One of the farm wives in the church told us to stuff steel wool beside every pipe coming up through the floor--the kitchen sink, bathroom lavatory, hot water heater, washer, etc. Pipes are the main highway for mice entering a home, and steel wool is the only flexible thing they cannot chew through. I bought the small town out of steel wool and frantically stuffed it all down those offending holes. Our mouse problem suddenly improved. Once in awhile in the years that followed we had an interloper, but he was usually a lone pioneer in what we tried to make a hostile frontier.
How much sense would it have made, though, for me to say, “Steel wool won’t take care of them all, so why bother?” About as much sense as it would to say, “A criminal can always find a way into your home if he wants to, so why bother locking the door?” There are some occasions where the word “stupid” legitimately applies.
So why do I hear my brethren constantly harping on the inevitability of sin? “We will all sin sooner or later no matter how hard we try.” When I ask why, I hear, Let him who stands take he lest he fall, (1 Cor 10:12). Translation: the minute you start thinking you can overcome, you have become proud and before you know it, you will be down the tubes! Surely there is a difference in recognizing, “With the help of my Savior, I can overcome,” and spouting, “I’m such a strong Christian I’d never do anything like that!” Whatever happened to I can do all things through him who strengthens me? Sometimes it sounds like we think that Divine help is at best, anemic, and at worst, impotent. Or is it just that we don’t believe what we say?
. Why can’t I use the fact that I overcame one temptation as an encouragement to overcome some more? Are we denying that God expects us to grow and get stronger every day? None of us would allow our children to play for a team whose coach told them they could never win, that even if they managed a win, they would lose sooner or later. Yet we are so afraid of sounding like we believe in that Calvinistic notion of “once saved always saved,” that we openly discourage one another and wear it as a mark of soundness.
Paul was ever mindful of his status as a sinner, “the chiefest” in fact. But he was not afraid to tell the Corinthians about his successes. “I set an example for you by foregoing my rights for the sake of my brother’s soul. Now do what I did,” (the context of 1 Corinthians chapters 8-10, concluding with 11:1). He did not mean it as a boast, but someone surely could have taken it that way. And when his life was over he said, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is a crown of righteousness waiting for me, 2 Tim 4:7,8. Was he bragging? Of course not. It was a declaration of hope for a job well done. Let’s not stand on the sidelines just waiting to jump on a brother and accuse him of a lack of humility when he sees his own progress and is encouraged by it, daring to say, “With the Lord’s help, I can win.”
Instead, let’s stand with the apostles and their view of things.
For the death that he died he died unto sin once, but the life that he lives, he lives unto God. Even so, reckon also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin reign in your mortal bodies that you should obey the lusts thereof, neither present your members as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves unto God as alive from the dead and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God, Rom 6:11-13.
There has no temptation taken you but such as man can bear, but God is faithful, who will not let you be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation make also the way of escape that you may be able to endure it, 1 Cor 10:13.
Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace, and taking up the shield of faith with which you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one, Eph 6:14-16.
The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation, 2 Pet 2:9.
My little children, these things I write unto you that you may not sin, and if we sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, 1 John 2:1.
Get out the steel wool. Plug the holes where you can. Don’t let the fact that a sin here and there may find its way into your life cause you to roll out the red carpet for every temptation that comes along. Take advantage of the encouragement God meant you to have and don’t give up the battle before you even start fighting.