven, and not the other man. For whoever makes himself look more important than he is will find out how little he is worth. Whoever does not try to honor himself will be made important. (Luke 18:9-14)
This story is quite convicting. Notice that the Pharisee thanks God for how spiritual and holy he is. Although he might acknowledge some need, he brags that he has his life together. How often I have come to the Lord like this, thanking Him that I’m not as sinful and lost as others around me!
God will not work in mighty ways until we are willing to come to Him in desperate humility.
I recently met with a woman who struggles with sexual sin. She spent twenty minutes explaining to me how it’s not that bad. After all, she doesn’t look at porn websites, she just indulges in the occasional erotic novel and sexually fantasizes about a cute guy at work. God has been convicting her, but she doesn’t think she needs much help because “there are other women who are much worse than I am.”
This woman is not ready for the work of the Holy Spirit. God wants to get us to the place where we stop comparing and justifying and we fall on our faces begging for His strength and mercy.
Roadblock #3 – We pray like teenagers.
People took their little children to Jesus so He could put His hand on them. When His followers saw it, they spoke sharp words to the people. Jesus called the followers to Him and said, ‘Let the little children come to Me. Do not try to stop them. The holy nation of God is made up of ones like these. For sure, I tell you, whoever does not receive the holy nation of God as a child will not go into the holy nation.’ (Luke 18:15-17)
For decades, I’ve known this story teaching us to come to God as little children. Only last week did I realize that my approach to God is usually more like a teenager.
I have three teenagers, so I’m quite the expert at how they ask for help. Here’s what I know about teenagers. They only come to you when they need something and they appear to be experts at how you can help them.
“Mom, I’ve got a problem. My grades are pretty low and I need you to let me skip school today so I can catch up on homework.” Teenagers don’t want their parents’ wisdom. They want money, their freedom, and validation that they have life figured out.
By contrast, children wake up every day dependent upon mom and dad. They don’t know what the day holds and they don’t even know they have a problem to solve. They just trust, depend and (hopefully) obey.
What is God asking you to do in your current struggle? Is He prompting you to do something that you disagree with like show love to your spouse (who doesn’t deserve it)? Or get rid of your smartphone? Or be gut-level honest with an accountability partner? Don’t argue like a teenager. Trust Him like a child.
We have at our disposal thousands of books, seminars, and podcasts on how to find victory in our struggle to wholeness in Christ. In the wake of information and resources, we can easily neglect the simple teachings of Jesus: Be persistent, humble yourself and embrace child-like faith.