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. For I know that good itself does not dwell 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 I do not do the good I want to do, but 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. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (NIV)
Sometimes we are tempted to think that because we struggle, we can’t really be much of a Christian. Think again. In the above passage, the Apostle Paul expresses his own struggle. He wants to do right but tends to do wrong. He is neither a perfect man who never falls short, or an indifferent man who doesn’t care about falling short. Which suggests that Christians are destined to struggle. We aren’t perfect, and that bothers us. So, we are set up for inner conflict. This is not unusual or the sign of sub-standard Christianity. We are a living landscape of war between the evil one and God’s good Spirit.
What saves this from misery is the presence of Jesus Christ and his Spirit. Christian life this side of heaven is marked by struggle. The choice we have is to struggle in futility believing we are losers, or struggle with the assurance that whatever battles we might win or lose, the war is won. Jesus has defeated our only ultimate enemy: spiritual death.
We can get discouraged because the struggle to live for Jesus seems to never end. But that is the nature of life this side of heaven. We can get discouraged because we feel we are helpless and defeated. Not so. As Romans 8 goes on to say, we have the Spirit of God to free us to fight back, and as our companion in all our struggles. So, the sheer fact of struggle need not lead to discouragement. We struggle, but we are on the winning side. The air we breathe is not defeat but victory. The atmosphere in which we struggle is not despair but confidence that God is at work in us.
Our greatest concern ought not to be that we struggle, but that we might give up the struggle and settle for apathy or indifference. And that would be the ultimate defeat.