“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” Romans 7:15-20
Just over a month ago, I completed the New York Marathon. For six months, I was running 5-6 times per week. I had calculated that over 7 hours a week was spent in training. I had also stopped drinking alcohol during this training season. Not only did I feel physically strong, but I also felt spiritually strong. A retired pastor came up to me after worship saying, “whatever your spiritual disciplines are right now, keep at it. Your preaching is strong.”
Then I finished the race, I popped open a NoDa IPA, and wrapped up a devotional book I had been reading. I went into hybernation.
Then last Sunday, the Lord disrupted my slumber.
My wife looked at me and said, you really need to go to F3 tomorrow morning. Knowing she is always right, I set the alarm for 4:30am.
The next morning, I brewed my coffee and flipped open my prayer journal. The date of my last prayer surprised me.
Four days after my marathon, my routine had stopped. Within less than a week the allure of a warm bed, a cold IPA, and an expedited prayer time had taken me away from the strength I once had.
In prayerful contemplation that Monday morning, I came to see myself in Paul’s words. I discovered that the marathon success and the affirmation I had received by the retired pastor had not pushed me forward, but built a false sense of pride in my physical and spiritual strength. I forgot how fragile I am. I forgot that the words Paul writes in Romans 7 are the strongest expression of my heart.
Why do I keep doing the things I do not want to do, and fail to do the very things I want to do?
Pride can cause me to take the foot off the pedal and coast. But once coasting, it takes so much more energy to re-accelerate.
I am grateful for a wife who can spot this sin in me (and allows me to set alarm clocks for 4:30am) and a friend who ran beside me that Monday morning to challenge me spiritually and physically.
So, what’s one thing you keep doing that you know you should stop? And what’s the one thing you know you should do, that you cannot start?